Fear of the R-Word

Recently, I wrote about how hard it is to hear the word “no.”  Indeed, much fundraising doesn’t happen because of that small two-letter word.  A lot of you agreed.  And that, of course, made me think about the “R” word even more.

Honk is you love hearing the word no.

Ummm, pretty silent out there.  No wonder.  Rejection is not something to which most of us aspire.  In fact, we will go to extraordinary lengths not to be rejected.  Like:

  • Not asking someone you really like to go out with you (romantically or, just as often, not)
  • Ignoring the interesting person before he or she can ignore you
  • Not applying for the job you want but which may be a stretch and instead going after one you know you can get.  And won’t care if you don’t get anyway.
  • And, of course, not making that phone call to see if you can get an appointment with someone who might just become a donor.

That’s the short list.  What we especially don’t do is ask someone for support.  We’re too busy.  Your Board is supposed to do that.  You don’t fish in months with an “R” in them.  Or in ones where that letter doesn’t appear at all.  The R-word—Rejection—just looms too large.

I’ve always wondered why so many nonprofit organizations persist in seeking all their funding from grants, corporate sponsors, and/or special events.  And then someone in one of my fundraising workshops confessed, “I know individuals are where the money is, but it is so much more comfortable to write a grant or throw a party.  If someone says no, it feels far away from me.”

Bingo.  So it’s not just the fact that we are too busy, or we don’t have a database.  We’re not completely stymied by the lack of communications or the lack of a terrific brochure.  These are not the (main) causes of our failure to ask.

It is—in large part, for some of us—the fear of rejection.  And you know, that’s a very real fear.  But if you don’t deal with it, neither you nor your organization can move forward.

Here’s a radical idea.  Don’t reject (the possibility of) rejection.  Embrace it.  You don’t have to love it.  I mean, who could?  But knowing it is going to happen, make the best of it.

Create personal benchmarks and treats for doing something that is really hard.  So if you are calling to set up appointments with people who have not had face to face meetings with anyone in your organization maybe buy yourself a mocha after every seven or 10 nos.  If you are soliciting for major gifts, perhaps a spa day after three prospects tell you to take a hike.

In short, do something good for you to compensate for the very bad feeling rejection brings.

Trust me, if you play your cards right, you be wishing someone would turn you down just so you can enjoy that double chocolate hot fudge sundae.

Janet Levine is a consultant who coaches and trains nonprofits, their staff and volunteers in best ways to be productive.  Learn more about her services and courses at http://janetlevineconsulting.com


About janetlevineconsulting

For over 20 years, Janet Levine has worked for and with nonprofit and educational organizations, helping to grow their advancement programs. Her consulting company, Janet Levine Consulting, serves a wide range of organizations from small, all-volunteer agencies to major national organizations. She regularly teaches courses in non-profit management, fundraising and grant development, both face-to-face and online at http://courses.lmlearningstation.com/. In addition to her nonprofit work, Janet brings years of experience as a business and sales manager in the for-profit sector. She has an MBA from the Graziadio School of Business at Pepperdine University.
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