How To: Deal With Rejection

On Sunday I talked about funding and how we define success as a sector. What about rejection? Funding through sponsors, donors, or grant makers can be very difficult to acquire; getting a person to volunteer their time and talent is also extremely difficult. You are going to hear no many more times than yes, whether you are asking for people, money, or resources. People are busy, and foundations receive a plethora of applications.

No one wants to be turned down, whether it be a partnership, sponsorship or funding opportunity. Rejection is unfortunately a huge part of non-profit life. There are many reasons why organizations and people might say no, but it is important to know to deal with and react to rejection.

Don’t take it personally.

I know this is easier said than done. When you work hard on a grant, program, or event, you want everyone to get on board and be as passionate about it as you are. When organizations or people say no, it has very little to do with you as a person. Having someone say no to a proposal does not mean they are against you, your organization, or its mission. There are many deserving groups worthy of time and talent, and not enough resources.

Try to get the reason for the rejection. If a person can’t make it to an event because of a prior engagement, make sure they stay on the list for the next one. Funders can be extremely busy, but it never hurts to ask for feedback on your grant proposal. Maybe there were just too many applicants and not enough money to go around. Maybe you forgot to include some crucial information. Maybe it’s just subjective criticism. Turn the rejection into a learning opportunity, and never burn bridges. Just because they said no today, doesn’t mean they’ll say no next month or next grant cycle.

Ask away… and good luck!


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