This past weekend was full of emotions as our youngest son graduated from the University of Arizona. One of my favorite things about higher education is the tradition and pageantry of commencement, and the weekend was even more special as our family came together to celebrate and connect.

The all-university ceremony featured Wildcat alum Michael Tubbs, who was both thoughtful and inspirational. He delivered a key message that works as well for new graduates as it does for those of us on the front lines of philanthropy: Turn rejection into redirection. What a positive way to approach growth opportunities!

KDD Philanthropy has recently led several qualification trainings, where we emphasize the need for using a beginner mindset to build your prospect qualification skills. One of the key reasons we often don’t pick up the phone, or send that initial email, is the deep-rooted fear of being rejected.

Michael’s comments about redirection give us all a new way to gather up our courage and do the hard work. Our role as advancement professionals is to advance our institution’s mission. This is important, valuable work, and if we fold at the thought of rejection, we will simply not do as much of what matters.

However, if we approach our qualification outreach by reframing rejection as redirection, we can use it to make us more effective fundraisers:

  • Redirection to a new approach when our first attempts have not yielded the intended results.
  • Redirection to include a colleague, natural partner or volunteer to energize our efforts or to provide a new hook for our outreach message.
  • Redirection of the negative stories in our heads (“I am a pest,” “They don’t want to hear from me/us,” “I am not any good at this”) to a narrative that motivates and celebrates (“I got this,” “Our mission is worthy of partnership/support,” and “Conversation leads to meetings”).
  • Redirection from a challenging conversation with a prospect due to a campus, healthcare or guest experience, to one that allows us to do service recovery leading to renewed engagement and eventual partnership.
  • Redirection from meetings that are not a good use of time to a conversation about where your time is best served for your institution.

We will always have hurdles in our work, but those hurdles become roadblocks if we allow them to become our narrative. Actively redirecting allows us to re-think, re-approach and re-energize our work, ultimately removing the roadblock and the false narrative that goes with it.

It’s worth considering: What would you accomplish today if you used a challenge as an opportunity to redirect?

And for all you parents, grandparents and friends that are celebrating a commencement … Congratulations! You get to celebrate too!

If you’re looking for more tools to strengthen your approach, consider hiring a KDD Philanthropy executive/fundraising coach to support your efforts!

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