Fundraising as a Way to Get Close to People

Two years ago I had the opportunity to fundraise for RC. It was a profound experience.

Ayana Morse, the International Liberation Reference Person for Young Adults, was preparing to lead the 1998 International Young Adult Leaders' Conference in Puebla, Mexico. She knew that transportation costs would be a barrier to participation and wanted to be able to provide scholarships, so she put together a fundraising plan and asked a group of owning-class young adults from the United States to work with the Re-evaluation Foundation to raise the money.

The Re-evaluation Foundation established a Young Adult Liberation Fund for this purpose. Those who decided to participate in the fundraising project agreed to raise one thousand to two thousand dollars from people who were not Co-Counselors. (The Foundation is a non-profit organization, and contributions to it are tax-deductible.)

For eight months Mike Markovits, the president of the Foundation, met monthly, via telephone conference calls, with the nine of us who signed on to the project. Mike would share information and theory about fundraising. Then we would report on our progress and take time to discharge. Each of us had a different strategy for raising the money, and people's stories, over the course of the project, were inspiring and moving. Ayana joined us for one of the early telephone conferences and shared her thinking about the Young Adult Leaders' Conference and our role as owning-class allies. We were also assigned buddies and were encouraged to trade discharge time with them each month, in between conference calls.

I wrote Mike the following letter as the project was ending:

Hi Mike!

I want to tell you my success story about my mom.

I had decided to ask my mother for a contribution to the Young Adult Liberation Fund but was committed to not asking anybody for money, or deciding on a strategy, until I had discharged a lot. I took time to get close to my buddies in the project, received good (and sharp) support from my local owning-class Co-Counselors, and refused to be a "good little soldier" about the fundraising task.

I approached my mother in several phases. She got to see me struggle a little, and she made me work for the money. I asked her early on, "How do you like to be asked for money?" Using her answer, I discharged more, thought about our relationship, and decided to ask her to match what I raised from other people instead of requesting a flat donation. This shifted things so that our discussions were about our relationship and not just about the money.

After the last conference call I gave her the pitch.1 I explained the project, why I was doing it, and what I wanted from her. She said no. I offered some more information, and she said, "Maybe. Get back to me in two weeks." I sent her a follow-up note, and finally she said yes!

She and I just spent five days together on vacation, and it was one of the easiest times we've ever spent with each other. We laughed a lot, and she shared family history. She told me she hadn't really wanted to give the money but had felt that I approached her as a peer and not like "her kid looking for a hand-out." She was also moved by my perspective that this "money stuff" was a metaphor for figuring out other aspects of our relationship. It gave her a new view of RC as something cementing me and my family together instead of something pulling me away from my family.

I'm in shock about the whole thing. In order to pull it off2 I had to head toward people while noticing my goodness. I got glimpses that people are not scary, that owning-class people can be kind to each other, that it's okay for me to notice there are people in the same room with me, that it's okay for me to like people and for people to like me. I have a new perspective on reality -- including that my mom and I might have a benign relationship.

I'll miss checking in on the phone with you and the gang every month. This has been a huge gift in my life. Thanks for the opportunity to show myself with as little pretense as I could muster.

Cathy Saunders
Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
1 The pitch means the request for money.
2 To pull it off means to successfully accomplish it.

(Present Time No. 120, July 2000)

Last modified: 2017-05-06 23:35:41-07