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    How to Say No

    Someone whose work I find extremely compelling recently declined an event invitation I sent him, and I’m loving him for it.

    When I was fundraising professionally, I found that few people know how to say ‘no’ properly. When asked for charitable support, many either avoid answering, or make promises they fail to keep. I think most of us feel bad saying ‘no’ – it seems mean or ungenerous.

    What happens when we don’t is that the fundraiser spends a lot of time and energy following up and trying to capitalize on what seems like a chance of getting a ‘yes’.

    When we avoid the direct ‘no’, but there’s no real chance of us eventually saying ‘yes’, we force the person who did the asking to chase us around, guessing and hoping as to what our true intentions are. It’s a waste of resources.

    The gentleman who said ‘no’ to my event invitation, on the other hand, just came right out with it. He responded within a couple of days; he thanked me for the offer; he explained why it wouldn’t be a good fit for him.

    Now we can both just move on. I feel a sense of respect and admiration for him. I think I understand his situation better and will keep it in mind for any future interactions. We’re both better off than if he had said ‘maybe’, if he had ignored the invitation, or (worst of all) if he had said ‘yes’ and then not bought a ticket or showed up.

    This is saying ‘no’ with class. This is someone we can all learn a lesson from.

    Meanwhile, if you deliver a ‘no’ respectfully and the asker doesn’t accept it (keeps pushing, argues with your reasons, etc.), that’s a whole other ball of wax. That’s bad fundraising. Lots of well-intentioned people fall into it when they think the ends justify the means, but it’s unnacceptable anyway. If it happens to you, you have my personal permission to give them a good smack ;-)