No is Not the End of the World

It doesn’t take much to make a good day feel bad. Any kind of rejection will do it. I think that is why so many people have such a hard time fundraising. Why stick your hand inside the mouth of the lion unless you have to?

And while I will not pretend that rejection is anything but lousy, it truly is not the worst thing in the world.

The worst thing is not daring to try.

An even worse thing would be for your organization to cut programs, not enhance those they have, or even in the worst worst case, shut its doors because no one was willing to go out on a limb and invite rejection.

The problem, of course, is the focus on what someone will say rather than on your own actions.  As someone wiser than I once wrote, you can’t change how you feel about something, but you can change what you do about it.

When someone says no to me—and believe me, this is a regular occurrence—my first reaction is to pretend I don’t care. That, unfortunately, doesn’t actually make me feel better because, truth to tell, I do care. Once I own that, I can move to the next step.

That step is different for each and every situation. Today, for example, I got a “not interested” response to a query I had sent off regarding a possible class. “We already do that,” my correspondent said. In point of fact, they don’t. At least not to the audience I was suggesting or in the way I would deliver the class.

My first reaction was to write back, pointing out that no, you don’t…but then, cooler reason prevailed.

Just as my proposal was not carefully read, the email defending my proposal would get equally short shrift.

For a variety of reasons I decided in this case at this point in time, a simple thank you was in order and perhaps—just perhaps—I would re-approach at a later time. Meanwhile, there are other places to query.

So, do I feel badly? Sure. Will it stop me from trying again? Not on your life.

What it does do is help me to think about what I really want to get from an interaction. A yes, for sure, but beyond that. Sometimes information is great—is this a good idea, a bad one? Why? Is something going on that I need to know about?

If I don’t get the response I want, what do I need to do?

I often tell audiences where I am training that except for dating, no does not always mean no. Your job is to find out what is really being said. And then it is to decide whether you can turn that around.


Janet Levine works with nonprofits, helping them to increase their fundraising capacity. Learn more at


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 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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