As professional fundraisers, we frequently deal with the prospect of being “rejected”. Over the years, I’ve spoken to hundreds of fundraisers who have told me that this fear of NO is one of the biggest obstacles to their success.
No one likes to be rejected. Whether it is getting turned down by your high school crush or getting that letter of rejection following a job interview, we can all remember that sinking feeling in the pit of our stomach. The realization that their answer was…no.
What about when a prospective donor tells you that he or she is not going to contribute to your campaign? I’ve been there. It’s not fun! But there is one important question we must ask ourselves when we get turned down. What is more important to me – the transaction, or the relationship?
Once, I was involved in a major campaign that was in the final push for the goal. Sometime earlier, a supporter of that particular mission made a large financial commitment – much larger than what his giving history would have predicted.
One day I get a phone call. This donor, more than a little embarrassed, explained to me that his business had experienced some financial setbacks. He and his family would be unable to fulfill their earlier commitment. This was a yes that turned into a no (or at least, a not-right-now).
Rather than get angry and destroy the relationship by blaming the donor, I told him that his priority must be his family and business first. I suggested that we delete his earlier pledge entirely, and if at some point in the future he was ready and able to contribute again, we could start the conversation over.
His tone immediately changed from embarrassment to relief. Now, I wasn’t overly happy about the situation. It certainly added another challenge for our campaign! But I valued the relationship with that donor and was able to express my empathy and understanding for his situation.
The people who are interested in our mission are more important than the checks they write. We must always remember that the relationship matters more than the dollars and cents. Even if you hear a no, you can still show how much you value your relationship with that prospect.
Until next time,
America’s Asking Coach
PS: In a few weeks, I’ll write about some more specific responses you can have if the answer is no. Stay tuned!