What to Say to “No” – Part One

No = conversation
(image by cpalmieri)

Previously, I wrote about how to ask for a major gift. It was so simple, you thought, (and you were right!) and life is good now. But wait just a second. If you think about it, asking for a major gift isn’t so hard, it’s how to respond to the answer that’s the real pickle.

So let’s figure it out together right now. Why now?? Because the trick to any great ask is to plan ALL the outcomes and your responses before you head into the room. This is most important when you’re bringing in a volunteer to help out.

When you make sure your volunteers are ready for anything, then their confidence levels will go through the roof. When they are confident then the donor will be more at ease. That is donor-centred fundraising. And that is sexy.

4 donor responses to your ask:

Donor responds: “Sounds great! Let me get my wallet!”

Fundraiser thinks: “Yikes! No-one ever says yes this quickly, I might have just low-balled that one.”

Fundraiser says: “Wonderful, and given the nature of the project, would you consider funding it for 2 years at this amount?

Donor responds: “Whoa, I’m flattered, but that’s a bit too steep for me right now.”

Fundraiser thinks: “Yikes! I thought she could easily give this amount.”

Fundraiser says: “Then would you consider the same amount, but paid out over 3 years as a pledge? We would recognize your giving at the full pledged amount.” 

Donor responds“Didn’t I already make a gift?”

Fundraiser thinks: “Yikes! Maybe his last gift was too recent in his mind for another ask.”

Fundraiser says: “You certainly did make a generous gift – thank you! You may not know this, but the total of all your gifts to us in now at $X. It’s because of this dedication that we came to you first for this special project. There are not many other donors this close to what we do.” 

Donor responds“I’m already giving to so many other charities – I’m not sure I can swing this.”

Fundraiser thinks: “I don’t know him well enough to push this request.”

Fundraiser says: “Yes, we are aware of your other philanthropy which is simply wonderful! If we came back to you in the next calendar year, would you consider a gift then?”


Fundraiser says: “Yes, we know what a community supporter you are and this is a great investment in our community. The project is unique because…” (include points that paint you as the best horse to bet on for this issue – you work in coalitions to avoid duplication, you have the best success rate, you have the best researchers, best reputation, etc. If you still get a no, then ask about a future approach.

Come back later and I’ll go over “no scenarios” Part Two. Because humans can throw you a lot of curve balls.

– Siobhan


About Siobhan Aspinall

About Siobhan Aspinall: I am a Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE), passionate about the environment, social causes and surfing. I have been fundraising in Vancouver, Canada for over 20 years and love working with people who have a fear of fundraising. Call me for help developing a first-time fundraising plan, starting up a major gifts program, writing a case for support, or anything else that's keeping you awake at night! Please find me on linkedin and tell me what you'd like to see in future posts! : ) Photo Credit (sanddollar header): Minette Layne via Compfight cc
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