Rejection precedes success

By Gerry Czarnecki

When you first joined a nonprofit board, you most likely realized that many of its functions were very similar to your day job. However, the one major difference is the funding process. Most businesses sell products or services for cash. Nonprofits mostly raise money from donors.

As I wrote last month, fundraising is simply the business of selling a cause to a donor. But that is not always clear to boards. Because most boards have “give or get” criteria, fundraising can often feel more like trying to convince a friend or colleague to make a contribution that simply satisfies your board member obligation; this leaves many board members embarrassed to make “the ask.”

Another reason a board member may feel embarrassed about asking may have to do with his or her own ability to contribute. Unless you have significant financial resources, you may have doubts about how much you can give personally. You must get over that anxiety! No matter how much you can give, you must learn to make “the ask” at a level that reflects the potential donor’s ability to give. Don’t measure it by your ability to match that level of giving. Give what you can. Ask the potential donor for what they can give as well. Remember, you are selling a cause you believe in, not asking for a gift.

A third reason for that sense of embarrassment may be the same as the salesman’s greatest fear: the fear of failure and hearing the word “no.” When we ask somebody for a contribution, we are putting our faith in the hope that the person will affirm us by saying yes. A “no” response can feel like a rejection of us personally. Rejection is painful, so in order to avoid it, many board members will simply not try.

Salespeople ultimately succeed only when they recognize that not all attempts to close the sale will be effective. They learn to accept failure and rejection as the price for success. As a board member, you must learn the same lesson.

Board members must be prepared to ask – and ask. The fear of rejection and embarrassment must not be stronger than your commitment to the cause. But to be truly successful, you can’t just focus on the selling; you must first focus on the process that builds your relationship. That builds to the point when you can actually make “the ask” comfortably without fear or embarrassment. ¿

Gerry Czarnecki is founder and chairman of the nonprofit National Leadership Institute (nationalleadershipinstitute.org), which helps boards of nonprofit organizations become strategic assets to the leadership team. His extensive background as a C-suite executive and CEO is coupled with current board leadership of corporate and nonprofit organizations. He is also chairman and CEO of the Deltennium Group. Contact him at 561.293.3726 or gmc@deltennium.com.

Help for nonprofit leaders

In partnership with the Sanford Institute of Philanthropy, on May 19, the National Leadership Institute will conduct a daylong seminar at JA World in Coconut Creek. Board members and management will learn the right approaches to raising funds. For more information, please contact Raelyn Barlow, president and CEO of the National Leadership Institute, at raelyn@nlionline.org.

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Drew Limsky

Drew Limsky



Drew Limsky joined Lifestyle Media Group in August 2020 as Editor-in-Chief of South Florida Business & Wealth. His first issue of SFBW, October 2020, heralded a reimagined structure, with new content categories and a slew of fresh visual themes. “As sort of a cross between Forbes and Robb Report, with a dash of GQ and Vogue,” Limsky says, “SFBW reflects South Florida’s increasingly sophisticated and dynamic business and cultural landscape.”

Limsky, an avid traveler, swimmer and film buff who holds a law degree and Ph.D. from New York University, likes to say, “I’m a doctor, but I can’t operate—except on your brand.” He wrote his dissertation on the nonfiction work of Joan Didion. Prior to that, Limsky received his B.A. in English, summa cum laude, from Emory University and earned his M.A. in literature at American University in connection with a Masters Scholar Award fellowship.

Limsky came to SFBW at the apex of a storied career in journalism and publishing that includes six previous lead editorial roles, including for some of the world’s best-known brands. He served as global editor-in-chief of Lexus magazine, founding editor-in-chief of custom lifestyle magazines for Cadillac and Holland America Line, and was the founding editor-in-chief of Modern Luxury Interiors South Florida. He also was the executive editor for B2B magazines for Acura and Honda Financial Services, and he served as travel editor for Conde Nast. Magazines under Limsky’s editorship have garnered more than 75 industry awards.

He has also written for many of the country’s top newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Miami Herald, Boston Globe, USA Today, Worth, Robb Report, Afar, Time Out New York, National Geographic Traveler, Men’s Journal, Ritz-Carlton, Elite Traveler, Florida Design, Metropolis and Architectural Digest Mexico. His other clients have included Four Seasons, Acqualina Resort & Residences, Yahoo!, American Airlines, Wynn, Douglas Elliman and Corcoran. As an adjunct assistant professor, Limsky has taught journalism, film and creative writing at the City University of New York, Pace University, American University and other colleges.