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Dealing With that Bummer Feeling After Getting a ‘No’ to an Ask

By September 12, 2012April 25th, 2014Coaching, Fundraising


My Ignited Online Fundraising Community is a group of hardworking, wise fundraising professionals from around the country. Through a special “members only” Q & A forum they ask me questions from time to time. Sarah had a great question recently about helping volunteers who are a part of the solicitation team.

Here’s her question and my answer. Please post any additional ideas or thoughts you have for Sarah…I know she’d welcome your input!

I’m wondering if you or others in the community have tips for helping a volunteer asker deal with the bummer feeling that comes after a “no” response for a major gift request. We prepped the volunteer for a no and communicated that no’s help us get to know our donors better, too. It still just has that downer feeling and we need to keep the asking going strong! Would love your advice. Thanks in advance!

Great question. And a challenging one. A few thoughts for you and your team:

  1. Keep track of the number of asks vs. the yes and no answers. Paying attention to the % of yes vs. no’s can remind everyone that not all asks end in a yes. AND you can help each other prepare for “who” is going to generate the next yes OR no.
  2. [REMINDER NOTE: How many home runs did Babe Ruth hit? 714.
    How many times did he strike out? 1330.]

  3. Be sure the “askee” is ready to be asked. Here a post I like about dealing with no’s. . . just a thought for you. Maybe there is more to do on the donor engagement end before an ask is made?
  4. When debriefing the visit be sure to ask:
    – What DID work?
    – What felt good?
    – What happened that should have happened?
    Asking these question at the beginning and reminding the volunteer of those answers at the end of your debrief conversation MAY help diminish the “sting” of the “no” answer.
  5. And lastly, be sure to have plenty of conversations with your team about not taking the answer personally whether it is a yes or a no. When we do that we actually dishonor who the ask is really about…the people you serve.

The “ask” should be nothing more than “nudging the inevitable” as Terry Axelrod, founder of Benevon, would say. Taking time up front to ensure that’s exactly what happens can cause more yeses AND more happy volunteers.

Good luck!

Lori L. Jacobwith
Founder, Ignited Online Fundraising Community

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