Sales for NPOs and advocacy groups works the same way as in business. Many non-profit executives want to shrug this truth off; however, I will demonstrate selling is human interaction, and whether it's in a business or non-profit environment the principles are necessary and effective.
I have many years of high level experience with municipal committees of council. For six years I was appointed to the committee that handled all the grant money reviews and disbursement recommendations for my home town. And in that time I created more interaction, more bonding and more results from those NPOs. I was doing things at 30 people in their 50s are just starting to consider.
A Key Takeaway About Sales for NPOs
A major takeaway I have from that time is the NPOs were all fighting each other over what they thought was slices of the one pie. This was a mistake. In college we were given an assignment where the class was split up into two groups. Both groups were told they needed a limited supply of oranges. You may have experienced a similar exercise, or perhaps this will be a big eye-opener for you. At first the two groups debated on why their "organization" should get the oranges and the other group should not. But after DISCUSSION, a key but hitherto hidden pair of facts became visible:
Group One needed the MEAT of the oranges
Group Two needed the PEEL of the oranges.
Both sides could effectively take 100% of the pie.
But they had to *talk* to one another to figure this out. Now in my experience, and note how this is true even in supposedly cooperative mindset organizations like NPOs, the leaders simply do not communicate with each other effectively enough to learn that one NPO needs the meat and the other needs the peel--and that both can share the resources.
I am about to share an example from my history in 2004-5. At that time I had been appointed to the city's nine-member grant review committee and they made me vice-chair the moment I walked in the room. The following year, the current chair was retiring and plans were made for me to be his successor. Note this was not about some knowledge about parliamentary procedure; it was about demonstrating *leadership* and I was ready to lead. Even though I was the youngest member of the committee other than the short-lived youth rep who moved out of the city after a couple months, these 50, 60, and 70-year old, highly experienced executives--some of whom ran their own organizations--were happy to have me lead them. The first thing I did was meet with city social planning/community development staff to hear their ideas on what a good direction would be.
Two Principles of Sales for NPOs and Advocacy Groups
Note this. Having administrative staff on your side is important. Do you think it is easier to have them promote your program when they have a hand in it?
The second thing I did was forward a motion to council to approve a change in the committee's terms of reference. Until then, the committee had been a passive body: council would refer business items to it for opinion and we would answer. I had it changed so we could "wag the dog" and send items for consideration UP the chain to them.
The staff recommended something called a Social Development Strategy, which came out of Australia. The idea was to involve all the local organizations and stakeholders, and get a program of how municipal spending would be allocated on community development going forward. The City was going through huge changes in population, distribution and gateway areas.
Over the next year, starting from just two stakeholders, I and my committee, lead by a former Chamber of Commerce chair I appointed to lead the subcommittee because I didn't want a conflict of interest as I was running in the next election, created this spending plan and an enormous level of involvement. You can see the results in this document:
Sales for NPOs: Another Example
An organization (the Lower Lonsdale Network) was created for ongoing discussion between all those stakeholders and outlasted my term, which I think is pretty awesome. And during those discussions, we found opportunities for NPOs to share 100% of the pie like this:
The Salvation Army was training homeless people to become cooks, so they could have basic skills to get a job. The local college had their chef volunteer to lead the training. But they topped out on capacity as they only had the one kitchen. Well guess what: from the discussions THEY HAD NEVER HAD BEFORE, resulting from the Social Development Strategy meetings, the Kiwanis retirement tower revealed they had a spare kitchen! The Salvation Army and the chef could use the Kiwanis kitchen to double their flow-through of trainees, and it didn't cost anyone a dime!
This is an example of the orange being divided into meat and peel, and serving two different groups well.
So if you're a non-profit executive, understand that sales for NPOs and advocacy groups works just like it does in B2B and B2C settings...and will get you results like this. Human interaction is How You Get Things Done. Whether it's in a business or non-profit environment, the same principles are at work.
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