When Your Donor Says No

Jesus replied: A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet, he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, “Come, for everything is now ready.” But they all alike began to make excuses (Luke 14:16-18).

Stanley Weinstein opined, “Successful fundraising is the right person asking the right prospect for the right amount for the right project at the right time in the right way.” When donors reject your invitation to partner with you, something is off in the fundraising equation. You need to discover the underlying reasons. Consider these giving variables.

Wrong Asker
The number one reason people give is because of who asks. Assign the right person to solicit your prospect. Choose someone your prospect is comfortable with and will have the greatest likelihood for success. Be humble and realize that you might not be the best choice.

Wrong Prospect
Some nonprofit organizations have broad donor appeal because they serve a wide constituency. Ask yourself why would someone consider giving to your ministry? Your prospective donor must have some connection—the closer the better. However, any solicitation is a nonstarter if your mission doesn’t align with your prospective donor’s values.

Wrong Project
Everyone has giving motivations and interests. Some love education. Some have compassion to care for the poor and needy. Some only give to international missions. Donors reject our proposals because we haven’t listened. Gifts grow in size and frequency when you align your donors’ hearts.

Wrong Time
A donor might support your mission and your specific project, but still not give because of timing issues. Be flexible and offer giving options. Could they give a small gift now to show their support for the project, and give the balance of their pledge later?

Wrong Amount
A large request should never be a surprise. Active listening will help you identify the right gift range. There is no exact science for determining what to ask. What has your donor given in the past? If you are asking for an annual gift, you can ask 2 to 10 times over their previous gift. If you are asking for a capital campaign commitment, you can stretch them 10 to 25 times their annual gift.

Wrong Way
A major donor shared in the past few years she has been getting phone calls, letters, and personal visits from ministry directors and development staff who literally demand that she give a gift to their organization. They don’t ask, “Would you consider a gift of $50,000?” or “Would you pray about giving a gift of $100,000?” Their actual words are, “You must give a gift of $250,000 to this project.” That’s not biblical boldness; it’s just plain rude.

Think About This: The man in the parable of the banquet wasn’t deterred by those who rejected his invitation. Instead, he instructed his servant to, “Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full” (Luke 14:23). When your prospects say no, keep asking until others say yes!

Response: Father, forgive me for being discouraged when donors reject my ask. Help me discern what went wrong so I can hear a “yes!”

Ron Haas has served the Lord as a pastor, the vice president of advancement of a Bible college, a Christian foundation director, a board member and a fundraising consultant. He’s authored three books: Ask for a Fish – Bold Faith-Based Fundraising, Simply Share – Bold, Grace-Based Giving, and Keep on Asking – Bold, Spirit-Led Fundraising. He regularly presents fundraising workshops at ministry conferences and has written fundraising articles for At the Center magazine and Christian Leadership Alliance’s Outcomes magazine.

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