These past weeks I have been talking a lot about fundraising. About looking for the right match in possible donors. About building relations with (potential) donors. About building know, like and trust with them. This is a long game, not a short one. It requires focus, commitment, and routine to work on this every day. And it requires a deep understanding that hearing ‘no’ is part and parcel of all of this. Something that cannot be fully avoided. Something that can have a deep impact of course on your day. So how can you take care of yourself in fundraising? How can you handle the mental impact of a ‘no’?

Reality check

First of all, it is very good to do a reality check here. A ‘no’ is not personal. It is just that in this moment your request or proposal is not suitable to the person or organization you approached. Unless you have been picking a nasty fight with the projected donor 5 seconds before asking, this has nothing to do with you as a person.

What if your request or proposal are perfect?

A ‘no’ is a decision by the projected donor based on their assessment of your request or proposal but also on their own circumstances. Even if your request or proposal is perfect (or near perfect) it may not be the right time for them to support it. Be assured that even the most successful fundraiser in an organization will also be hit by a ‘no’ sometimes.

Redefine success

Success is therefore simply: receiving more yes-funds than ‘no’s. AND being able to handle the ‘no’s. Being able to keep on track despite maybe even multiple ‘no’s in a row.

So how to handle a ‘no’?

How best to handle rejection is different from person to person. In general, it is good to plan ahead for this. Tell yourself what you will do if the decision is yes and what you will do if the decision is no. Then you do not need to figure that out at the time the decision is communicated to you, which might be a stressful moment if it is a ‘no’.

For some people it helps to then do something they really like, go out for a walk, do sports, play a game, sing a song, etc. Others feel better having a concrete boring task to do, either in the work or in the household. And again others, help themselves best by planning a new strategy. You have to know yourself a bit to know what the best answer is for you. Key is to have this in mind in advance.

Be nice to yourself

Whatever the best response is for you, make sure that to also allow yourself to feel bad. No-one likes rejection. Even if you know it’s not personal. Even if you focus on what you can learn from it. Also if something good comes out of a door closed, etc. Everyone in this world prefers hearing a big fat yes. Of course! So give yourself space to be sad, to feel bad, and comfort yourself in whichever way works for you. Accept that it is OK to feel bad in this situation. And then try to move on before you drown in this feeling. Ask for help if you think that is difficult for you.

My one key tip

  • Never have only one request or proposal out there. Make sure you have different things ‘cooking’ at the same time. So that when one thing falls through, you have other options pending. That means that one of the first few steps after a ‘no’ should always be to get back up and send a new request or proposal out into the world.

Want to know more and ask questions?

If you want to discuss this more – jump into the Facebook group and get input from a wide range of peers and from myself!

Here is how you can join my free Facebook group

You can join my free Facebook group how to become a professional and resilient nonprofit with Suzanne Bakker here. In this group we will create a safe space for open exchange and discussion on potentially sensitive topics like boards, nonprofit management, fundraising, etc.