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What is the difference between sales and fundraising?

Answer: they are similar; but fundraising is harder. Why is this topic important for EDs?  If you want to recruit volunteers who can help you with fundraising, search for sales people.

How are sales and fundraising the same?

  • The sales department in a for-profit will be structured similarly to the fundraising department in a non-profit.
  • The skills of a great sales person are similar to a great fundraiser. They both need great people skills.  They both need to be organized to juggle a portfolio of clients/donors.  They both need resilience to overcome rejections.
  • The type of work is similar. Closing deals, managing clients, long lead times are typical for business-to-business sales; same issues apply when fundraisers  approach foundations and corporate sponsors.  Promotional campaigns to generate business-to-consumer sales are the same as asking for donations from individuals.

How are they different?  

  1. The messages they use to “close the sale” are different
  • In the for-profit sector, salespeople compete on product features.  Because the purchaser uses the product (or is closely connected to the user), their purchase decision is based on product features.  To close the sale, a salesperson shows how the product will help them.  A shampoo… will make your hair look nice … which will give you confidence … which will make you happy and popular.   The emotional message is directly tied to the product feature.
  • In the nonprofit sector, fundraisers compete on emotion.  The donor is completely disconnected from the client.  They don’t know each other and they don’t understand each other.  Service recipients usually receive the service for free.  The exception to this is arts organizations that sell performance tickets — the people who are paying are also receiving the service.
  • When asking a donor to donate, a fundraiser appeals to the emotional needs of the donor.  Do they have a family member affected by the cause?  Are they grateful for the education they learned at university?  Do they want to memorialize a family member?   Yes, a donor will want reassurance that you will use their money wisely, but specific product features are irrelevant.
  1. Fundraisers have more competition
  • When selling a service, your competition is limited to other entities that supply your service.  When asking for a donation, a fundraiser’s competition is now the 85,000 registered charities going after the same pool of donors.

When looking for volunteers to help you with fundraising, search for people with sales experience.

If you have any questions about Fundraising or want to learn more about how MAS can help, click here .

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Thank you for the amazing support that you provided us during the past year for our Strategic Planning and Performance Management System.

Kristin Griffith
Executive Director, Harmony Hall

Absolutely Amazing

The ArtHeart Board has approved the strategic plan and is in the process of setting up committees and actually doing the items within the plan — so it's underway. You were absolutely amazing in guiding us through the process.

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Co-Chair, ArtHeart Community Art Centre

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