The fundraising profession is not for the faint-of-heart. Ours is a field full of rejection. Every time we ask for a donation, we know there is an excellent chance we will hear, “No!” Even when we receive a positive response, it might not be quite as positive as we had hoped.
A fundraiser who has not learned how to deal with rejection, obstacles, and defeat is a person who is destined to burnout, who will become reticent to ask, who will ultimately fail at the job.
One of the greatest skills a development professional must learn is how to cope with inevitable rejection.
I once attended a seminar led by sales-guru Tom Hopkins. He told us not be disheartened when receiving a rejection. Instead, he told us to celebrate the rejection because it brings us one-step closer to achieving a success. In other words, sales, or fundraising, is a bit of a numbers game. We know we will encounter rejection no matter what we do. So, when we do encounter one, we know we’re getting it out of the way and getting closer to finding a “Yes.”
In sales and fundraising, maintaining a champion’s attitude is a key to success.
Recently, I was watching the Food Network show Chopped Junior (“Beginner’s Duck,” Season 3, Episode 3). In this program, children compete to determine who is the best chef of the group. I’m always amazed by the high-level of talent on display. We’re not talking about making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich; we’re talking about real cooking.
Ellie Zeiler, a 12-year-old cooking enthusiast, competed against others her age this week. Despite her enormous talent, Zeiler was cut following the second of three rounds.
When watching the show, I was struck by how Zeiler handled the rejection. She did not whine. She did not complain. She did not blame her defeat on unfairness, time, the judges, or her competitors. She did not bury her feelings, nor did she become consumed by them. Instead, she handled her defeat with extreme grace and wisdom:
I’m really sad that I got chopped. This competition has inspired me to really focus on my cooking. And I want people to know that I never quit, and I keep moving forward.”
Here’s what we all can learn about dealing with rejection from Zeiler’s fine example:
• Do not bury your feelings. Recognize how you feel and accept it. However, do not let yourself be defeated by how badly you might feel. Move on. Zeiler acknowledged her sadness, but did not let it consume her.
“Life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you react to it.” — Charles R. Swindoll
• Do not focus on the negative. Find and focus on the positive. Zeigler found inspiration in the competition. It inspired her to concentrate on her cooking and to further develop her skills. Whenever we face rejection, we have an opportunity to examine what we did and how we can improve our own skills.
“If you’re trying to achieve, there will be roadblocks. I’ve had them; everybody has had them. But obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.” — Michael Jordan
• Never quit! Zeiler made it perfectly clear that she is not a quitter. Rejection is all part of a development professional’s life. If you’re not used to it, get used to it. To find the next “Yes,” you need to move forward with another ask.
“Winners never quit, and quitters never win.” — Vince Lombardi
The next time a prospect tells you “No,” I want you to think about three things:
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