By Linda B. Haley, CFRE, President & CEO

Ever heard a less than fabulous fundraising idea from a board member? Or your Boss? We all have. I’ve spent years of my fundraising life gently batting down bad fundraising ideas from extremely well-intentioned volunteers and staff. 

I’ve also worked with scores of inexperienced fundraisers, who, not understanding the need to say “no” to poorly conceived fundraising suggestions, politely said, “Yes! I’m happy to execute a (fill in the blank here with BAD fundraising event concept)!” Then our dear baby fundraisers experience the agony of development defeat…and that failure falls squarely at their feet. Ugh!

To know that a fundraising concept is poor and to have the ability to say “no” to the person who has said a bad idea is pivotal to excellence in fundraising. When we allow volunteers – who have no fundraising training and no financial skin in the game – to create and insist we execute those ideas, we invite disaster, both for ourselves and for the nonprofits we love so much.

Want to escape the dreaded bad fundraising idea? That might include trivia night, wine tasting, rock concert, corporate “get the votes” grant, dining out for a cause, etc. Use the two “M” concept – Mission and Metrics. This is huge!

First, as fundraisers, we are responsible for funding the mission – the financial health of the nonprofit rests partially or completely with us. If we allow ourselves to be pushed into activities that will have a poor CDR and ROI, we are doing a disservice to the people we serve – both staff and clients. We just can’t. 

Share that responsibility with your volunteer and help them understand that as much as we appreciate the creativity, we are beholden to our mission and to our rigorous annual plan and its associated metrics. Then and only then can a volunteer see clearly why the activity – fun as it might be – won’t work for our nonprofits…or for us. 

As always, be clear and kind and grateful that volunteers care enough to share their ideas and their passion with us. We NEED our beloved volunteers…just not their bad ideas.

Need help delivering the “elegant no”? Contact Let’s Build Hope – we want to hear from you: (314) 716-2496 or

#LBH #LetsBuildHope #GlimmersOfHope #ElegantNo #KnowAndNo #YouCanDoThis!

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