Can You Help Me?

Asking for help is tough. I feel like I’ve spent the entire summer doing just that. It’s been humbling, demoralizing and filled with some valuable lessons learned.

One task I’ve had over the last few months was to garner some sponsors for the Surrey International Writers’ Conference. Once we won the matching grant from artsVest I thought the job would be easy. SiWC is a hugely successful and world renowned conference with so many sponsorship possibilities. I only needed to tell people about them and the money would follow.

Right?

No, I was wrong. Money didn’t just fall into our laps.

Luckily the artsVest grant included workshops on how to get sponsors.

One lesson came across loud and clear. Your best chance to raise funds for your organization was to mine all your “warm contacts.” Though it sounds simple I found this to be a tough one. In a nut shell, you have to ask all your friends for help. And if that doesn’t pan out, you have to ask all your friends to ask all their friends for help.

The workshop leader framed this in a much more positive and a not at all needy way, but it’s still asking people to help.

This is tough for me.

But, when you are competing with other arts groups, festivals, and conferences, asking for dollars can come down to who you know.

Isn’t that an all too familiar life lesson?

Last week I attended another artsVest workshop where we discussed a trend that seems to dominate our sponsorship quests.

We each had the chance to share our latest victory. For the majority this was not a group actually getting money, but it was a prospect returning a phone call or replying to an email.

Booking an actual meeting to discuss a sponsorship was considered a hallelujah moment!

The harsh reality of how tough it is to secure dollars was the common theme.

I got to share a couple of my best “warm contact” moments so far.

My financial advisor works at a huge company that only sponsors one major on-going event.  When he received my email asking for help he and his colleague both made personal donations to SiWC. No, not a sponsorship per se, but it gave me hope. People were willing to step up.

I also happen to know one of the most connected people in the advertising world. I bit the bullet and wrote him an email, told him all about the conference and asked if he know anyone that might be interested. He was on a holiday in Europe but within 5 hours got back to me. He said he would put on his thinking cap. Again, no sponsorship dollars but I was heartened that he even replied. It gave me hope and reminded me what a great man he is.

This has become the norm. When you are accustomed to silence any type of reply becomes a victory.

And finally…

As cancer kicked my butt I let many things slide. Post-surgery I pulled myself together to submit an application to a great potential sponsor and discovered I had missed their deadline for submissions. My heart broke. This company seemed like one of our best chances and I screwed up. I swear I sat staring at their website for an hour wondering how I could have been so stupid. Then I opted to fill out the application, go through the process, knock even though the door was closed. I also sent them an email explaining that my lapse was the reason SiWC had missed the deadline. The blame was mine alone. The submission was made because I felt an obligation to at least go through the process. I fell on the cancer sword. I apologized.

The next day they sent me an email to say they would accept our submission. They also wished me the best with my health issues and recovery.

In those few words that huge company became a warm contact.

And all it took was for me to ask for help and a bit of forgiveness.

Now who’s next on my list?

SiWC red