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nothing happens until… someone sells something

Today’s message doesn’t just apply to the nonprofit world. You might want to share this with some of your friends in the private sector.

When I was a Chief Development Officer, the buck stopped with me. All fundraising efforts rested on my shoulders, as did the pressure from the higher-ups! Then a consultant said to me, “If you want to get your boss off your back, bring back a check.” At that moment, another lesson came to me from my sales and marketing days. . .nothing happens until someone sells something!

I needed to look back to my days in sales. Back to a time when I knew how important it was to get in front of people. I had forgotten that fundraising is really selling. It is telling your mission, vision and story to prospects. I forgot all the lessons on how to be successful by getting in front of the prospect and not always asking for a gift or sale but always asking for something. By the way, asking for their opinion and advice is a good start.

It is tough enough to raise money and be creative every day without people creating more pressure for you.  I planned to meet with five people a week to talk about the mission and “how we are doing.” It worked. The prospects led me to where they had interest, and that led to asking for the “order,” or in this case, a donation. That’s when I started to get the checks to bring back and show the boss.

Your organization, regardless of size, scope or tax status, relies on revenue to make everything else happen. That’s why your role is so important. So, ask yourself, “Why am I not spending more time out of the office just talking about my organization?” A sale will not happen unless you get in front of people and tell a story about your organization. Tell them a story that will make them ask YOU a question. If they ask, then your story was compelling and they want to hear more.

These are the things I did when I sold goods and services in the for-profit world, but how quickly I forgot to apply those skills to fundraising.  Learn from my mistake. Get out of the office.

Most learning comes from mistakes…. but they don’t necessarily need to be yours!!


Written by John J. Corcoran