I have been dealing with a generous dose of rejection lately. It’s as a result of an intention to explore how I might be helpful to nonprofit leaders. This past fall I started reaching out to some folks directly through LinkedIn. While these overtures are harmless, it appears that the “stranger-danger” ethos is alive and well in America. I find this fascinating, and it reminded me of a humorous scene from the 1982 teen cult comedy, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, where the boys are refused service at the local fast food establishment.
Nonprofit leaders I know are all too familiar with rejection. Here are a few examples:
- Volunteers say no to requests for help.
- Donors ignore or decline appeals for funding support.
- Boards refuse proposals for new initiatives.
- Government bureaucrats reject permits for important programs.
What is one to do? How is one to react?
For years, I just ignored rejection and kept plowing on. After all, in the field of fundraising we learn the mantra that “yes lives in the land of no.” There is truth in that saying, and wallowing in a pool of self-recrimination over the no’s is not helpful. That said, I’ve become aware of a new perspective in this latest round of “talk to the hand” responses to my recent entreaties. We might call that perspective–appreciation.
That’s right, appreciation for the “no.” As I reflected upon the rejections of 2016 this week, I noticed that many of them supported me perfectly in pursuing my passions and purpose. For example, I’ve come to recognize that working with me as a coach is not for the faint of heart. I often challenge and provoke my clients in service of their growth and learning. Someone recently compared me to a piece of mutton–a bit tough and powerfully flavored. Mutton must be paired with a bold, full-bodied Zinfindel to bring out the best of each. Such a dish is not for everyone, and when offered as an evening special at the local restaurant, most customers will say “no thank you.”
Therein lies the lesson for 2016. When we’re up to something bold in the world (as many nonprofit leaders are), rejection is inevitable. Many will say no. A few will say yes. Those that say yes often make for a perfect fit.
David Langiulli is a certified professional coach who helps nonprofit leaders flourish and thrive. He is also the author of The Essential Leadership Guide for Fundraising Professionals. Grab your FREE copy now at www.FundraisingLeadership.org.