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By Amy Eisenstein

Fundraising inherently comes with disappointment and rejection. At least some percentage of people you ask for gifts will say no.

My standard advice to fundraisers is to let the rejections go. But sometimes that’s easier said than done.

This week, I suffered my own disappointing rejection. I'd been speaking with a potential client off and on for nearly a year. A few weeks back, they indicated that they were ready to get started. And this week, seemingly out of the blue,  they decided to give the project to another consultant.

I admit – I’m disappointed and more than a bit frustrated. Although I know getting some no’s is part of being in business, it still stings when it happens – just as it does when you're fundraising.



Fundraising can be full of frustration and disappointment. This is especially true when a donor doesn’t respond the way you’d hoped they would.


There is a Bright Side to “No”

However, there is a bright side to no. When you get a string of no’s, it could be a sign that you’re being brave. And if you’re not getting any no’s, it’s definitely a sign you’re not asking enough.


I know it may seem strange to say, but getting some negative responses is a good thing — it’s the mark of a strong fundraiser.


If you’re getting all yes’s, it means you’re waiting to ask until you are 100% sure of the answer. In that case, you’re likely letting potential gifts go by the wayside because you don’t feel confident enough to take some risks. Fundraising is about some risk and big rewards.


3 Tips to Handle Disappointment when Raising Major Gifts

So what’s the best way for you to handle disappointment when raising major gifts? Here are three tips.


1. It’s you, not me.

Just like with dating, sometimes it has nothing to do with you. You did everything right, but it’s simply not the right time, place, or cause. Try to remind yourself, it’s not always about you. Keep it in perspective.


2. Learn from your failures.

Then again, sometimes it is you — and that’s okay. You can’t grow unless you try new things. Sometimes you’ll fail. So use those opportunities to learn from your mistakes.


3. Tomorrow’s another day.

Sometimes it’s just not your day. Shake it off and keep on keeping on. Tomorrow’s a new day to start fresh. That mentality will serve you well.


Fundraising is a Mix of Yes’s and No’s

A few years ago, I was coaching a development director named Sasha. Sasha’s boss became upset whenever a donor said no. The result was that she never asked until she was 100% certain of a positive outcome, which wasn’t very often.


Sasha’s boss created an environment where no one took risks. And, as a result, no one raised money.


After that experience, I came up with my own version of the 80/20 rule. Great fundraisers should get yes’s from donors approximately 80% of the time. If they are getting less than that, they may need to do more cultivation and research. However, if they are getting too many yes’s, they are waiting too long and being too cautious with regard to their asking.


Acknowledge the Frustration… And Move On

While getting some rejection is inherently part of fundraising, it doesn’t decrease the sting when it happens. So take a moment to acknowledge your frustration:

· curse

· cry

· vent

· eat a pint

· walk it off


Acknowledge the pain and do whatever you can to make yourself feel better. Then, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and get back in the saddle. Because the yes’s are out there!

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