In Fundraising – How To Overcome The Initial Objections

Man posing at sunset, sowing biceps. Nature backgroundI was standing by the front desk at a small local gym when two nicely dressed salesmen walked in. I eavesdropped on the following conversation:

Salesman 1 offered a very brief – less than 20 second pitch on hydra something or other.

Matt (the trainer and only employee around): I don’t want to waste your time – we’re not interested in that right now.

Salesman 1: Are you the person I would talk to?

Matt: Yes, one of them.

Salesman 1: Have you been here long?

Matt: Awhile (in reality it’s only been a year or two)

Salesman 1: OK, thank you.

And the salespeople walked out. Number 2 never saying a word.

One of the other gym members who also overheard the conversation said “What kind of sales call was that? Doesn’t he know he should always ask 3 times?”

I said, in fundraising you can often expect as many as 6 or 7 “nos” before you get to “yes.” I think my fellow member was a bit shocked by my response.

I guess it’s time to define rejection in our nonprofit fundraising world as well as how to overcome it.

Hearing “No”

I am not suggesting you ask someone for a gift of $1,000 for the annual campaign, and that when they say no, you ask for the same amount 6 more times in exactly the same way. That will not be successful.

But if you read the gym scenario again you will see that Matt said no before he knew anything about the product, the benefits or why he should even listen to the salesperson. And he really never used the word “no.”

Whether in sales, or in fundraising, you are constantly working to overcome the initial objections—spoken or unspoken–to help the person get to “Yes.”

In a fundraising situation – you should consider is the prospect objecting to:

  1. The dollar amount?
  2. The cause?
  3. The specific use of the funds (i.e. they don’t believe in the project)?
  4. That they have already given enough to the nonprofit?
  5. They need more information?
  6. More time to consider?
  7. Does a spouse or another family member or business partner need to be a part of the process?
  8. Should you be asking the ”other person?”
  9. Are they feeling less financially liquid because of
    • A change in job
    • Fixed Income
    • Retirement is either here or in sight
  10. Is it the wrong time for them personally?
  11. You? Are you the wrong solicitor?


Your goal is to overcome these objections—and perhaps others. What you are really hearing in these initial reactions is often “not now” as opposed to “No, not ever.”. Maybe they need more cultivation or stewardship, more time or more friends to join them in supporting the cause.

But don’t give up when you hear the objection. Don’t take it as a “no.” Listen carefully and consider how you can help them see that their objection is not insurmountable but just a reason to continue the conversation or to speak again in the near future. And then, most essentially – follow up.

Other articles on Overcoming Objections:

Responding to Donor Objections

Making the Ask: Third Point in a Cycle of Life-Long Giving—Part 1

Making the Ask: Third Point in a Cycle of Life-Long Giving—Part 2

It’s Science: Asking For Donations Will Help You & The Donor Feel Good