It feels like a slap in the face.
Even seeing the word ‘NO’ gives me a queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach.
It feels lousy to be rejected by anyone. And it’s particularly painful when you ask a well-cultivated donor for a large gift you thought they were going to give. But instead, they say, NO.
The Disappointment of Getting Turned Down by a Donor
Recently, one of our pre-capital campaign coaching clients asked for a gift of $500,000. That was to be one of two top gifts for their capital campaign. The donor and her husband were fully engaged in the project.
The donor was one of a very few that could afford a gift of that size. So the stakes were high when the executive director and the development director met with the donor to discuss the large gift.
What was the donor’s response?
NO. Well, not quite NO.
The donor said that for reasons having nothing to do with the organization they weren’t able to give the $500,000 they had been asked for. Instead, their gift would be $100,000.
The success of the campaign hinged on the bigger gift. Without it, they’d have to lower their goal.
How do you think they felt?
Hollow. Disappointed. Maybe even devastated, irritated and bone-tired.
But they pulled themselves together and responded as graciously as they could, thanking the donor for her willingness to consider a really big gift and for her commitment to a gift that, even though it was less than asked for, was still remarkable.
So What Should You Do When a Donor Says No?
Take time to regroup.
And that’s exactly what they did. They went back to their office to regroup.
They met with the board chair and campaign chair. Together, they decided to break the project into two smaller pieces — one now, and one a couple of years from now.
They rewrote the case for the first phase with a smaller goal. They created a new gift range chart.
And then they went back to their donor!
Not to ask for another gift, but to thank her for helping them come up with a campaign that was more realistic and that everyone felt good about.
Help the Donor Who Says ‘No’ Feel Like They’re Still Part of the Team
You might be asking yourself, “Why did they go back to the donor?”
Because they realized that the donor might feel bad that she hadn’t been able to give the larger gift.
They made a point of letting her know that not only was her $100,000 going to be a major gift in the campaign, but that they were grateful for her help in rethinking the campaign and breaking it into more manageable pieces.
They told her that not only did they feel better about the campaign, but the entire board felt like the new approach was a great step forward!
When you’ve asked a donor for a gift and she’s said no, it’s not just hard on you — it’s also hard on the donor.
When donors says no or give you a much smaller gift, they feel your disappointment and they feel bad that they’ve let you down.
‘No’ is Just a Step on the Road to ‘Yes’
While it’s fun and easy to thank donors who say YES, it’s even more important to take care of major donors when they say NO.
Remember, NO is just one step along the road to YES. And if you take care of your NO donors, they’ll be much more likely to say YES the next time you ask.