One month, 100 rejections

There are great reasons, as a nonprofit, to look for long-term, sustainable sources of revenues, to build a business model that brings in earned income or investor capital.  Philanthropic funds are so hard to come by and often so expensive to raise.

But I also see a lot of intellectually appealing arguments made by founders about not being a traditional nonprofit, when what’s really going on is that they’re just not willing to get out and fundraise.  I’ve seen missions contorted and organizations drifting far away from their original purpose because a founder has decided “I’m not a fundraiser.”

The best part is: all of the best fundraisers I know also say “I’m not a fundraiser.”

(except for one, Jennifer McCrea, who is putting the mojo back into fundraising.)

Here’s the thing.  Most people aren’t fundraisers.  Most people find it petrifying at first.  Most people fail at first, feel like they are hitting up their friends, even feel a little bit ashamed.

But the part I really, truly don’t get is how you could be willing to devote years of your life to a project but not be willing to ask people to fund it.  And I don’t mean write grant proposals, I mean ask people who are philanthropically active to write a check to help make your dream possible.

So here’s my pitch: this thing that you’re willing to devote your life to?   Take one month and get out of the building, knock on every door you can, and promise yourself that you won’t stop until you’re actually rejected 100 times.  Keep track of the 100 rejections so it’s real and you’re making progress.

Because I’m positive you can survive 100 rejections.

Because I’m positive that even if you get rejected 100 times, your idea will get stronger by virtue of talking to all of those smart people.

And because I’m sure that if you set out to get rejected 100 times you’ll raise the money you need long before you hit 100.

4 thoughts on “One month, 100 rejections

  1. Sasha – great post as usual. What’s interesting is that you could just as easily be talking about sales, getting a job or even meeting women (or men) at a bar.

    Point is to believe in yourself (or cause / product / service), get out there, try your best and be persistent.

    Jimmy Valvano has a famous quote with this in mind … “Don’t give up, don’t ever give up.”

  2. Hey Sasha, thanks for this post. It’s great to hear the frustration I experience when trying to help someone develop their cause is not an isolated experience. Thanks for calling the bluff so clearly.

    Fundraising is scary and hard. It’s also thrilling. Especially when you get to see what happens as a result of what your fundraising makes possible. Here’s to those who face down the excuses and their fears and get serious about making that difference!

  3. Fundraising should be fun, exciting and extremely fulfilling for both the people doing the fundraising and their benefactors! Its no secret you must WOW benefactors, create excitement and a contagious “feel good” passion for your cause, then a stronger relationship between the charity and its benefactors is inevitable! This year so far we gave over 8 mil in-kind and in cash proceeds to many charities and helped motivate many reluctant donors.•-museum-art-ft-lauderdale-•-rooftop/

  4. Hi Sasha – This sounds like a perfect situation for an Iron Man. Hang with me everybody, we’re headed on a socio-psychological fundraisin’ adventure…

    The Iron Man is a technique from social dynamics that helps you instantly create courage, confidence and powerful presence in any social situation. To create one for yourself put a sign around your neck that reads “I’m really stupid” and/or wear your underwear outside of your pants —and then walk up and down a really busy street (for about half an hour). Or, basically, do something that totally embarrasses yourself in front of strangers. Remember, don’t wear sunglasses. Look people straight in the eye. And try your best to internalize (anchor) how people react to you. Naturally, people will point, stare and make you feel like an imbecile.

    The crazy part is…that’s the point. The more people who laugh at you the better!

    By doing this (which you need to actually DO, not just read) you create a personality structure (aka “version”) that is able to stand strong in the face of any challenge or difficult social situation. If you ever get nervous or face some form of rejection (which is a natural part of sales, fundraising or public speaking) you can instantly summon your Iron Man/Woman version and proceed with courage and grace. When fundraising you will think to yourself… “Gosh, I’ve been through much worse than this. Hundreds of people have laughed at me. This isn’t so bad. What’s the worst that can happen? This one person says no… This one person doesn’t give me money… Ah, that ain’t nothin’… Onward!”

    So, Sasha, I like your challenge but what do you think about this as an upgrade?

    Instead of racking up ‘100 rejections’ how about using an Iron Man to rack up ‘100 victories.’ With every no you become stronger. With every yes you become stronger. In this way you are not operating a win/lose paradigm (success or rejection), but you are operating a win/win paradigm where the act of taking action is always a win (and likewise, positively reinforced). Naturally, the more appropriate and congruent your action is the more results you will produce (ie raise money).

    In many ways this win/win perspective mirrors what social impact and triple bottom line businesses are all about. We can help the poor AND make an ROI. We can do well AND do good! (for more depth on Either/Or vs AND see Ashoka’s Hybrid Value Chain model).

    Which segues to….

    Everybody: If you’re planning to take the 100 challenge and haven’t checked out Sasha’s Manifesto for Nonprofit CEOs (see above, top right) then definitely do that RIGHT NOW. There’s a righteous section that addresses how to “Approach donors, investors and money people as equals.” It’s absolutely brilliant. Use this with an Iron Man, and voila… fundraising fusion!

    And Sasha: Thank you so much for writing this incredible blog and sharing your perspective, passion, knowledge and wisdom. Such things are rare and certainly don’t just happen by chance. I’ve been a casual reader for awhile and now that I sold my company (and am diving into the world of social impact) I’ve found your insights profoundly helpful, relevant and innovative. You da impact man! Keep up the great work and thanks again!

    all the best,
    Sean Murphy

    PS: Are you personally doing the 100 challenge, Sasha? How’s it going so far?

    PPS: Here’s to all your 100 victories. Go get ’em everybody! 🙂

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