Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The best fundraising is selling, pure and simple

“The Fundraising Guru”
Fundraising only gels if you sell well
By Stephen L. Goldstein

I know that people who work on behalf of nonprofits like to think of themselves as doing something for the common good. I know that because, whenever I hold workshops, the first question I ask participants is, “What is a nonprofit?” And invariably, their answers accentuate an altruistic angle. “It’s an organization that serves society,” they say, or one “that helps the needy,” or it’s “a group of individuals who hold events to raise money for worthy purposes.”

The last thing in the world that supporters of nonprofits like to think they are is salespeople; they consider themselves a cut above schnooks selling shoes or used cars. I know that because when I ask my second question—“What is fundraising?”—no one ever answers “sales.” Instead predictably, the answers have a mushy quality equal to the definition of a nonprofit. Fundraising is the “ability to raise capital for an entity,” “stewardship, relationship-building in order to raise funds for an agency,” “an effort to generate funds for a good cause.”

So, it’s time for a major reality check for everyone who works on behalf of nonprofits. From doctors and plumbers to entrepreneurs and artists, successful people know how to sell--well. Fundraising is “nonprofit sales,” pure and simple. If you don’t know how to sell, you’ll never be an effective fundraiser. And if your first reaction to the idea of “nonprofit fundraising as selling” is to hold your nose, you’re probably holding back whatever cause(s) you support. So, here are some basic tips to help you increase your effectiveness in fundraising sales:

1. Selling is the quintessential skill. It’s not about getting others to do something they don’t want to or to buy something they don’t need. At its best, selling is the highest form of communication: It’s about making the perfect match between what you have to offer and what someone else wants. It’s an art.

2. Rejection isn’t rejection. So what if someone says no to you. It’s not the end of your life nor should you punish them on your voodoo doll. Think of how many times you may have said no to someone without meaning any ill towards them—and move on to someone else.

3. Fundraising is not about “the ask,” but about “the listen.” Remember the lyric, “fools rush in where angels fear to tread.” Consider your customers before you chew their ears off about your cause. Too many do-gooder fundraisers have a “prima facie, ipso facto attitude.” They think that all they have to do is blurt out the basics of their case and their prey will open their wallet. Ain’t so! Do your homework: Find out about people you approach. Take an interest in them. You’ll be amazed at how interested they’ll become in you.

4. Commit to selling 24/7. The best/most successful fundraisers even dream about raising money. Fundraising is a frame of mind, an all-consuming passion, not a 9-to-5 job. From a check-out line in Publix to a tuxedo-filled ballroom, fundraiser-salespeople know that there are six degrees of separation—or less--between them and the next contribution they receive.

5. Multiply your donors’ gifts. Donors who are treated well beget other donors. The most successful fundraiser-salespeople know that fundraising only gels if you sell well.
Dr. Stephen Goldstein if the author of 30 Days to Successful Fundraising and He is the host of the broadcast radio program, “The Forum for Nonprofits” (, which is also available 24/7 from anywhere in the world.

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