Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Good Luck

She responded, "I don't know; stop calling here." He told me, "I do not have time for this...." I only asked if they might donate pizza to the event, Be a STAR (Share The Art of Reading). We expect that over 100 Nathan Hale Elementary School students, parents, and community members will attend. The event's goals are to inspire a love of reading and to celebrate the students' academic achievements. Highlights include a family reading hour, educational programs by community organizations Boston Campaign for Proficiency, Sports 4 Kids, Peace Games, and of course, Generations Incorporated. I hung up the phone with a sense of defeat that spoiled my motivation to seek more donations. I took their responses personally, as irrational as this was. For we weren't mortal enemies. And clearly, we weren't mortal friends either.

That they yelled at me didn’t bother me. On occasion I listened to heavy metal rock. The rejection bothered me. Was it what I was wearing? Was it the style of my hair? Was it something I said? I asked for donations over the phone, so the first two questions don't apply. Regardless of my solicitation method, the rejection born from these encounters deflated my once ballooned confidence. The following reminders helped me find the motivation to seek donations once again. And so now, I recommend them to you.

1) Some people are rude. Period. They're rude to their mothers, their friends, their dog and their parakeet. It is no surprise they're rude to strangers. Take comfort in the predictability of their behavior. The phrase, "It's not you, it's me," is, for once, true.
2) Some small businesses are not used to donation requests. Employees have a defensive reaction to this rare occurrence—they think it is a scam. Fair enough. Then it may be better to ask for a donation in person, rather than over the phone. Bring any paperwork that will establish your legitimacy—tax forms, pre-written donation request letter on a letterhead, business card, etc. But chain businesses are used to donation solicitors. It may be better—and more respectful of the business manager's time—to call him or her before your visit to set up a meeting time.
3) Often enough, your request for donations will be met with the response "No. " Be proud of yourself for having the determination to overcome the mountain you are climbing, no matter how many boulders are in your path. And always remember these words from The Great One, the hockey legend Wayne Gretzky, "You miss 100-percent of the shots you don't take." I won’t try to relate the mountain metaphor to the Wayne Gretzky quote, so I leave you with this instead. When you ask for donations you are “selling” your organization’s purpose, but more so you are selling yourself. To establish yourself as respectable and legitimate to strangers is a skill you need to be successful in your professional (and personal) life. Seeking donations is an opportunity to strengthen it. And so is writing blog entries. Did I establish myself as respectable and legitimate? If I did, then you accepted my advice. And if you used it, I hoped it helped. Good luck.

Carlos Livingston is an AmeriCorps State Lead at Generations Incorporated. You can e-mail him at

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