We don’t consider “sales” a dirty word, but occasionally we see a pained face from fundraisers or non-profit professionals when the word pops up in conversation. We think it’s a necessary word when discussing fundraising. This discrepancy and misunderstanding might be why some non-profits are struggling to fundraise and are failing to understand the basis for solid fundraising strategies.
Do you know who makes the best fundraisers? Individuals with relationship-based sales experience. This is something we see time and time again when we work with non-profits and the best Executive Directors understand this well.
What is relationship-based sales?
Relationship-based sales is when an individual works to build relationships with customers, as opposed to using traditional selling methods. The theory is that as relationships develop through trust, sincerity, and authenticity, sales will increase naturally.
Various industries traditionally benefit from this approach, such as real estate, healthcare, and retail. However, the skills required of strong fundraisers overlap generously with those of relationship-based sales individuals. Strong communication, both written and verbal, as well as knowing how to nurture relationships through regular appointments, cold calls, follow-ups, and managing the closing process are all transferrable skills from sales to development.
Non-profit experience is always a plus and the more experience the better, however when considering hiring someone from an outside industry sales experience is a bonus. Broadening the hiring pool for development professionals to include those with sales experience is a human resources strategy that could really pay off for many non-profits.
We find the biggest hurdle to overcome when hiring is fear. Non-profit professionals, especially those who have spent several years in the industry, can have a difficult time coming to terms with hiring a business professional. However, as they begin to focus on skills sets and attributes, instead of profit versus non-profit experience, the fear can lessen and confidence grows when it comes to hiring these professionals.
So, next time you’re looking to fill a fundraising spot at your non-profit considering looking beyond your stereotypical applicant. There could be a valuable sales professional standing in front of you that could be a major asset to your organization.