Philanthropy; Not Fundraising
I recently attended an inspiring talk by Daniel Pink, author of To Sell Is Human, and found myself furiously taking notes. Next thing you know I was impulsively buying the book (autographed, of course)! Do I have buyer’s remorse? Absolutely not. Zero. Zilch. Nada. Everything he has to say is so directly applicable to fundraising and the nonprofit sector that [IMHO] it’s a ‘must read’ for those of us in the philanthropy business. Here’s why:
We erroneously think “selling” is bad. In fact, it’s probably even more of a taboo word in nonprofits than the word “fundraising.” People just don’t like it. Pink did an experiment where he asked people to give him the first word that came to their minds when they thought of “sales/selling.” They answered with such words as:
I was blown away! Because, remarkably, when I did a similar experiment in October 2012 with a number of nonprofit boards of directors I uncovered almost identical answers! [See How to Overcome the Money Taboo and Succeed with Fundraising]. When I used the word “philanthropy” however, the responses turned from universally negative to universally positive. The former was perceived as organization-centric and taking away; the latter as constituent-centric and giving.
Our view of sales and fundraising as sleazy and manipulative is a relic. It comes from an outdated mindset of caveat emptor, where the buyer – and prospective donor – must beware of those who might trick them to part with their hard-earned money. How could such trickery occur? From an information imbalance that no longer exists. Remember the old adage that “information is power?” Well, now information is readily available to everyone. That’s why the digital revolution has so fundamentally changed business. As Brian Solis tells us in The End of Business As Usual, the game has changed and the playing field has been leveled.
It’s now a buyer’s market. A new breed of consumer is emerging, and they’re changing the very foundation of business. In the world where the seller had the information advantage, the salesperson’s mantra was ABC – Always Be Closing. Pink tells us that today ABC stands for Attunement (perspective taking), Buoyancy (staying afloat in an ocean of rejection) and Clarity (synthesizing and curating information that helps folks identify and resolve their problems).
Attunement, buoyancy and clarity are requisite skills for today’s world. And, as Pink describes, we all require these skills because we’re all in the business of ‘sales’ – aka, endeavoring to persuade folks (whether prospective donors, buyers, employees, bosses, children, parents or friends) to part with something of value (e.g., time, attention, point of view or resources). We spend a majority of our time trying to move others. So we may as well embrace this, and begin to understand the key principles of persuasion [as brilliantly outlined in Influence, by Robert Cialdini; also see Psychology of Giving: Influence Your Affluence by Using the Science of Persuasion].
Elasticity is the other requisite skill Pink suggests that especially resonates with me. Our skills today need to spread across boundaries. I’ve been preaching the end of silos for some time in nonprofits, particularly when it comes to the separation of fundraising and marketing. Pink urges a similar shift, noting that many businesses are coming around to the view that it makes sense to do away with designated “salespersons” because the new world order requires that everyone be a salesperson. It’s no different in the social benefit sector. In fact, that’s what building a culture of philanthropy is about. Making fundraising the business of one person, one department or one committee just doesn’t work very well. Everyone in the organization should be a fundraiser.
Fundraising (nonprofit) and sales (for profit) truly are similar processes. Yet it turns out, if done right, neither is about the business of pushing useless, unwanted stuff on others. Those who will be most successful will understand that their real business is serving their customers’ needs. Effective selling — fundamentally human selling — understands the need to provide something of authentic value. If we’re not providing something of value then we’re going to go out of business.
NOTE: I’ll be back to my nonprofit blogging series soon, but I was so excited by this book that I just had to share! This is the second in an upcoming series about “Philanthropy; Not Fundraising” — exploring the ways in which the former is transformational, donor-centric and fundamentally human while the latter is merely transactional. Whatever we call it, we’ve all got to be in it. All in. Let me know your thoughts, and I’ll incorporate them into upcoming posts.
Flikr Photo by Frank Taillandier