How to deal with the word No when fundraisingOne of the hardest topics in all of nonprofit development is how to get people to donate funds. Not time, not stuff, not ideas and hand-waving but actual money. Knowing that the vast majority of people who will be asked will probably prefer to NOT give; how does a nonprofit organization and its board address this? Board members can be particularly creative when it comes to excuses not to ask, and let’s be fair, most of them don’t know how and you can’t really blame them. Who wants to walk into an almost guaranteed no, especially when those to be asked are friends and business colleagues?

What is the solution? There are a few ways to approach this, and the most obvious is to provide the support, training and collateral materials to your askers to thoroughly prepare them. Part of this is to address the inevitable, the “No, I can’t help you” reply. By confronting the thing most fearful, there is a way to turn this around.

Not the End of the Conversation:

The single most important point I can convey here is that no is not the end of the conversation, it is the beginning. How you handle a decline is very important, and believe it or don’t, how you handle the no, can empower you more than you imagine. Framing your request for funds in such a way that should you not get the answer you seek, the situation can be switched around. No gives you the opportunity to open up a conversation that can and often will reveal what it will require to change the answer.

The NO is most often accompanied by some sort of qualifier:

  • No, not now
  • No, not this cause
  • No, not this particular organization
  • No, I don’t know enough about you and what you do
  • No, not for this program
  • No, not sure how my donation can make a difference
  • No, you are asking for too much
  • No, unless it is for this……
  • No, leave me alone

Except for the last one, the others leave room for conversation. For myself, when I first started fundraising that first no tended to crush me. But I soon learned that not only did I not have the luxury of simply being disappointed, that often the person I asked wasn’t ready for the conversation to be over either. People want to be asked about how they feel and what they think, so ask.

  • “If not, now; is there a better time for you? When is best? “
  • “If not this cause, what are you interested in? Where do you see great need?”
  • “If not us, are there others you support? Why did you choose them, what do they offer you that pleases you and honors your donation?”
  • “If not enough information, what can we provide to allow you to know more?”
  • “If not for this program, which other programs interest you? What changes would you like to see in how things are being done? “
  • “If no, not sure my donation can make a difference: come on, this is an easy one!”
  • “If no, you are asking too much, what can you give? If not cash, are there other things you can donate: your time, goods in kind, etc.?”
  • “If not, not unless: what is it specifically you would need to see?”
  • “If no, leave me alone, then “Thank you for your time, I respect your opinion and appreciate your listening. “

What If It Were You: How Would You Want to Be Asked?

Being asked in the right way fels great!Put yourself in the position of the person with whom you are speaking: and this is an important distinction here. The ask is a question, a discussion and not begging. Be sure you anticipate the very questions you yourself would want to ask, should you be on the other side of the desk.

1. Who are you, what do you do, how do you do it?
Be prepared with direct and succinct vision, mission statements, and overview of your programs.

2. What difference are you hoping to make and are you? How so?
Discuss briefly why you are doing this work, the purpose and what drives you and your membership.

3. Please show me your associated materials, website, brochures, and other information.
Be prepared with information you can leave, anticipate the type of information that donor may request to provide background and supporting information about your organization.

Very few organizations have the benefit of donors who give without asking, and few can survive without working hard to bring in new donors and increased financial support. If it were easy, everyone would do it.

Having the confidence and courage to let an initial NO be the pathway to a yes can make a huge difference. Acquiring donors is tough, but thoughtful and sincere discussion of why someone may initially decline can eliminate both fear and doors closed that yet may open and open wide.

Be gracious and calm; leave your potential donor feeling so very good about your conversation. It will make the difference.

Call me on 310 828 6979 or contact me to find out how I can help you and your organization

Image Credits:
Oh Yes! by By Lili Vieira de Carvalho on Flickr
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