Four Ways Saying No Leads to a Better Yes

by | May 3, 2016

You’ve begun to think of yourself as a philanthropist, a donor to causes and organizations you care about.  You know others see you as a philanthropist because overnight your mailbox has filled with fundraising letters, newsletters and invitations to events.

You’re on the list. Not just the list for those you care about, but somehow now you’re hearing from organizations you aren’t really interested in or have never even heard of.

How did that happen? The simple answer has a lot to do with that list. It gets printed and circulated. A smart nonprofit trolling for new donors reads those lists.  

One solution is to ask not to be recognized in print or to make the gift anonymously.  But I can tell you based on experience with more than one donor and more than one nonprofit that names still get printed or even engraved on signage.

A Very Important Donor Skill

Learn how to say no. That two letter word is good for you and them.

Reasons to say NO

  • You think the organization does good work, but it’s not your passion
  • You don’t feel the organization can manage the size of the donation you want to make toward the cause and you know another organization is capable and will have more impact
  • You would like your donation to go to a specific area or program but that’s not what they’re focused on right now
  • You’re very interested, but want to know more before you write the check
  • It’s not the right time for you to make a donation but you’re still very interested
  • You want to see impact, but you don’t know how to measure success

This is a short list with many more you can think of that are just as valid. It’s okay to say no. There should be no guilt associated with saying or writing the word.

Say No on the way to Yes

If you’re intent on smart giving then no is simply the best way to get to a successful yes.

Samuel Dash, Chief Counsel to the Watergate Hearings in the 1970’s, said “Learn to say no in situations where saying no can be difficult …because it could lead you to greater opportunities.”

Isn’t that what you are looking for? Isn’t that what the philanthropist and the educated donor hope to find? Greater opportunities.  

Let’s explore the greater opportunity on the way to a successful yes.

If you say no more often you can:

  • Give more to the few organizations and causes where your passion lays
  • Focus on asking questions that get the answers that help you make a better donation
  • Take time to find the one or two organizations doing quality work, achieving impact, making change
  • Make the donation at a time that’s right for your circumstances and at an amount that’s right for your giving budget

I like how John Maxwell says it, “Learn to say ‘no’ to the good so you can say ‘yes’ to the best. “

When has saying “no” created a greater opportunity for your giving?


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