Overcome the Fear of Rejection Asking for Donations

Sep 12, 2019Leadership

fear-of-rejection-asking-for-donations-1 Leadership

The fear of rejection asking for money is real! Many nonprofit leaders are dreadfully afraid of fundraising.

Fundraising may always include some trace of self-doubt and fear.

From numerous conversations and discussion with clients and coaching members, no doubt the biggest fear in fundraising comes from the (1) fear of rejection, and (2) a fear of looking incompetent.

Overcoming your fear of asking for money is an easy fix!

You overcome your fear when you learn the donor giving process. When you know and apply this process, you are prepared, confident, and successful when asking for a donation. 


A quick look on how to overcome fear of rejection when asking for money:

Without question, to advance your career and succeed in fundraising, you must harness the fear of rejection – your fear of fundraising. We all deal with this fear!

After college, when I became engaged in volunteer work in my new community, I always shied away from tasks that included asking people for money or support. I didn’t label it fear of rejection, but that’s what it was! And I certainly didn’t know the donor giving process.

No one wants to hear no when asking for anything, especially money.

Consider if you asked someone to go to lunch with you next week.  You probably try to remember if your friend will be in town, has company coming in town, or has activities planned.

If you remember or learn your friend has plans, you will wait to ask them to go to lunch until later. 

You are doing your homework before you ask her to lunch, thereby increasing the chances of her saying yes.

However, if you don’t know her plans that day and ask her to join you for lunch, she may decline. She may have other plans, and you don’t know her plans.

When she declines your lunch date, she is not rejecting you. She has other plans. The timing is not right.

Even if you tried to think of everything beforehand, she might be unable to join you for lunch.

Do you see where I am going with this?

In everyday life, we try to minimize rejections.

You do your homework, so you are not rejected.

Asking a friend for lunch does not differ from asking a friend for their support. You do your homework. And if they say no, they are not rejecting you.

It’s not about you.

As fundraisers, we do our homework (cultivate) before we ask someone for a major gift. We identify our ideal major donors, share with them information about the impact of our organization, and determine their passions and areas of interest. We are then ready to ask them to join the cause.

If you have done everything you can to receive a positive response from your ask, and you receive a no response, it’s ok.

A rejection is not about you.

And asking for money is not about YOU!

Here's my point – your fear of rejection asking for donations requires a mindset shift. The chance of someone not accepting your request to support a project is not about you. If you’ve done everything you can (your homework) of cultivating the donor, you're likely to be successful.

You must overcome your fear of rejection asking for donations.

One of my favorite quotes is, “You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” by Eleanor Roosevelt.

3 Mindset Shifts to Harness Your Fear of Rejection Asking for Donations

Here are three mindset shifts I believe will help you get over the fear of asking for donations. And thus, the fear of rejection.


Mindset Shift #1: It’s a missed opportunity by the prospective donor.

If a donor says No to an ask, they miss an opportunity to give.

It’s about the donor not seizing the opportunity to change lives or communities.

Here is an example unrelated to money of a missed opportunity.

While advisor for a college honor society, I had to select an honor student to introduce then sitting president Bill Clinton. We needed a student to introduce President Clinton on stage in front of a packed audience while the president was visiting our college campus.

When I called the student to invite him to make the introduction and explain the significance of this opportunity, his answer was, “I am sorry, I have an exam that day.”

I about dropped the phone. But then I thought, No, I will give someone else a chance who will value the once in a lifetime opportunity to introduce the sitting president of the United States – the most powerful man in the world.

That’s what I mean by a missed opportunity.

If a donor doesn’t see the opportunity before her, she misses it, and you move on to someone who will greatly appreciate the opportunity to change a life or a community.

People will say No to you. And that’s ok.


Mindset Shift #2: You are the conduit between those with the passion and financial ability to make a difference and those in need. 

You are that bridge between those with the means and those without.

You are in a unique position to change the world. What is more important than curing cancer, serving those surviving abuse, using art to enhance learning, or improving the economic condition of your community? Know your own passion and unleash it by connecting those with the means to make a difference with those in need.

No doubt – this mindset shift can be a game-changer.

It is your ROLE to make a connection! You have an enormous responsibility.


Mindset Shift #3: You can dig deeper and understand why.

When a donor does not respond with an immediate yes, you can engage in a more meaningful conversation with the prospective donor.

A very active nonprofit board member named Tom is always eager to go deep with a person to discover what makes them support a cause. Tom is a very committed board member to two cancer-related nonprofits. He knows what it is like to go through cancer treatments and the threat of losing your life. Tom is not shy about asking for support to a cause he believes in deeply. He wants to know and understand what would it take for that person to say yes to supporting the cause he knows they are so passionate about too.

I provide a three-point checklist, so you know who are your potential major donors. You want to have cultivated the donors on your list so well that they are waiting for you to ask them for their support.

When a donor says no, they likely have not been cultivated or do not meet the 3-point criteria for an ideal major donor.

The key to receiving a yes from asking a potential donor for their support is knowing this person is ready to be asked.

 To overcome fear of rejection asking for donations, consider your commitment to the cause.

Do a gut check and consider your commitment to the cause.

You must whole-heartedly believe in the cause and mission of the organization.

If you are scared to ask someone to support your mission, consider your commitment to the cause.

Your drive and commitment must be WAY bigger than your fear.

When Tom, the cancer survivor, joins the development director on a donor visit, he knows what the patients are up against and is driven to alleviate their pain. He wants to fight the fight to end cancer.

His drive and commitment are WAY bigger than his fear.


8 Tips to Overcome the Fear of Rejection Asking for Donations

To prepare yourself for visits, gather stories, meet with those benefiting from your work, and witness the transformations. Hearing these stories of overcoming hardships will drive your passion even higher.

Here are eight quick tips on overcoming your fear of rejection asking for donations.


Tip #1: Recognize Your Fear of Rejection Asking for Donations

Call it by name. Say, I have a fear of asking people for money. Or say, I am not entirely comfortable asking for a donation.


Tip #2: Do Your Homework

Be well prepared for your visits. You should already have established a relationship with your donor before you get to the point to ask them for their support. The stronger the relationship, the higher the chance the donor will say yes to supporting the project. You have built a relationship based on trust.


Tip #3: Practice the Three Mindset Shifts

When a prospective donor does not accept your request for support, it’s a missed opportunity by the potential donor. And you get to dig deeper with the prospect. Remember, you are the conduit.


Tip #4: Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable

Being uncomfortable is how we grow and become more comfortable with something new.

Asking for support may mean being uncomfortable. More important, it means you are changing lives.

Michael Hyatt labels it, “getting out of your comfort zone.”


Tip #5: Use the Old Fashion Phone

A lot can be accomplished with phone calls and emails. Pick up the phone and get to know your donors.


Tip #6: Practice, Practice, Practice.

Don’t wing it. Know your talking points and practice.

Think through topics and projects of interest to the prospect. Know what questions or advice you want to ask to seek their feedback.

If you are prepared and comfortable, the donor will be comfortable.


Tip #7: Start Small

If you are new to fundraising, make your first major gift ask a lower level one. Then after that, you are just adding zeros!


Tip #8: No means Not Now

If you have cultivated your potential donor, you will receive a yes response. They will be waiting for you to ask them for their support.

If you receive a no, it’s a signal they are not ready. It’s not, “no, never!” It’s “no, not now.”

In short, the fear of rejection is not about you.

  1. It’s about the prospective donor not seizing the opportunity to change lives or communities.
  2. It’s accepting that you are the conduit between those with the passion and financial capacity to make a difference and those in need.
  3. It’s knowing when a donor says, No, you can dig deeper and understand why.

When you get good at overcoming your fear of rejection asking for donations, you can affect a lot of lives and your community.

There is no such thing as failure, only feedback.

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.” —Nelson Mandela

Overcoming rejection is part of the journey when doing work that matters.

Comments: Please share with us below in “Submit a Comment” how you have overcome your fears related to fundraising.


Nancy Rieves, Ed.D. is a fundraising coach. She provides executive and development directors with a roadmap to maximize and sustain major gift fundraising. She prepares leaders to be confident and successful in raising money. Reach her at nancy@nancyrieves.com.


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