5 Reasons to Say No [To a Gift]

As fundraisers we spend so much of our time getting to “yes” that we often forget another important word in our vocabulary: NO. If you’ve never said “no” to a gift, chances are the day is coming. It happens to all of us, it’s usually the right decision, and, once said, you’ll likely feel a sense of relief.

Image: pakorn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image: pakorn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Keep an eye out for these 5 red flag scenarios – when a gift might be more trouble than it’s worth.

1. It doesn’t fit your mission

If you’re doing crazy acrobatics trying to make a donor’s major gift fit under the umbrella of your mission, stop. Take a deep breath and a big step back. If a gift does not align with your organization’s mission and big picture goals, it doesn’t make sense to accept it.

2. It’s not sustainable

This kind of gift is the gift that keeps on taking. A major donor has offered to build a new home for one of your programs? If your organization doesn’t have the capacity to sustain and maintain this new facility for many years after its built, just say no. Timing is everything and this timing isn’t right.

3. There are too many strings attached

It’s a high maintenance gift – managing it and jumping through all of the required hoops will drain your organization’s resources. If the gift has the possibility to do more harm than good, opt out. 

Individual donors are less likely to attach lots of conditions to their gifts than foundations or government entities, but it does happen. Try to work with your donor and negotiate to a place where everyone is comfortable. If that’s not possible, then you should politely decline.

4. You don’t need it

Already met your fundraising goal for a particular project or campaign? Then, it’s ok (and ethically correct) to say no, thank you. Accepting more funds than a project budget warrants means that some of those funds will be spent on another project, which doesn’t match up with your donor’s intent nor the Donor Bill of Rights.

5. It just doesn’t feel right

Trust your gut. If your instincts tell you there is something overly complex, ethically questionable or not quite a mission-fit about a pending gift, there probably is. Remember that the actual contribution is just one moment in time – you want to maintain a positive relationship with this donor—and all of your donors—at all times. Your organization’s integrity and staying true to your mission trumps all. 

Are there other scenarios in which you’ve refused a gift? How did it go? Please share in the Comments box below.

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