From “No” to “Go” – Our top tips for keeping prospect relationships alive

Fundraising can be tough, especially when you get a big, fat ‘no’ from a prospect that you were sure would contribute to your cause.

While the reason for not giving is usually genuine at the advanced stages of solicitation, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is time to walk away. You could instead consider the advantages of non-financial support. Non-financial giving can still help you to achieve your goals, while strengthening stakeholder relationships and keeping the door open for financial support in the future.

When cultivating prospects, it is always wise to have a second ask or ‘Plan B’ in mind, so you can confidently counter a rejection. By being ready with a request for non-financial support, you can still capitalise on the energy you’ve generated while grooming the prospect and keeping them along for the ride.

As with all solicitation, personalising the request to the business or individual that you’re working with is essential. If they can see the clear value in the partnership you are proposing, you’re more likely to turn that ‘no’ into a ‘yes’. Here are some ideas for non-cash contributions to help you get started…..

Goods and Services In Kind

This is an obvious first choice for corporate prospects. But first you must consider – do they offer services that you could utilise? Could they contribute with goods in-kind or even with a significant discount? Perhaps they could offer staff to volunteer over a weekend to help with a major event or to get a project off the ground? It’s important that you don’t sell yourself short here – you don’t want to reward someone the way you would a major donor if they’re simply giving you a discount on paper towels – but there is a lot of value to be gained in reducing your overheads or giving extra energy to a project.

Advocate for Your Cause

Often a prospect who says they can’t afford to contribute at the moment will also express their regret and reassure you that they truly do believe in what your organisation is working on. This can be an excellent opportunity to ask the propsect to become an advocate for your cause, in a way that would suit them best. Perhaps they could write a letter to a local politician on your behalf, talk about your organisation at a public or social event, or if they’re business offer some advertising space for you on their website. Again, framing the ask here is key so that you don’t take the possibility of future donations off the table. “We’re sorry you can’t afford to donate at the moment, but it’s great that you believe in what we’re trying to achieve. Perhaps this year, in lieu of a donation, you could share that passion for our organisation among your peers/social media/personal networks?”

Volunteer Their Time

You do not have to have a formal volunteer program to utilise the manpower and services volunteers can provide. It today’s busy society, time can be just as valuable as money, especially when you are dealing with people who have specialized expertise. You may be able to get people or businesses to give their time to upskill your team or host fundraising/networking events. They could even get on the phones and do some direct soliciting for you. Whatever you do, make sure you play to the strengths of the business and their leadership staff.

The added benefit to all of the above is possibly the biggest of all – maintaining a close relationship with the prospect over time. By keeping close ties you will be front of mind for cash donations when the business is able to give again.

If you’re prospecting more often leads to a “no” than a “go”, perhaps you might like some guidance from Julie Johnson. Please contact her on 1300 721 799 or

Contact OKP on:       1300 721 199

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