Can You Turn Objections Into Opportunities?

Lori Halley 27 June 2011 0 comments

This month’s Nonprofit Blog Carnival, hosted by Jason Dick at his A Small Change blog, is about Handling Objections.  Not being a fundraiser or membership manager myself, I did a little research and reached out to our Wild Apricot blog readers to find out what objections they hear when trying to raise funds or recruit new members and how they respond. So here are the ideas I've collected.

Re-framing - Viewing Objections as Opportunities


A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.
Difficulties mastered are opportunities won.  (Winston Churchill)

Sales and fundraising trainers tell us that objections can be seen as difficulties or as opportunities - depending on our perspective. This sentiment is echoed by Marc A. Pitman in his FundraisingCoach.com blog. He offers a number of reasons why we should embrace objections, including these three:

  1. Objections show interest: Many sales trainers refer to objections as the beginning of the sales process. So too in fundraising. Objections show the donor is interacting with what you say.
  2. No objections and you’d be out of a job! Enough said. Especially in this economy!
  3. Objections are better than questions: A donor can ask a question without it being a personal question. But objections are, by their very nature, personal. Therefore, objections show the donor is interacting with your ask on a personal level, not a merely theoretical one.

But let’s be honest – no one likes to be rejected. Whether you are going door to door for a campaign or trying to persuade a potential member the benefits of joining your organization, an objection feels like failure.  But if you apply Mr. Churchill's and Marc Pitman's strategy, you might just be able to use the objection as a starting point to gather information that will work to your benefit for future membership or fundraising efforts.

What objections are you hearing?

One of our blog readers told us:

When renewing members most often we hear the question: "Please tell me again what I get for my money?"

I’m sure this is a fairly common refrain in fundraising circles too – with potential donors wondering how their donations are being used.

Our reader went on to say:

“of course, this question only comes from those members who are not active. They don't attend events, they don't participate in the marketing programs and they don't volunteer for any of our many committees."

In other words, she doesn’t feel these members are really aware of what the organization has to offer. But should we blame these inactive members or sceptical donors? After all, it’s human nature for your supporters, donors or potential members to be doubtful and questioning, especially during these trying times when we are all experiencing “feelings of scarcity” due to the economy.

So How Do You Overcome These Objections?


  • By Demonstrating Value: It’s important to be sure that you don’t dilute your mission or message in your communications. Always be true to your organization’s recognized culture or voice and clearly articulate its value and benefits.
  • Through Testimonials: Tom Ahern suggests that “doubt played - and continues to play - a vital role in species survival.” So you need to be prepared. “Any communications - your newsletter, Web site, brochure, and certainly your fundraising appeals - will awaken the Analytical response in readers, especially in people who don't know you well. …Your only defense is to answer objections early and often.” And he suggests that using testimonials, rather than statistics, is the most effective strategy.
  • By listening, learning and re-focusing your efforts based on your new-found knowledge: If the objectors offer information, be sure to capture it so that you can use this to tweak or re-focus your approach.

You might also consider conducting an online survey to find out what members or supporters are most interested in and what information they're looking for from your organization. And if you list what you've been involved in through the survey questions, it will act as a reminder of what you're doing to provide value.


The final thoughts I’ll offer on responding to objections, are from a blog post from a few years ago, written by David Mersky (Overcoming the Anxieties of Asking) that I came across in my online travels:

Truly, people do not like to talk about money, particularly their own and especially giving it away. Rather, get them to share your dream and make it their own. Give the prospect the sense that they can make a difference. Then you are not “taking” anything from them. You are “giving” them one of the great opportunities of their lives. Never discount, the great joy of giving.

How does your organization handle objections? Share your ideas in the comments section below.

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Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Published Monday, 27 June 2011 at 9:00 AM

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