This week I did something scary.
On Friday afternoon, my friend asked me to make the ask for her first campaign kickoff on Saturday afternoon.
At first I wanted to say no. I wanted to say, “Sorry, I can’t do it.” But I couldn’t do that to her.
I frantically started to write a draft of how I would ask. I had never written an event ask before. I had several roadblocks to making it effective.
I had no idea
–> Who would be in the room,
–> What their values were,
–> Who was ready to give, or even
–> How many attendees we expected.
I felt like I was writing in the dark. If you look at the top of the email, there’s a picture of me making the ask.
Was I nervous? YEP. Was I underprepared? DEFINITELY. Speaking from the heart though, according to my friend Sarah who was there.
Here’s what I wrote for my ask:
“Like all of you, I love what Irene is working to accomplish in Canby. I have known her for 10 years. We have been through good times and bad. We have struggled together, as we saw the need for change in Clackmas County. When we both worked at Clackamas Women’s Services, we saw that we needed to do more. We struggled together through unemployment to employment. We struggled, as I started my own small business in Oregon. We struggled as Irene worked over the last 7 years to help our citizens and law enforcement understand each other. Irene has built so many bridges between police and citizens. She helps them work together instead of hurt each other.
But all of this wasn’t enough.
We started finally realizing that we need to be the change we want to see in the world.
When Irene got into the Emerge program, I was so proud of her. They had never met anyone like Irene before, coming from a community that does not get involved in politics. A community that would actively try to prevent her from succeeding in politics. A woman who had been a single mother of 7 children, and thrived. A woman who had survived so much to start over again. A woman who now stands before you, ready to roll up her sleeves, and help Canby residents be safer, healthier, and stronger financially as we weather the storms to come in our changing state.”
Here’s what I learned from my ask:
1. Political fundraising is more personal than nonprofit fundraising. Here, I could speak about my 10 year friendship. I could speak about her ability to tackle hard problems, while building coalitions with all kinds of people. I could speak about how we had struggled together in our domestic violence work. I could talk about her life in a very personal way, and how she survived and thrived.
2. For my ask to be meaningful, I had to give a leadership gift, right there. I whipped out my checkbook and gave because I knew we had to start with a higher amount and go down. We had no plants in the audience to help me feel less lonely with that gift, but it was hopeful that people heard my amount and perhaps, started to consider giving more than they would have.
3. I didn’t have to do it alone. We had 5 other people talking about how incredible Irene is, which helped me make the ask. Some were running for office themselves, some had already gotten an elected position. This was a happy surprise. I didn’t know that at events like these, people get up and vouch for the aspiring politician.
4. Nobody knew who I was and it didn’t matter. I wasn’t from her town. I had no history in that area except working in a shelter from 2006-2008 in that county. Some people assumed I was running her campaign. I was just standing up there as Irene’s friend, but it didn’t matter. What mattered was our shared witness to her character, her work, her integrity and determination to make a better world.
How much did we raise that afternoon?
$1,035. It doesn’t sound like a lot. But I think for a first campaign kickoff, to donors who had not been cultivated consistently, it was not too shabby.
On top of that, a woman came up to me afterwards and said she wants to start throwing coffee parties for democratic women in the community, inviting 6 women at a time, to ask them to give to Irene’s campaign. She said she’s done it before, lots of times, and it works! That’s powerful-because it means Irene will make more relationships just because we had the courage to ask.
If you’ve never made an ask in front of a group of people – I am here to tell you that you can do it.
If it flops you will not die. You will not have people telling you to sit down. If I can do it (with NO preparation and only a few hours to even think of what to say) then you can do it.