Thursday, June 30, 2011

BIG’s Blog: The New Golden Age of Fund Raising: Nothing Moves Until Something Is Sold

A year ago, Ian Wilhelm writing for The Chronicle Of Philanthropy titled his article: Are Fund Raisers ‘Selling a Product?'

Jennifer McCrea, a senior research fellow at Harvard University’s Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations and Sasha Dichter, the Director of Business Development for the Acumen Fund, weighed in.

Jennifer wrote, “Selling implies that money is the most important part of the relationship. When money is at the center of the relationship, it distracts us from our mission because we are worried that we won’t have enough or that we’ll make a mistake,” she writes. “It sets up a false dynamic that requires that we talk shell-to-shell."

Sasha, on the other hand, “agrees that fund raising shouldn’t be about money, but selling shouldn’t be a dirty word, either. There’s a lot that fund raisers can learn from good salespeople,” he says.

If we are to successfully transform our fund raising organizations for the new golden age of fund raising, we need to get beyond some old hang ups that have cropped up in the: professional ranks of fund raisers. One of those hang ups is that raising funds for nonprofit organizations is somehow NOT selling.

It’s obvious, as the article I mentioned illustrates, this issue continues to be a bone of contention in some philanthropic circles. But, for those fund raising organizations that want to succeed in building relationships, and from those relationships develop willing donors, my position is that nothing moves until something is sold.

It doesn’t matter if you are a fund raiser sharing your mission, a freshman high school English teacher talking about the Shakespeare, an IBM salesperson talking to a major corporation about automation, or the President of the United States sharing his strategy for Afghanistan; the fundamental principle is that you want your audience to own your vision. They are all selling.

Ultimately, what is “Selling” but the art of rhetoric with the goal of having the audience own it?

And until they own it . . . nothing moves.


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