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Don’t Panic! What to do if your prospect says “NO”

Any time you ask for a gift in person, you’re going out on a limb. All the research and planning in the world can’t tell you exactly how the prospect will respond to your request.

But you can pretty much count on the fact that they’re going to say one of three things: Yes, No, or Maybe.

If a prospect has agreed to meet with you in person, they probably won’t say no to your face. But, it does happen and you need to be ready.

Here’s how to handle a few typical reasons for the no:

“I can’t afford a gift of that size”

Your response should be: “I understand completely.  Would it be easier to make the gift in installments?”

If they still balk, have lower figure in mind that relates to something very specific that a gift of that size will make possible.

You might say: “You know, a gift of $X will make it possible for us to….[fill in the blank]. Would a gift of that size be possible for you?”

If they still balk, then you go ahead and say: “What would work for you?”

 “This project or issue isn’t a priority for me.” 

Find out what their priorities are and see if there’s a connection. Ask them if they’d at least be willing to learn more by coming on a tour or attending an event. Spend a little time nurturing the relationship and see how it goes. Eventually, you may need to move on. But, don’t just give up. And, don’t be afraid to say, “what would it take for this to be a priority for you?”

“I’ve got some baggage about your organization and I’m going to use this time to voice my complaints.”

This actually happens fairly frequently. Head it off at the pass by starting your meeting with a lot of questions. Allow them to vent, see what you can do to resolve their issues, and think about delaying the ask so you don’t have to suffer through the dreaded “no.” Definitely don’t feel like you have to personally resolve everything by yourself in that moment.  Express empathy and establish some next steps to help move things along. 

Role playing in advance is very helpful. Imagine the objections your prospect might have and practice responding.

And, relax. Your odds of a “yes” or an “I have to think about it” are much higher than a “no.”  I promise!

For more tips on making the ask and handling responses, check out Front Range Source’s The Asking Workbook. This free resource walks you through every step of a major gift solicitation.

Image by Ryan McGuire from Pixabay.


  1. Christian says:

    It’s honestly discouraging to get rejected but you have to turn that into positive or as a motivation to strive harder. This is very interesting.

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