I’m sorry, its going to be a no.
As fundraisers, we spend tons of time working hard to get donor prospects to say yes to our solicitations. We crave the check in the envelope and watch the online donor daily totals get larger and larger. I’ve been there, and I know how exciting that is. But I have also been told or heard ‘no’ more than I would ever want to.
What do you say when someone says no?
The Silence is Deafening
With email and direct mail, that no is often simply no response at all. It is an easy way to decline, no one has to look anyone in face and give a disappointing answer. And the reality is, you will hear that silence way too often.
Ideally, with proper planning and execution, you ought to have an idea of what a campaign or personal solicitation will bring in, but as has often been said, the best laid plans of mice and men do often go astray. Being prepared for why people often say no will help you plan better to change that reply ( or lack thereof).
Accept No With Grace
Other no’s depend on how you are making your ask- face to face, at an event, with a personal letter or phone call, email or direct mail. Being able to accept a decline gracefully is a critical skill for any fundraiser. Think how you would feel if you were being asked and had to decline- the more graciously you are treated is a reflection of the person asking you. Be that person.
Is a No the sound of the door closing? (Spoiler: No)
Not necessarily: there are several reasons that NO is the answer, if we look at some of those most frequently used, there is a way to keep that door open a little bit more.
8 Types of NO
Knowing the main reasons that people choose to decline your ask can help you to handle a no and help you consider possible ways to turn the no into a yes at some point. .
1/ No, you are asking for too much.
Be thoughtful about the amounts you are asking for, do your homework. What have they given before, what is the pattern (frequency, timing) of their giving? Create a gift range that offers them an amount that is within their ability to give and more, but don’t go crazy. Asking a donor to stretch is one thing, being unrealistic is another.
2/ No, you are asking for too little.
By the same token, know what your donor has given before- don’t diminish those gifts by asking for an amount below where they have been previously. If it has been thousands, don’t ask for hundreds. This is a donor situation that should never go bad, so be thoughtful here. Ask your donor what is the most important aspect of your work and where do they see the opportunity to make an even greater change. Offer them the chance to underwrite a program that they feel is particularly important to their support.
3/ No, this is not a program or initiative that interests me.
They are not interested in the program that you are pitching. What can you say? What are the issues and causes they are interested in? What do you think about the work we are doing- what could we do to interest you? What would you consider a worthy investment? Where do you see the opportunity to initiate or advance change in your cause?
4/ No, you are not the best person to discuss this with me.
Be equally thoughtful about who makes the ask- be sensitive to their age, gender, interests or how they are connected to your organization. It can be more effective if there is common ground between your solicitor and your donor. Who makes them comfortable: staff, board member, trustee, volunteer? Male, female, older, younger? Be considerate of who can make that donor most comfortable and confident about their gift.
5/ No, I am not the one who can make this decision.
I am not the person who can make the decision to make this donation. This is a no brainer: who would be the best person to speak with. What would your recommendation or advice be? Would you assist me in contacting this person?
6/ No, now it not a good time for me.
The timing is not good for me now- too close to tax day, Christmas, did the stock market just crash? Be aware of other things that may affect the calendar. A challenge may be unexpected natural disasters that have been happened a lot more frequently in the last few years. Be prepared by looking at the calendar for big spending times during the year amd calendar your plans accordingly.
7/ No, I can’t support you in the way you are asking me.
Are there other ways that contributions that could be made instead of cash? Services, merchandise, supplies, volunteer time??? Be open minded about how the donor can contribute to your work. Maybe writing a check can’t work, but if they want to donate, what other ways can you offer?
8/ No, this is not right for me in any way.
This answer is exactly what it says, I am not interested. Period, the end. Respect that request and just do it. Anything else and you will be a nag or a pest, neither of those tend to enhance your attractiveness going gorard and can leave a poor impression of the organization. It is also important to leave with grace: thank you them for their time wish them well. Don’t be sucky or smarmy, that’s obvious. Think of how you might feel if you were on the other side of this ask and needed to be let off gently.
There are probably lots more reasons someone will not donate, it can be very illuminating to ask why not?
Yes is easy, whatever you did, it worked. No, however, requires more thought and explanation. That explanation could convey the information you need to ask successfully next time. Listen.
It could be that by customizing your aks to be more, less, later, in honor of, in memory of, for a special program or some kind of recognition that the decline you got the first time can be the acceptance the next. Very often by asking more about the reasons for why your donor said no, you will learn what is necessary for a more successful ask going forward.
I like the idea that someone cares about what I think and what is important to me. When a donor tells you no, you have a tremendous opportunity to make that donor aware that you do care about what is important to them, that they are not a checkbook or credit card, that their interests are meaningful. Working with a donor in this way can change the donor relationship to a funding partnership.
In fundraising, you have to make No your friend; you will certainly hear it enough to be used to it and more importantly, comfortable with hearing it.
Getting a yes is thrilling, no doubt, but turning around a no can feel just as good, if not better. No isn’t always the end of the conversation, in many cases, it can be the beginning.
Remember, giving to nonprofit is shaping the future and affecting how we get there. It is one of the most honorable things someone can do- give your donors the chance to experience how wonderful it feels to be part of that change.
Need a little help preparing your responses to a no? Give us a call, send an email- the answers are easier than you think.
310 828 6979
As always, thanks for reading, please add any comments or suggestions you may have.
image credit: http://www.appleipaditalia.net/page/179/