When to Say No (and Yes) in NOvember
Smart decision-making is an important skill in any field. Effective professionals understand that being strategic is as much about saying “no” as it is about saying “yes.” Both “yes” and “no” are opportunities to convey intentionality and purpose.
Fundraisers typically have “make-it-happen” personalities, and that contributes to their success in achieving their goals. However, NOvember is a great time to reflect on when we might be saying “yes,” but should be saying “no.” And since fundraisers are “glass-half-full” optimists at heart, let’s also note the “yes”es that yield excellent fundraising results.
- No to funding opportunities that are not mission-aligned.
- No to donors who you’ve tried to cultivate for years while they give you the runaround.
- No to those in your organization who think the task of raising money falls solely on those with the word “development” in their title.
- No to time-consuming weekly newsletters.
- No to the same development calendar year after year.
- No to galas and other special events that don’t return enough on investment of time and money.
- No to board members with no term limits.
- No to transactional fundraising.
- Yes to relationship fundraising.
- Yes to tailoring your cultivation and outreach to specific groups.
- Yes to staying current with technology and using it to your advantage.
- Yes to leveraging data to fundraise efficiently.
- Yes to setting the bar high for your lay leaders.
- Yes to focusing on donors over dollars.
- Yes to a clear mission and vision.
- Yes to everyone in your organization clearly communicating that mission and vision.
- Yes to formally and informally recognizing and appreciating donors.
- Yes to formally and informally recognizing staff.
- Yes to identifying points in time on the calendar to mark special occasions and milestones as an organization.
- Yes to mutual respect and collaboration between lay leaders and staff.
While it may seem risky or negative to say no because it feels like doing so can defy expectations of your job responsibilities (especially if you are a lead fundraiser), “no” can actually be used as a tool for growth. Saying “no” strategically will make room to allow for more creativity and innovation in choosing to do new, different things that make the most sense for your organization and that will yield yes-worthy results.
Maybe this year, it’s time to say “no” to your annual gala that has become stale and increasingly time-consuming. Instead, you might say “yes” to a few intimate dinners hosted by your closest donors, focusing on bringing in just a handful of new supporters with the capacity and passion to impact your revenue goals. Perhaps you say “no” to another Giving Tuesday campaign with mediocre results and finally find the time and resources to do some fresh foundation prospect research and writing, investing energy into developing a new revenue stream for your organization. Using “no” as a tool for redefining priorities is far from negative — it can be a truly productive way of opening up your organization to new strategies, audiences and funders.
YES, you can say “NO”! If you want to spread the word about innovation, productivity and just plain good fundraising practices by saying “no” this NOvember, share your fundraising “no”s and “yes”es with #NOvemberFundraising. What “no”s and “yes”es are on YOUR list this NOvember?
Rachel Cyrulnik serves as principal at RAISE Nonprofit Advisors, where she helps nonprofits achieve measurable and strategic growth. With more than 15 years of experience in nonprofit management, Rachel leads a team of experts in helping organizations increase revenue, strengthen governance, plan strategically and communicate powerfully.
Rachel is an expert in philanthropic trends, a frequent contributor in thought leadership, and a sought-after presenter in the nonprofit community. Rachel graduated from Yeshiva University summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and earned her Master of Public Administration, with honors, from New York University, where she studied nonprofit management.
Chani Adams' work at RAISE specializes in collecting and interpreting data to gain a broad yet nuanced picture of an organization’s operations and pinpoint strategic, innovative opportunities for improvement and growth.
Chani has over a decade of experience in strategic development planning, including pre-campaign studies, development assessments and impact analyses. Chani is an expert in day school fundraising. Her work includes analysis and strategic and campaign planning for: the JCC of Greater Boston, Gann Academy and The Rashi School in Boston; Mandel JDS in Cleveland, Bernard Zell in Chicago; Hannah Senesh in Brooklyn NY; the Greater MetroWest Day School Initiative; and Prizmah, among many others.
Before her career as a consultant, Chani managed donor advised portfolios for major international companies as the Development Officer for Global Corporate Philanthropy at Charities Aid Foundation America.
Lauren Cotton brings more than a decade of demonstrated success in the nonprofit sector, where she has helped human rights and social service agencies raise more than $25 million. Having built holistic fundraising programs from the ground up, Lauren has experience across strategies — from foundation grants, to major donor cultivation, to special events — that help organizations meet ambitious revenue goals.
For over five years Lauren was the director of foundation and government relations for PILnet: The Global Network for Public Interest Law, where she created an institutional donor program that supported a doubling of the organization’s budget. Most recently, she served as the first development director of Pony Power Therapies, an organization she helped transform from its grassroots origins to a sustainable organization with clarified programs, an expanded board of directors, and a diversified funding base.
Lauren lives in Teaneck, New Jersey, with her husband, artist Andrew Cotton, and two young children. She holds an MA in international relations from King’s College London and a BA in sociology from Boston University.
Sharon Weiss-Greenberg is director of donor relations at RAISE. She has a proven track record in thoughtfully growing organizations in diversity, constituents, financially and reputation at large. She has increased the number of donors and giving levels at multiple organizations, allowing organizations to grow their budget and effectiveness. She has brought several nonprofits to the next level utilizing marketing, education, communication, management, development and relationship building skills.
Sharon is also director of development and communications at ELI Talks and the former executive director of JOFA, where she increased annual giving by more than 35%. She was named by the Jewish Forward as a “Forward 50” Jew of influence and by the Jewish Week as a person to watch as a “36 Under 36” honoree. Sharon has served as the Rosh Moshava (Head of Camp) at Camp Stone, and as the co-director of the Orthodox Union Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus at Harvard Hillel and as the first Orthodox woman chaplain at Harvard University following many years as a day school educator.
At RAISE, Sharon provides strategic coaching to clients on identifying, cultivating, and soliciting prospects and donors.
Sharon earned her doctorate at NYU. She is an alumna of the Wexner Fellow/Davidson Scholarship graduate program, and ROI Community Member. She studied at The Drisha Institute for Jewish Education and received her BA and MA from Yeshiva University.