Even as a shy (yes, I have overcompensated!) young girl, I prided myself on my independence. It was important to me to do
things on my own; to never ask for help.
I can’t say that attitude always served me well. Indeed, I can pinpoint many times when I needed assistance and should have sought it. But by and large, self-sufficiency got me where I thought I needed to go. Over the years, it became the way I typically dealt with things.
And then I broke my right wrist and suddenly, there were all sorts of things I could no longer manage by myself, no matter how hard I tried.
So, I swallowed my pride and asked all sorts of people for all manner of things, from the waitress to “please write down the tip” to a perfect stranger to help me open a door. Little things. Lots and lots of little things. And what I discovered is that most of the time people not only were willing to help, they were happy to help. They wanted to help. Which is what I always understood about fundraising but not particularly in the rest of my life.
Fundraising is, yes, asking people for support for the work that your organization does. But is also giving them the gift of helping.
Years ago, when I was struggling financially, my sister sent me a check that was too large for me to contemplate. Instead of thanking her for her generosity, I sent back the check, telling her I could not accept her largesse. She was furious—something I did not understand. We didn’t speak for almost a year. A very painful year for me. Finally, I apologized for I realized was actually an insult. She had reached out to help me, and I had spurned that help. What my sister taught me is that people want to help those they love; causes they care about.
I always say that fundraising starts with gratitude. Not just thanking people for what they’ve done or might do, but honest appreciation because they care.
Independence can be great and can help to make you strong. But one of the synonyms for independence is disinterestedness. It was that which I did not understand. I was telling my sister that I didn’t deserve her enormous help; she felt that I was telling her that I didn’t feel she was worthy of helping me. I saw her generosity as a burden, she saw it as love.
Love is a good word. It is infinite and freely given to those who know how to accept it. Our donors’ generosity is just another word for love.
Ask for their help and open your arms wide to accept what they are more than happy to provide.