8 Strategies to Try When a Prospect Says “No Thanks”

In fundraising, an objection is almost always better than indifference.

Yes, objections can drive your conversation off track and can certainly be frustrating, but objections are also a sign of a prospect who’s listening and considering.

That beats apathy any day.

How you handle objections is the key, and for today’s post, I thought it would be worthwhile to gather a few suggestions.

Tips for Handling Objections

1. Remember, it’s not personal. This is always easier said than done but don’t let your ego take a hit during a discussion. A negative response to your ask likely has nothing to do with you. You’re here to help the prospect connect with your organization and see the difference they can make. A planned gift is an emotional decision and may bring out passion. 

2. Be genuine. Be willing to look at things from the prospect’s perspective and don’t rush your response. Take your time.

3.Never underestimate empathy. In an earlier blog, we noted how essential empathy is to a fundraiser’s overall toolbox. Empathy is essential in overcoming objections, too. Bloomerang offers an “empathy formula” that goes through three communication steps. Try out their feel, felt, found flow:

  • I understand exactly how you feel. This statement lets the donor know that you’ve heard them and are reflecting on their opinion.
  • I know other donors who have felt similarly. Scale the conversation and build comfort—you’ve been in this conversation before!
  • Until they found out. Bring up the information, results, success story or other content that answers the donor’s concern and moves the conversation forward. Again, you’ve been here before!

4. Hear them out. Listen carefully; the prospect will tell you what you need to know. Clarify their objection. Make sure you understand their root concern. Repeat and reframe until you’re in sync.

5. Watch for patterns and recurring objections.Do the same objections appear frequently? Time for a plan. This allows you to prepare and practice responses in advance and to develop essential skills for working through objections. It’s a great time to build your feel, felt, found flow.

6. Get permission to continue. An objection can feel like a dead end. Instead, ask a question before guiding the next turn. A question like, “can I offer some information on that topic?” or “can I share a story?” shows that you value the prospect’s time and opinion.

7. Remind the donor of the importance of your organization’s work. Set up the specific value of your organization’s mission and its impact on the people, community and world you serve. Talk about the present-day situation you’re seeking to change. Per fundraising expert Jeff Brooks, share details, not generalizations: “Very few donors are interested in simply funding an organization. They want to do something specific.”

8. Match your response to the objection. This goes back to listening and the importance of your agility in the conversation (no single script will do). Is the donor worried about your financial soundness? A look at your numbers will help. Do they need a third party to validate the estate-gift process? Share a donor testimonial.

Pre-Objection Work

If you’re looking for prep material ahead of your meeting, we have a three-step strategy for making an ask. Planned gifts take time and require nurturing and stewardship. Knowing this can help you be smarter, more successful and not focus on the dated sales mantra, “Always Be Closing.”

In the world of fundraising (especially planned giving), we’re in the business of building relationships.

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