Adventures in Soliciting

Spencer Wise Watson - Ecuador


August 13, 2013

If there is any key to fundraising, no matter the cause, it is most certainly being shameless. The art of asking for help can be difficult at first, but in the end there is not a more humbling yet vital skill to gain!

It reminds me of a really fantastic TED Talk by one of my favorite musicians, Amanda Palmer:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xMj_P_6H69g

Every day last week – or should I say evening (Louisiana makes everything impossible to accomplish during the brighter hours) – I went door-to-door in my neighborhood asking for pledges for my Global Citizen Hoop-A-Thon. The pitch was simple – a quick introduction of myself, then Global Citizen Year, then the hook – “For my fundraising event, I am going to hula hoop for ten hours!” This statement was usually met with a disbelieving yet amused smile and then a shrug and reach into their assorted wallets or pocketbooks. Score!

But for every munificent and neighborly donor, there were at least two more that would cautiously peer at me through their lacy doorframe curtains, like a snake in a particularly dilapidated cage, and then quietly disappear as quickly as they had come.

At one house, an elderly Chinese woman opened the door, accompanied by two adorable children. The twist? She didn’t speak a word of English. After several minutes of admiring the intricate wreath which proclaimed “FREEDOM” at the door, she reemerged from the cookie-cutter house indigenous to our subdivision, calling her daughter to act as a simultaneous translator via an iPhone. Turns out, my finely tuned and earnest fundraising strategy – implementing all those reciprocity concepts I learned in psychology – were entirely lost in translation. Listening to her daughter rattle off quickly a succinct translation, the elderly woman’s bright face fell into a look of absolute distrust and disgust, waving me away from the door at the advent of the word ‘donation.’

I can’t say that I’m not guilty of this myself. When someone knocks on your door, asking for a donation to a cause that you’ve never heard of, naturally you don’t feel comfortable giving money. But after this week of soliciting I can honestly say that I will at least humor anyone who has the chutzpah to knock on a stranger’s door because now I know that it takes a lot of courage to ask for help.

The actual Global Citizen Hoop-A-Thon went very successfully: after 10 hours of hooping in the Louisiana heat, I surprisingly didn’t feel too fatigued or dehydrated and the friendly and sociable lifeguards in the adjacent water park kept me company. The only problem that I had to face was boredom! I reread for the umpteenth time a really great graphic novel by Marjane Satrapi called Persepolis, but halfway through the book a young couple who struck me as being very kind (I could tell by their eye contact and genuine smiles) began to talk to me and one thing lead to another and I ended up giving them the book – under the condition that they must read it and give it to someone else when they are done and to tell a high school senior that they know about Global Citizen Year. Then I danced to “Can’t Buy Me Love” by The Beatles approximately eleven times when my mother’s phone, which I had borrowed to time my hoop marathon, died. So for the last three hours of my fundraising in Jambalaya Park, I attempted to forge friendships with the little whippersnappers frolicking between the splash park and the jungle gym, hamming it up and performing my silliest tricks to get their attention.

At the end of the day, I raised over 800 dollars for Global Citizen Year and left with slightly sore legs and a mightily vexatious sunburn (wear sunscreen y’all!). While I am slightly wary of meeting my fundraising goal of $2,500, I can sincerely say that I have done my part in mobilizing my community and getting the word out on this amazing cause in a fun way. In the end, the confused smiles of the people I encountered both soliciting door-to-door and in the park last Sunday made the experience wholly enlivening!

 

Spencer Wise Watson