Have you ever tried a food you thought you hated and then you try it, love it, and can’t remember why you thought it was so gross before? That’s pretty much the experience I had with asking for money.
I used to be terrified of fundraising. Talking about money is hard enough as it is without asking people to give it away, so naturally the majority of people find fundraising pretty scary. I was that girl who, when it came time to fundraise for her basketball team, would rather give $100 of her own money than ask 20 others to donate $5.
Everything changed for me when I was presented with the scariest challenge of my life to date: raise $30,000 for a school-wide event. This wasn’t a challenge I had to accept, of course, but for some reason I became momentarily masochistic and said yes.
It was summer and I was out for dinner catching up with Sam, a friend from college, talking about our upcoming year of school. Sam was extremely involved in our school’s Hillel, so he got to talking about his horrible experience fundraising for the largest event on campus: Hillel’s Shabbat for 2000. This annual epic dinner actually hosts 2000 students, including Jews, non-Jews, and even students from other schools in the city…for FREE. That means every dollar to fund the dinner has to be raised through donations. With a tone of regret Sam told me he took on the worst Hillel leadership position in existence: Fundraising Chair for Shabbat for 2000. He told me about the lofty goal of $30,000, the heartbreak of not reaching that goal, the challenge of motivating team members to keep asking for money, and the lack of resources to even have the hope of reaching that goal.
And then Sam told me I should do it; I should be Fundraising Chair. After telling him what a horrendous salesman he is, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to meet a seemingly insurmountable challenge. And so I said yes. I went home, called the Hillel director and told him to hold that spot for me and not let anyone else take it- I would be the Fundraising Chair.
To be honest even in the first few weeks of fundraising, I was still terrified of asking for donations and miserable at the thought of having to raise so much money. I started by telling people the basic details, that it brings Jews together, yada yada yada, and I would raise $100 here and $50 there. The Hillel director finally pulled me aside and said “go make a call, and come back with a $1000.”
For this call I decided I had to make a different pitch if I was going to get better results. I tried a whole new strategy and this time, instead of giving the usual pitch with details, etc., I would simply tell them how much this event means to me personally, why I keep attending it every year, and why I wanted to be on the leadership team this year. And that’s how I came back to my team with a $1000 donation.
As I continued to raise money by the hundreds and thousands I realized something: People want to be asked for money. I could hear the excitement in donors’ voices as I told them about my love for the event, and they happily offered their donations.
This is one lesson I share confidently… People want to donate to causes they believe in- if you can say why your cause is meaningful, there is no reason to be scared to ask for money.