Sales vs. Fundraising: What’s The Difference

by Will Gray | Mar 31, 2021

For me, Fundraising is a type of sales.

When you look at sales, most people have a knee-jerk reaction to it, but when you break it down, there are many components to sales that fundraisers/fundraising takes on.


Generally speaking, there are 11 types of sales: Inside, Outside, B2B, B2C, Online, Consultative, Account Management, Business Development Management, Business Development Representatives, Lead Generation, Client Services, and Sales Support Functions. These require different skills and are implemented at various points in the sales cycle. Many for-profit companies can afford to hire for these roles that specialize in each step of the sales cycle, hence the different positions.


When it comes to Fundraising, the fundraiser has to be a jack of all trades and have skills in all areas of the fundraising/sales cycle. This is due to many (not all) nonprofits not having the overhead available to hire for each step of the sales/fundraising cycle. A fundraiser has to be doing the lead generation, making the calls (inside sales), doing the face-to-face meetings (outside sales), be able to present to corporations (B2B sales), be able to meet with and connect with the people they are raising money for (B2C), manage the accounts (account management), provide support and service to the prospects by letting them know the impact that their money has had (client servicing/sales support), and closing/making the ask (account executive).

Compare and Contrast

A fundraiser must do all this while having just a salary compensation plan and being held accountable for KPIs and goals. The similarities between a fundraiser and a salesperson are very similar and, in many cases, for the fundraiser, much more difficult.

When you look at a salesperson, they are generally focused on one aspect of the sales cycle and, generally speaking, one product or product line (either a service or good) with some potential upsell.

The fundraiser is selling either a program (service) or a capital project (physical product/good) to another person or persons that will benefit another group of people or cause—requiring the fundraiser to have a very high sense of EQ and be crystal clear on where the money will be going and its impact on the greater community and cause. The fundraiser must also do all lead generations, prospecting, calling, support, etc., vs. some of their counterparts at for-profit entities. The fundraiser potentially has a more challenging time selling a certain gift level to a prospect as no direct service or good is being exchanged.

Wrap Up

Fundraisers do not need to be extroverts. Some of the best fundraisers I know are introverts. They are passionate about their cause and are fully committed to what they do. Thus it is easier for them to make the ASK and secure the gift. Fundraisers should be comfortable making many calls, setting meetings either in person or through video conferencing, having the ability to make the ask, and completing the entire fundraising cycle.

This is why I believe that Fundraising is a form of selling, and to be a master at it, you need to have expert handling and skill development for each step in the sales/fundraising cycle which are very closely correlated.

Do you or your organization need help with their fundraising program or know what to do in each step of the fundraising cycle? Set up a meeting with us today to get your FREE Consult.

Will Gray

Will Gray

With over 10+ years in the marketing and sales industry, I aim to help marketing leaders find the best companies to take their skills and companies to the next level.

My software reviews are based on real-life experience.

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