When to Say No (and Yes) in NOvember

When to Say No (and Yes) in NOvember

This article originally appeared on nonprofitpro.com.

Smart decision-making is an important skill in any field. Effective professionals understand that being strategic is as much about saying “no” as it is about saying “yes.” Both “yes” and “no” are opportunities to convey intentionality and purpose.

Fundraisers typically have “make-it-happen” personalities, and that contributes to their success in achieving their goals. However, NOvember is a great time to reflect on when we might be saying “yes,” but should be saying “no.” And since fundraisers are “glass-half-full” optimists at heart, let’s also note the “yes”es that yield excellent fundraising results.

  • No to funding opportunities that are not mission-aligned.
  • No to donors who you’ve tried to cultivate for years while they give you the runaround.
  • No to those in your organization who think the task of raising money falls solely on those with the word “development” in their title.
  • No to time-consuming weekly newsletters.
  • No to the same development calendar year after year.
  • No to galas and other special events that don’t return enough on investment of time and money.
  • No to board members with no term limits.
  • No to transactional fundraising.
  • Yes to relationship fundraising.
  • Yes to tailoring your cultivation and outreach to specific groups.
  • Yes to staying current with technology and using it to your advantage.
  • Yes to leveraging data to fundraise efficiently.
  • Yes to setting the bar high for your lay leaders.
  • Yes to focusing on donors over dollars. 
  • Yes to a clear mission and vision.
  • Yes to everyone in your organization clearly communicating that mission and vision.
  • Yes to formally and informally recognizing and appreciating donors.
  • Yes to formally and informally recognizing staff.
  • Yes to identifying points in time on the calendar to mark special occasions and milestones as an organization.
  • Yes to mutual respect and collaboration between lay leaders and staff.

While it may seem risky or negative to say no because it feels like doing so can defy expectations of your job responsibilities (especially if you are a lead fundraiser), “no” can actually be used as a tool for growth. Saying “no” strategically will make room to allow for more creativity and innovation in choosing to do new, different things that make the most sense for your organization and that will yield yes-worthy results.

Maybe this year, it’s time to say “no” to your annual gala that has become stale and increasingly time-consuming. Instead, you might say “yes” to a few intimate dinners hosted by your closest donors, focusing on bringing in just a handful of new supporters with the capacity and passion to impact your revenue goals. Perhaps you say “no” to another Giving Tuesday campaign with mediocre results and finally find the time and resources to do some fresh foundation prospect research and writing, investing energy into developing a new revenue stream for your organization. Using “no” as a tool for redefining priorities is far from negative — it can be a truly productive way of opening up your organization to new strategies, audiences and funders.

YES, you can say “NO”! If you want to spread the word about innovation, productivity and just plain good fundraising practices by saying “no” this NOvember, share your fundraising “no”s and “yes”es with #NOvemberFundraising. What “no”s and “yes”es are on YOUR list this NOvember?