What to Say to “No” – Part Two

"No" is not "never". (image by Lili Vieira de Carvalho)

“No” is not “never”.
(image by Lili Vieira de Carvalho)

I know you have been sleepless since I wrote Part One of this series, waiting patiently for more! Well, here we go.

Remember that when asking for a gift, the most important thing you can do to make everyone comfortable is to prepare.

Your prospect should have “linkage, ability and interest” in your cause. You should have the right proposal, the right ask amount, and the right people attending. In other words, this is no First Date people! You know your prospect well and are heading into the ask with the likelihood of hearing a “yes”.

But sometimes it’s a “no” regardless of all your awesome relationship-building and preparation. Don’t jump out the window when you hear this word! It’s the start of another conversation, not the end. Let’s have a look at some more examples.

1. We ask for the gift and the prospect says: “I can’t make this decision until I talk to my family.”

In a perfect world, you would have the key people in the room already but that’s not always possible. The best thing is to heartily agree: “Of course, and I wouldn’t make this decision without my family either.” Offer to come back and meet both the prospect and her family to answer any questions. You shouldn’t be in any hurry to rush their decision.

2. We ask for the gift and the prospect says “No.”

Quite rare, but be very empathetic here. Don’t stand up in a rush to leave—go the opposite route and settle in to hear her reasons.

Don’t get emotional and don’t act disappointed. Be open with her and ask what kind of “no” she means – not now, not this, not you, not this issue? People almost never mean “never”.

In all cases, leave with a clear indication of the next touch point, such as: “I’ll send that information to you next week and we hope to see you at the AGM.” 

3. We schedule a meeting and before it takes place the donor sends in a gift.

This situation is tricky and is sometimes thought of as a pre-emptive strike to keep the visitors from asking for a higher amount at the meeting. You have options.

  • If the gift is close to the amount you were going to ask for (rare!): Keep the meeting and go in with information on what project you’d like to spend her gift on.
  • If the gift is much less than you were hoping for: Keep the meeting and start off by thanking her for the gift. Then go on to present your planned proposal and its full cost and say something like: “This is the level of support we see you at in the future. What would it take for you to get this involved?” I have experienced a situation just like this, where the smaller gift then became a first payment on a much larger pledge.   

Whatever you do, don’t be ungrateful and don’t negotiate – so disrespectful! A recent gift doesn’t mean you can’t talk about future ones, but don’t forget to thank them and steward every donation, no matter the size.

Have you heard other No’s that you want suggestions for? Give me a shout at siobhanaspinall@gmail.com.  : )

–          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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