When to say “no” to a major gift

I remember the first time I had to decline a big donation.

I’ll admit it, it felt scary to say no to a major gift!

We had good reason - after extensive discussion at the leadership table, we decided this opportunity just wasn’t aligned with our long-term vision for the organization.  

Saying “no” to a major donor is NOT a failure.

It’s a strategic choice.

In fact, it can be a catalyst for stronger relationships and future collaborations. 

Here's why:

Saying "no" can help ensure that you maintain alignment with your organization's mission and strategic direction. 

And the donors who understand and share your values will appreciate your commitment to staying true to your cause.

In fact, by being transparent and authentic in your dealings with donors, you can often strengthen their trust in your organization. 

I also want to recognize that saying "no" to a donor is easier said than done!

Too often, nonprofits buy into the toxic business philosophy of “the customer is always right” -  power imbalances coupled with a culture of short-term thinking can pose significant challenges when it comes to setting the boundaries you need for a healthy fundraising program.    

If you need to make the strategic choice of saying “no” to a donor, and are looking for more practical resources on setting boundaries in your fundraising, check out this article.

And remember, even though it’s difficult, sometimes no is the best possible answer!

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