For Impact


Earned Income & Philanthropy: Two Approaches with One Sales Process

Funding | | Nick Fellers

Note: For this ‘argument’, let’s focus on earned income as being paid for a service, program, or solution.  Let’s not consider other other earned-income business models such as retail/wholesale goods, subscription programs, software-as-a-service, or tuition.

We see many social impact organizations that place earned income and philanthropy in two different silos. While there are differences in terms of the revenue, they’re both fundamentally SALES-DRIVEN-REVENUE… based on RELATIONSHIPS… for your IMPACT. Which makes them functionally the same.

In both instances an organization must:

  • Define a value proposition (or case-for-support)
  • Identify, prioritize and strategize prospects
  • Focus on the process of leads-generation and selling
  • Make presentations
  • Close
  • Follow-up and support (or steward)

Of course there are distinctions, but these are distinctions of selling different ‘products’, not running different processes. Philanthropy and earned income often require the same underlying skill sets.

As you build your enterprise, consider the similarities and build functional structure accordingly.

Too often we see organizations think of these as two separate functions. They hire a team for earned-income and a different team for philanthropy. These teams then develop their own strategy, process and materials. This redundancy is a symptom of the larger problem, that the organizations don’t see one (or both) of these revenue strategies as ‘sales functions’. If you’re not approaching the revenue in a sales-model, you’re probably leaving something to be desired in your value proposition, process, hiring, focus, approach, and results.