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#61 This might lose me a few readers


What does a restaurant menu with a two-hundred dishes, and a company that offers both energy sales AND charity fundraising have in common?

The answer is simple, it is almost guaranteed that they do not do all that they offer very well.

I once had the displeasure of working under a manager who said “sales is sales” when referring to the difference between door to door and street fundraising, and whilst I agree that sales is indeed sales, I disagree with him on two other points. One, that the door to door approach is not the same as street, and secondly, that fundraising is not sales.

Drilling-down on the first point, the conversation you can have on the doorstep with a potential donor is generally longer and often, due to knocking hours in most of the country, shared with the decision maker of the household. This longer conversation requires an elongated structure and a lot more charity knowledge. We tend to see better retention results from this channel because of these reasons. Street fundraising gives us access to much greater volumes of potential donors but can be harmed by higher attrition results in part due to shorter conversations because the fundraisers are trained with elevator pitches designed to enable the donor to make quick decisions.

The second point, fundraising is not sales, is contentious to some, but if your staff or contractors are called ‘sales reps’ you, in my humble opinion, should not be raising money for charity. If you call the people that sign your iPad ‘customers’ instead of ‘donors’ and you get them nodding throughout the entire conversation and saying ‘yes’ at the end of every sentence in the name of charity you might want to reconsider what you are doing.

It is no secret that the introduction of third-party sales and marketing companies have changed the face of professional fundraising, and it is also true that a successful face-to-face fundraising programme will share some of its ingredients with that of a sales company, but that does not mean they are the same thing.

Habits such as working a full shift, keeping a positive attitude and conversational structure are key to your success whether you are signing customers up to a new electricity provider or inspiring a new donor to commit to an ongoing long-term donation, but fundraising requires a level of passion, empathy and understanding that gong-banging high-volume energy sales doesn’t.

Some forward-thinking agencies tailor their staff recruitment to their charity client. For example, I spoke with the Director of a Sydney and Canberra based operation this week who hires medical and healthcare students to work on their client’s heart research campaign. This makes sense. If you’ve lost a family member to heart disease you might want to fight that illness.

So, you can imagine my confusion when I see job adverts online stating: ‘Wanted - full time sales representatives for both fundraising and gas’. Who are you recruiting? Sales people with a passion for charitable causes and a penchant for lower energy prices? Maybe I’ve missed a trick. Maybe these people will knock on your door, sell you cheaper gas, and then sign you up to a charity with the savings you’ve just made!

In other news, the ACNC released their ‘Strengthening for purpose: Australian Charities and Not-For-Profits Commission Legislation Review 2018[1]’ this week that covers the plans to review the hoops that charities and third-party agencies must jump through to fund raise in the states and territories. I look forward to the FIA and PFRA’s responses to this document.

Finally, due to a higher workload, I am sad to report that this blog will be a fortnightly publication rather than appearing in its traditional weekly slot. We hope that this extra time will allow for deeper research into the topics and a better read for you.

Happy fundraising.

[1] https://static.treasury.gov.au/uploads/sites/1/2018/08/p2018-t318031.pdf

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