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  • Writer's pictureGatekeeper Giving

How to say "no" to an "ask"

If the word gets out that you are generous, the development officers and people with great ideas for the next ministry will start to circle. After all, 90% of giving is reactionary. If you want to become a better steward of your money, then you'll need to be proactive. So now is the time to work on how to let people down graciously and yet firmly. In Steve Perry's book, The Accidental Philanthropist, he writes the following:

"Not all organizations are worthy of your “yes.” When you need to say “no.” which sounds better: “I don’t want to give to your organization,” or “I am sorry, but your organization does not fit our giving guidelines”?"

With Gatekeeper Giving, we can help you create your Personal Giving Strategy, which will give you a focus and direction for your giving. This will assist greatly in helping you determine what causes and organizations you will give and not give.

"Prepare yourself to say “no” to a hundred causes, all of them good. You must learn to say, “We have chosen to focus on these particular areas. We know a million nonprofits who are doing great work, but we cannot fund them all. We can go only with what’s in our hearts. We must follow our passion, our calling.”
And don’t apologize!"

At the bottom of this article, we have prepared a kind "no" letter. It wouldn't be a bad idea to copy this to your computer and practice your "no." You may choose to say, "Unfortunately, out of the twenty-five worthwhile projects we could support, our funds have already been committed." Saying "no" gracefully is an art and a necessary one if you want to make a difference with your giving.

Steve goes on to give some space for giving outside the lines,

"No doubt you will encounter outliers, grantees that you decide to fund outside your core purpose. When you choose to make an outlier grant, you know that you do so because you believe in the group's mission, even though it does not perfectly align with yours. Sometimes, you can just want to give a “love gift of support” to a worthy organization. Feel glad that you can!"

Thanks for reading! Below you find our gracious "no" template letter. Feel free to contact Gatekeeper Giving for all your philanthropic needs.


Dear [Organization Name],

I hope this letter finds you well. I am writing to express my gratitude for the work that [Organization Name] does in our community and to thank you for considering me as a potential contributor. Your efforts to [describe the organization's mission and impact] are commendable and make a significant difference in the lives of many individuals.

After careful consideration and reflection, I regret to inform you that I am unable to contribute to [Organization Name] at this time. While I deeply appreciate the valuable work your organization undertakes, I have a personal giving statement that guides my philanthropic efforts. Regrettably, I must prioritize causes and initiatives that align more closely with my statement and current philanthropic focus.

Please understand that this decision was not made lightly, and I have great admiration for the work that [Organization Name] accomplishes. I believe in the power of philanthropy to effect positive change, and I am confident that your organization will continue to thrive with the support of other generous individuals who share your vision.


Once again, thank you for considering my involvement with [Organization Name]. I wish you continued success in all your endeavors, and I am confident that you will make a lasting impact on our community.

With sincere appreciation and warm regards,

[Your Name]


An optional paragraph to add:

*I genuinely hope that you understand and respect my decision. I encourage you to keep me informed of any future developments or initiatives that may align more closely with my giving priorities. I will continue to follow [Organization Name]'s progress and advocate for your cause within my network.

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