4 reasons to say no to a new fundraising opportunity

Many years ago, when I was the sole fundraiser at a small shop, we had a major donor come forward with an incredibly generous offer.

He had a big idea for a project, and wanted to make a significant gift to our organization to help bring this vision to life.

There was only one problem – but it was a big one!

While connected to the work that we did, his idea didn’t totally align with the vision our organization was committed to achieve. Accepting the gift would have pulled us off way course, resulting in big time mission drift.

After much discussion, we thanked the donor, told him we were honoured that he had the trust and faith in us to bring his vision to life, and although we were not in a position to accept his generous offer, we were happy to refer him to another organization that specialized in the work he was interested in.

It was hard to say goodbye to that gift, but it was the right thing to do – for our organization, AND for the donor.

We fundraisers have a hard time saying no, especially when it comes to our donors.

Of course, there will always be times when a wonderful opportunity comes up that may not have been on your radar, and you will want to embrace it with an enthusiastic YES!

But if you’re going to build an effective fundraising program, learning how to say no graciously is an important skill to develop.

Here are 4 good reasons to say no to that new fundraising opportunity.

1. It pulls you away from your fundraising priorities.

Having clearly defined fundraising priorities (and getting buy in on them from your ED and board) is probably one of your most useful tools in deciding when you should say no to new opportunities.

Does this new opportunity connect to and support your top fundraising priorities? If it doesn’t, it may be time to say no.

2. The opportunity cost outweighs the benefit.

Your organization has limited resources, and as a fundraiser, you have hundreds of competing priorities on your time.

If, for example, you’ve decided building your major gift program is a fundraising priority for you, there’s a significant opportunity cost when instead, you spend your valuable hours and days asking your donors to vote for your organization in the latest corporate charity contest (and don’t even get me started on that topic!) instead of focusing on your major gift work.

Your time is a limited resource – say yes to spending it where it really counts!

3. You don’t have the capacity to do it properly.

Engaging in a new fundraising idea when you don’t have the capacity to do it properly can sometimes do more harm than good.

Donor acquisition is a great example – if you’re investing in acquiring new donors, do you have the capacity to care for them properly? If not, you’ll be better off first making that investment in improving your donors’ experience so you have a strong foundation to build on.

4. It sounds too good to be true.

If someone approaches you with a shiny new fundraising idea that seems too good to be true, exercise extreme caution.

Fundraising ideas that seem too good to be true can run the gamut from being a simple waste of time, to putting your charitable status at risk if you end up entangled in a charity tax shelter scheme.

Do your due diligence – and if it seems too good to be true, it probably is!

Have you ever had to say no to a donor, or your boss, or your board? If you have trouble saying no, what are some of the barriers that hold you back? Share your story in the comments below - and thanks for reading!

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