Stop Pretending That Fundraising Is Different From Sales

I do not see a difference between fundraising and sales. Straight up.

When it comes to a non-profit fundraiser setting, the rules of making a sale absolutely apply. There is no reason the two should be treated as completely separate entities. And doing so could keep you from making the right decisions for your non-profit.

If I was in that world, my execution would look exactly the same as everything I am doing now. My personal brand, VaynerMedia, Wine Library; any other endeavors I have going on, no matter what, the way I do business wouldn’t change.

But one side isn’t following the rules. Non profits are ignoring an absolute respect for the thing that matters most: the customer.

For sales, this is, of course, the person buying from you. For non-profit, a customer is essentially the person who will donate money to your cause. But it seems that this can be easily forgotten. Many people in the NGO world have the audacity to act as if there is an obligation right off the bat for people to support. When they go in for the ask, this might make them come across as arrogant. They’re less tactful. They throw too many right hooks (“buy my stuff, donate, take action to benefit me”) and not enough jabs (providing value upfront). And no one is making a sale that way.

You have to bring value. Don’t mail it in early. Think about the life of the people you are speaking to; how can you insert your message, your cause, into that life to grab their attention? In what way can you speak to them that they will hear you? Don’t interrupt their day by stopping them in the street (physically as well as metaphorically…). Meet them where they’ll be ready to listen. In sales, you never go straight for the kill: you take the time. Fundraising shouldn’t be any different.

Charity Water (who, in the interest of disclosure, are pals of mine) is a great example, in my opinion, of storytelling before the sale. It’s about putting out good content. Engaging with people around the issues. Using social media to find those people who might already be interested, and just unaware of your organization. It’s not guilt tripping, or relying on people feeling like they have to give. It’s an open, transparent, one on one world now thanks to social media. Use that to your advantage.

Life is about value exchange. Even when you’re doing good things. A while back I had dinner with a CEO of a non profit, and he said something that really stuck with me. I told them I enjoyed giving back, and he stopped me. “Get rid of the word ‘back’”, he said. “It’s just giving.” By saying “giving back”, it’s like you’ve taken something. That was powerful for me to realize.We need to get to a place where it’s not what’s expected, it’s what’s appreciated. And social is a great place to start that. Get into conversations. Be transparent. Execute.

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