Setting Boundaries with Donors Fosters Healthy Relationships

Stop and think about setting boundaries.

Sixth in the series: Six Traits of Healthy Donor Relationships

You probably would never think of saying “no” to a donor. But in a healthy relationship, sometimes you have to. It feels counter-intuitive, I know. But if you don’t do it, you will sow the seeds of a great deal of discontent in the future.

Setting boundaries is not a difficult thing in terms of what needs to be done. It is difficult emotionally, which is why so many of us do not do it right.

Boundary setting can be summed up in four points:

  1. Saying no if you need to.
  2. Expressing why you are saying no.
  3. Not feeling bad about saying no and explaining why.
  4. Being kind through all of it.

Here’s the thing. You know when you should tell a donor no. You do. But you don’t do it for fear of hurting their feelings or suffering some consequence if you do say no – a consequence like having the donor just stop giving. Or you have feelings of guilt about saying no.

I remember one situation where the MGO said no to a donor who regularly gave $50,000 or more. The MGO said no, explained why and did it kindly. There was a season of pouting on the part of the donor, but he came back after a few months and the relationship was stronger than ever. Why? Because the donor respected the boundary that was set, and he respected and valued how he was treated in the “no saying” process. The MGO had treated him kindly.

If you can’t set a boundary, any relationship you have will not be healthy. That is why it is important to make yourself do this. For me, boundary setting has been as much about my feelings as it has been technique. The technique part of it is actually saying no and giving a rational, logical reason for saying it. The feeling part is the self-talk you need to engage in – so you don’t hesitate to take an action you should take because you are afraid, or feel guilty when you said no and wallow around in feelings of remorse and guilt.

Think about the situations you are facing with donors on your caseload where you need to set a boundary. I know there are a few. Pick them out and plot how you will do it. Do not get angry or move into being unkind as you think about how you will approach the situation. Instead, focus your energy on how you are going to do it and when. And think about how you are going to handle your feelings once you do take the steps of setting a boundary.

Donors are like any other person in your life. There are donors who are easy to get along with, who are mutual, understanding, caring and easy to relate to. Then there are those other donors. Sometimes a good “no” is what is needed. Make up your mind to set boundaries where you should. It will be good for you AND the donor.

Richard

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