Essay: Fundraising — Not for the Faint-Hearted
Have you ever collected money? For a fundraiser, a charity, a school, anything.
If not, imagine if you will: Somehow you got roped into raising funds for a cause. Could be a charity close to your heart, a condition of your entrance to an event, could be part of your kid’s school tuition or camp fees … Whatever it is, you found yourself in the lucky position of trying to raise money for something, someone or someplace.
So, there you are, getting quite nervous. I mean, essentially, you’re going to be calling up and asking folks to give up their hard-earned money. You write down what you’re going to say, highlight the bits to emphasize and rehearse it a few dozen times so even after you’ve said your shpiel 50 times, you won’t sound, heaven forbid, rehearsed.
And then off you go, calling people one by one, slowly getting into it, and soon you might find, like I did, that there are four types of people:
“Yes” People: We love these people. They’re absolute angels. They’re enthusiastic, generous and make our work easy. If the world was full of Yes People, it would be a wonderful world indeed!
Nicely-worded “No” People: These people are apologetic: “I wish I could, but I can’t,” “I’m sorry, but I’m broke” or even “I’d love to when I win the lottery, but until then I’m unable.” They’re nice, a pleasure to call; you still feel invigorated to continue down your list when you hang up, never mind the lack of donation. Not everyone is in a position to give and that’s understandable.
Less Articulate “No” People: Others are a little less wordy. Hey, no one owes anyone else an explanation about their personal finances, but a loudly proclaimed “NO” and a hang-up mid-rehearsed speech is, believe it or not, actually — in its own way — also appreciated. For one simple reason: You can put a big NO by their name (yup, you’ve got a list of names in front of you) and move on. It is a little uncomfortable, but at least you know where you stand, which is, I think we’ll all agree, a wonderful thing in any relationship.
“Not Now” People: These people are lovely, enthusiastic and kind. “I’d love to!” they say. “What a great cause, just … not now.” OK, well, that leads to the natural question: When? Sometimes the answer is “I’ll get back to you” or “Text me/email me/call me back” or “Try me tomorrow/next week/next month.” This is where fundraising/shnorring/collecting/ gets really awkward because run-arounds like that feel like you’re chasing someone down for their money. It’s sticky, its uncomfortable and it kind of feels like begging. Sometimes you wish Not Now People would just say No!
As someone who recently found herself raising funds for a charity, I feel like I’ve learned a loot. (Ha, couldn’t resist!) So here are my two cents: Money talks, but it doesn’t buy happiness. It doesn’t grow on trees, but it does burn a hole in your pocket. (It’s funny like that.)
As collectors, we’re doing our bit to make a small change in the world and, even if some of our would-be donors give us a run for our money (literally), it can be helpful to remember that if, when, why, how and how much a person donates is not personal. We are merely the shlichim (messengers) offering people the opportunity to do the mitzvah of tzedakah — and there’s nothing more worthwhile than that!