Revamping and retooling any program can be a maddening enterprise full of twists and turns, lost directions and dead ends. But if you follow a path, you eventually will get there. Let's take the simple process of making changes to your acknowledgment system. Let's say you want to separate your receipts from your thank yous, which is of course a great idea. But how many steps could it possibly take you? Sometimes more than you know. And you may face rejection at every turn- Commonly, as a partner with nonprofits who want to change the way they do their work and the way they think about their donors, I am asked to help them manage through a process of change.
The common first roadblock I see to implementing a new way of working is not that people don't want to, or that there is a lack of leadership buy in, etc. It's simply because most non front line professionals stop at the first no. This is a key difference between those professionals that ask for money and those that do not. Those that ask for money are repeatedly faced with rejection, they've got an iron will and a passion for perseverance. A no may mean, come back later, ask for a different amount, or for a different project. As non front line professionals who don't deal with rejection on a daily basis, many of us stop at the first no. It's a great fear of many people to be rejected. This fear is so crippling that many people just don't ask at all. And what's the risk? Who has gotten fired for coming up with a new idea in nonprofit land? The answer is NO ONE.
Yup, I said it- don't stop at the first no. Not from your leadership, not from your peers, not from anyone (except the donor). So what does that mean? It means have some gumption, believe in your ideas, and stick with it! Stick to it ness is a fabulous trait in any industry but especially in donor relations. But before you accept that no, make sure you have a sound reason why they're saying no. Or as my friend Angie says, "help me understand".
So what are the alternatives to accepting the first no?
1. Get creative, complete a flanking maneuver, approach the problem from the side, figure out an alternative plan. 2. Make it someone else's idea- sometimes having someone else deliver your message is the ticket to success! 3. Beg forgiveness not permission! Sometimes you gotta act- I don't know anyone who got fired for doing something nice for their donors... 4. Ask again on another day! Just because there is a NO on a Tuesday doesn't mean that on a Friday afternoon the answer would be the same. 5. Maybe you should also try saying 'no' more yourself- What if you actually said it? it can be empowering- try it! The next time someone asks you to do something that you just can't wrap your head around (unless its a donor) try saying no! 6. Start embracing the no- LOVE IT! Learn to laugh at it- it's not the end of the world, seriously. No one dies if we make a mistake. It's gonna be ok.
It's time for you to keep it going, don't stop, get yourself some gumption and perseverance. You CAN do it, you CAN make change. Every step, every turn in the path, don't focus on the roadblocks, don't focus on the no. Focus instead on your success and that you are doing this for the donor. Know that the glory is in the process too and that by effecting change you too come out changed in the end result. Enjoy the journey.
Tell us how you keep on keepin on and change a no to a yes at your organization! Use the comments below and I look forward to hearing from you soon.