Saying No to Say Yes

Susan E Mangels Senior Vice President Consulting Services at AC Fitzgerald Author

Susan E. Mangels, Ph.D, Senior Vice President of Consulting Services

Fundraisers always have plenty of things to do – by nature, we are a “yes” people. We have lists of important things, noble things. Calendars full of meetings with good people. Exciting opportunities to build relationships and new proposals to pitch! But in all our “yeses” are we focusing on the most important things to help us reach our goals? The things that will really build our organization?

I suspect the answer, all too often, is actually no.

In order to say YES to our most important priorities, we may have to learn to say NO to a thing or two – sometimes even an important thing or two. Only by strategically and firmly saying no will we have the head space, energy, and resources to make progress and achieve our true fundraising goals.

I want to urge you to practice saying NO to:

Feeding scope creep. Interesting ideas are a dime a dozen, and in the nonprofit world, they can often seem really, really important. But be ruthless in banishing shiny objects/projects not aligned with your organization’s development plan or strategic objectives!

Perfectly communicating with donors. Don’t wait for ‘the perfect time’ to send a letter or make a phone call. Supporters need frequent and authentic communication from you, not perfection.

Crossing off every item on your list. Prioritize. Each week and each day ask yourself what one thing should I do that will most greatly impact this endeavor? Don’t let all the other items distract you from that one priority.

Swatting flies. Ignore tyrannical urgent items. Focus first on the truly important, not the most frantic or urgent.

Practical guru Stephen Covey encourages us that saying no feeds our big YES! “You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage – pleasantly, smilingly, and non-apologetically – to say no to other things. And the way to do that is by having a bigger yes burning inside.”

For those of us dedicated to fostering liberty and human flourishing, that is your bigger YES. That is your reason for saying NO.

For more on strategic priorities for moving ahead, you can reference our recent thoughts on fundraising in this post pandemic brave new world.

Onward with your YES!

Susan E. Mangels, Ph.D. serves as Senior Vice President of Consulting Services at AC Fitzgerald. She uses her expertise in fundraising, management, and leadership development to oversee our consulting efforts and deliver exceptional service to clients.

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