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FUNdraising Good Times

POSTED: April 07, 2017, 3:00 pm

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Fundraising involves rejection. That’s just the way it is. But, you’re not going to find the right partners and funders unless you are busy talking with people, exploring areas of mutual interest, and submitting documents that communicate the work of your organization. And, with every submission comes the possibility of rejection.

Connecting with an individual donor, business person, or a program officer within a foundation can be the first step in securing resources for your organization. When you are asked to submit a proposal or share the highlights of your project you may feel optimistic and excited. Perhaps you are thinking “this is really going somewhere!” You submit the requested information, wait a bit, and then you hear what you believe is a loud, resounding “NO!”

This is the dreaded rejection. Or at least it can feel that way. Here are five ways you can respond.

1. Experience feelings of disapproval
2. Become defensive and demoralized
3. Make excuses to those who depend on your leadership
4. Make more excuses
5. Give up completely!

Here are another four ways you could respond:

1. Don’t take it personal.
2. Find out why your proposal or project was turned down. You can request this feedback by phone, email or letter depending on the nature of the relationship. Your goal is to find out how you can improve your proposal or presentation. You want to learn how you could more specifically tailor your request to needs of a potential donor, funder or partner.
3. Ask if you can resubmit your proposal, or modify your ask. No one can yes to everyone all the time. Next year or next quarter might be a better time to submit. Find out.
4. As appropriate, put in place a push by stakeholders who believe your organization. It could be that decision makers don’t yet understand the importance of your work. A word from those with influence could open a door.

In all cases consider the following four actions:

1. Send a note of thanks expressing gratitude for the opportunity to be considered for a gift, grant or partnership
2. Engage in self evaluation and outside evaluation. What could you and your team have done differently? Is the program or project well thought out? Is your organization well governed and financially stable?
3. Ask your team: Did we do our “homework” to qualify? Did we understand the requirements and goals of the potential partner or funder? Did we lift up those areas where our work is a match with their priorities?
4. Keep doing it until you get it right. You can’t give up. Take what you have learned and apply it to your work. Make adjustments. Keep inviting others to support your work.

Here’s what we’ve learned: Fundraising is known for its abundance of failures and few successes. “No” is not the end of the road. It’s often the beginning of a more successful period of growth.

Copyright 2017 – Mel and Pearl Shaw

Mel and Pearl Shaw are authors of four books on fundraising available on For help growing your fundraising visit or call (901) 522-8727.

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