Sales and Fundraising

So you say you don’t do sales.  You are a fundraiser and fundraising is different.  I don’t get that.  When I was in sales, I spent time identifying people or companies who had the ability to buy what I was selling and who I had reason to believe had an interest in my product or service.

Once I identified who my prospects were, I learned as much as I could about them, then set out to interest them in my wares.

Depending on what I was selling, that might take a phone call or—more often, as I tended to sell bigger ticket things—several meetings, often over a period of time.  Those meetings consisted of me learning about their needs and showing them how what I had to offer could meet their needs.

At some point, I asked for the sale.  Typically, I asked for the sale at several points—and always, at every meeting I qualified if they were still, indeed, a prospect.  There are a lot of people out there who are happy as can be to continue meeting with you—taking whatever perks you might offer them as you try to entice them to buy or support your product, service or cause—without ever intending to make any commitment.

Once the sale was made, I needed to make sure that my customer was happy—and that I stayed close so that when it was time for a follow on sale, they would want to buy from me.

Ummmm….sounds a lot like fundraising, doesn’t it?  First you identify prospects and inform yourself and your organization about them.  Then you interest and inform them about you.  Hopefully, during that time you are also learning (more) about them—so that you can, at the right point in time, invite them to invest.  That’s solicitation—or sales!—by another name.

And once they’ve made a gift, your have to steward them and ensure their happiness so that, yes, they will consider follow on gifts.

So why the insistence by fundraisers that “we aren’t salespeople,” nor are we “in sales”?  Is it that they don’t actually understand what they do?  More insidiously, that they are not doing it—and therefore don’t get it at all?  I haven’t a clue—but would love to hear your take on this.

Janet Levine works with nonprofits and educational organizations, helping them to increase their fundraising capacity, build stronger boards and more effective staff.  Learn more at  While there, sign up for her free, monthly newsletter


About janetlevineconsulting

For over 20 years, Janet Levine has worked for and with nonprofit and educational organizations, helping to grow their advancement programs. Her consulting company, Janet Levine Consulting, serves a wide range of organizations from small, all-volunteer agencies to major national organizations. She regularly teaches courses in non-profit management, fundraising and grant development, both face-to-face and online at In addition to her nonprofit work, Janet brings years of experience as a business and sales manager in the for-profit sector. She has an MBA from the Graziadio School of Business at Pepperdine University.
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