“So you could say you work in sales, right???”

My apologies for my month-long hiatus from What Gives Philanthropy.  I’ve spent the last three weeks or so moving into a new place in Toronto.  It’s been a busy time of painting, unpacking, and organizing, but I’m all settled now and excited to return to What Gives full force. Fundraisers, have you ever been asked the question in today’s post title???  I was asked this recently and it wasn’t the first variation of the question I’ve heard.  My knee-jerk reaction is to get on the defense when someone mentions “sales” in reference to fundraising/philanthropy.  I’m taken back to my telefundraising days when we told new callers words they could and couldn’t say on their calls… “make a gift” vs. “buy”… “fulfill your pledge” vs. “pay your bill, etc. When this person said this to me recently, I went on to explain the difference, but I found my explanation was all about language, just like at the Call Centre.  “We don’t sell a product; we work to find a way to align a prospect’s passion with their resources.”  “We present a cause and aim to elicit a feeling from a prospect that leads to their desire to support the cause financially.” Even now, writing this, I’m working hard to choose the right words to prove fundraising and sales are not the same thing, and they aren’t.  But, why do we feel so defensive when someone suggests they are?  Are we more quick to defend the differences between sales and fundraising than to recognize the potential similarities???  Are there similarities?  And if so, what are they? What would be the benefit to recognizing more of the similarities between the two fields?  Could we share ideas with our friends in sales that may benefit them, and vice versa? Or is our defensiveness perhaps about the donors?  We work hard to prove to them that we’re not selling anything; that the benefit of their gift is not to us personally, but to the cause, and to them! What do you think???


Written by Maeve Strathy

Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in educational fundraising for the past 6 years.  Click here to learn more about Maeve.

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