What Does It Mean to Be Authentic in Your Fundraising?
October 16, 2013
The Risk in Standing Still: The Perils of Playing-it-Safe Fundraising
October 30, 2013

Plan B: What to do when the prospect says “No”

thAny 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 – Congratulations!  Say “thank you,” seal the deal, and make a plan for keeping them posted on the impact of their gift.

I HAVE TO THINK ABOUT IT – That’s OK!  They may need to talk to their spouse or financial planner.  Ask them what else they need to consider a gift and set a date to follow up with them.

NO – ACK!  This is not what you want to hear.  And, truthfully, if a prospect has agreed to meet with you, they probably won’t say no to your face.  But, of course, you need to be ready.

Your response to “no” should not be “OK, sorry to bother you.”  You must have a backup plan.

Because the prospect has agreed to meet with you, it’s likely that their objection is going to be about the size or timing of the gift and not a complete rejection of your mission.

Here’s what to do if they say, “I can’t afford a gift of that size”: 

DON’T SAY:  Oh really? How much can you afford?

SAY:  I understand completely.  Would it be easier to make the gift in installments over the period of a year?

(This strategy also works if the prospect says that the timing isn’t good for them.)

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

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?

(We’ve told you in earlier blogs that you need to quantify what every size gift makes possible.   E.g., keep our shelter open two nights, provide transportation to six clients, add a new module to our curriculum, etc. We’re not telling you to restrict the gifts, just illustrate to the prospect what money makes possible).

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

Of course, there may be other reasons they say “no.”  The two I’ve experienced most frequently are:

“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.  Then call in the reserves to help you out!

In every case, the trick is to have a Plan B.  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, come to the next Front Range Source workshop on Face2Face solicitation.  It’s on November 1, so sign up now!


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