Not Enough 'No'
Perhaps the greatest fear for the fundraiser is being told "no" in response to a request for a gift. We’ve all felt it.
It’s not because the refusal is an indictment of the worthiness of our cause. It’s because we’ve made it personal. We’ve made it about us.
Making it about us is the driving force behind fundraising anxiety. You know—the antsy squeamishness that almost all board members get when they’re asked to go ask.
"I can’t ask my friends. It would put them on the spot,” you say. No, you think it will put you on the spot. Some folks even express the reason for their reluctance directly: “What if they say 'no'?”
From adolescence onward, we tend to think it’s about us. As a wise mentor once told me, "Most people are far more concerned with themselves than to be worried with evaluating you.”
Perhaps the greatest paradigm shift is when you realize that fundraising isn’t about you or your organization. And it’s definitely not personal. The reason? The flip side of fundraising is philanthropy. Effective fundraising—fundraising that raises more money, longer—is about encouraging philanthropy, not extracting money from a reluctant donor.
Principle 1 of The Eight Principles™ is "Donors are the Drivers®." Donors, philanthropic investors, are driving the train. Don’t try to wrest control from them. Let them go where they want to go.
When you come to the conclusion that it’s about the donor and not you, a whole different dynamic takes over. So, what does the donor want? What are the life challenges this potential investor is facing? Why would this donor even consider making an investment in our organization?
These are the questions for which you want the answers. These are the questions that donors will gladly answer.
Expect an answer when you ask but don’t be dismayed—or embarrassed—if the answer is "no." You have to get "noes." Preferably quite a few.
Because if you’re not getting enough "noes," two things likely are occurring. You’re either not asking enough people or you're not asking enough people that are outside your regular routes—or both.
The result? Your base of donors remains small. Your fundraising totals remain stagnant.
When I was vice president in one of the colleges I served, I offhandedly asked the director of development one day what progress we were making on our capital campaign. He gave me an answer I always will remember: "We’re not getting enough 'noes.'"
I understood immediately what he meant. We were traveling down the well-trodden paths to visit the familiar donors, the comfortable investors. Why? The same fear of asking combined with a natural preference for comfort. We liked getting a "yes." We wanted the personal affirmation.
Personal affirmation is a good thing. Everyone needs it. But don’t let it cheat you out of the opportunity to make a new friend. Not everyone will take you up on your offer. But some will. Those are the ones you’re looking for.
The next time a prospective investor declines your invitation to invest, don’t take it personally. Instead, seek to find out why. Most people will answer a direct question directly if they believe you really want to hear the answer.
The answer may be, "This is just not my thing." It might be, "Not at this time." It may be, "Not for that amount." All three of these "noes" can be turned into "yeses."
When you do, try to make it a "yes" for the donor, not just for you.
Success it waiting. Go out and achieve it.
Larry believes in the power of relationships and the power of philanthropy to create a better place and transform lives.
Larry is the founder of The Eight Principles. His mission is to give nonprofits and philanthropists alike the opportunity to achieve their shared visions. With more than 25 years of experience in charitable fundraising and philanthropy, Larry knows that financial sustainability and scalability is possible for any nonprofit organization or charitable cause and is dependent on neither size nor resources but instead with the commitment to create a shared vision.
Larry is the author of the award-wining book, "The Eight Principles of Sustainable Fundraising." He is the Association of Fundraising Professionals' 2010 Outstanding Development Executive and has ranked in the Top 15 Fundraising Consultants in the United States by the Wall Street Business Network.
Larry is the creator of the revolutionary online fundraising training platform, The Oracle League.
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