SPONSORED | The Power of “NO”

publication date: Jan 18, 2023
author/source: Jenny Mitchell

This article is about helping your donors say no. 

You read that correctly: there is power in confirming a “no.” The psychological premise is simple. Humans want to be in control. When a donor says no, they are 100% in control of the conversation.  

Here’s an example:

"Hi Bob. It’s Jenny calling from Chavender. Have you got a minute?"


"Hi Bob. It’s Jenny calling from Chavender. Is this a bad time?"

These seem crazy similar, right?


The second statement – is this a bad time - prompts a NO. "No, it’s a good time", or "No this is fine."

Psychology research confirms that allowing the other party to say NO gives them the sense of being in control of the situation. They get to DECIDE if they talk to you right now.

And that sets up a completely different dynamic for conversation and connection. They’re PRIMED to listen differently.

The second element that the research highlights is that NO can actually move conversations forward faster. You may be confused – aren’t we supposed to work towards a “yes?”


Try using a clarifying statement: "Bob, it seems to me that our interests intersect in the areas of cancer research and pediatrics. Am I correct in that assumption?"

This will prompt either a response of:

"Yes that’s right," which gives you permission to move forward with this shared understanding.


"No.” (and the donor will explain his or her concerns). 

Using (or really, provoking) the NO is a subtle tool you can add to your toolkit as a communicator. By saying NO, you get the other party to explain their objections. This is golden!

I remember the conversation so clearly. I had just spent 30 minutes on the phone with a donor who was insistent on telling me all the reasons that the project we were discussing was fundamentally flawed. I knew I needed to prompt him for clarity. Was this really a dead end or was there something I wasn’t hearing from him? I boldly said, in the hopes of securing a NO: “David, so I guess now would not be a good time to ask you for a gift to this project.”

And I waited.

To my surprise, he said “No, not necessarily Jenny.” 

Do you see that “no” helped to regain control? 

He then proceeded to explain that while the project was flawed, he would still make a gift, but not in the range that I was hoping for.

Thank goodness I prompted a no! I could have slunk back into a corner and not asked. My statement prompted a “No, not necessarily.”

These are examples of the techniques I teach in the 
Ask for Anything Masterclass. Having the confidence to prompt a no, and to nudge a yes, are just two tools, along with tons of meaningful conversation prompts, that support the masterclass experience.

Better conversations prompt better gifts. 

Better gifts are prompted by better questions.

Better questions are prompted by stronger yes and no responses.  

It is that simple. Secure your spot today to gain the confidence for your own success in 2023. 


Jenny Mitchell is an executive coach and professional fundraiser. She is on a mission to help people master meaningful conversations. Register for her upcoming Ask for Anything: The Masterclass program in one of three ways: virtually via zoom,  in person in Ottawa, or in person in Toronto. Jenny’s company, Chavender, assists clients, across Canada and the U.S., to inspire their donors and achieve their fundraising goals through personalized fundraising coaching and training. Before completing her CFRE, Jenny trained as a classical musician and earned her Doctor of Musical Arts. She brings her creative approach, her drive for excellence, and her passion for people to the world of not-for-profits.

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