Challenging the Relationship Model of Fundraising
Received wisdom now says that relationship building is the way to raise more money from donors. It’s why we changed the name from Fundraising to Development; we expect to develop relationships with people, with the ultimate goal of getting them to make a big gift (or two, or three).
This may still be true, but a study from Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson challenges the notion that relationship building causes higher sales in the for-profit environment. What this means for the nonprofit sector is up for debate.
Dixon is Managing Director of the Corporate Executive Board’s Sales and Service Practice. Adamson is Senior Director of the Sales Executive Council, a division of the Sales and Service Practice. Their new book, The Challenger Sale: Taking Control of the Customer Conversation, is the result of studying 6,000 sales representatives across more than 100 companies around the world. Detailing their work habits, their motivation and their results, they classified the reps into 5 groups:
- Relationship builder
- Lone wolf
- Hard worker
- Reactive problem solver
These groups are described in the HBR Blog, but suffice it to say that the Relationship builder was NOT the best performer.
Surprisingly, Challenger, who did not acquiesce to every client whim, who did not work to smooth over any tension, and in fact made a point of asking penetrating questions about client assumptions, outperformed the others in complex and challenging situations.
Now, if these economic times aren’t challenging for nonprofits, I don’t know what would be. Perhaps it’s time to (ahem) challenge our assumptions of how to deal with donors in these times.
More study is definitely needed.