Yesterday was the 7th annual Stiletto Sprint held in Charlotte, North Carolina, to raise funds for ovarian cancer research and support programs sponsored by the Carolinas Healthcare Foundation. Today by 11 a.m., we raised $95,000 and usually another $2,000-$5,000 will roll in after the event. For the last six years I have assembled a team and raised a minimum of $5000 one year to more than $21,0000 last year. In those six years my team has raised over $60,000 with help from a real “angel-silent partner,” as well as many small donations from all over this country. What pray tell does that have to do with this class?
Let me tell you. When I do the fundraising for the Sprint, I have no problem asking anyone, anywhere, anytime for a donation as we fight to find a cure or even a test for this cancer. When I start thinking about opening my own business, a fear creeps into my soul and I have no idea where it comes from. I know asking for money for anything can be challenging, embarrassing, even filled with shame. But why does even the thought of asking for money for a business strike such fear into my heart. As I learned from one of my SMEs, business is business, keep the personal feelings out of it and keep it professional. Perhaps it is because I’ve been told “I don’t see you in business,” “You know food service businesses always fail,” “Banks will never give you any money,” or just straight out laughing at the idea.
I am very curious to see how others have handled the ask. I realize the numbers I may be talking about based on my financials are like tadpoles in a lake when compared to other industries. The risk for me and my future possible investors still represents hard earned dollars that I will be entrusted with. I have borrowed money before and I’ve paid it back: education, mortgage, and car loans. It feels different this time. It is a direct investment in my idea, my passion, my goals. Fear keeps me wondering about what might happen if it doesn’t work out.
I did find an article written by Rebecca Fishman Lipsey for the Huffington Post about asking for money when it comes to fundraising and I believe her four tips might be helpful in dealing with my fears as I work toward asking for funds for a business.
- Embrace my fear: I think I did this by putting it on social media. What Lipsey means is I need to understand what gets me so wound up about asking for money and then show compassion to myself and embrace it. Very Oprahesque! Let’s try! They might say no. They think it is a stupid idea. No one will support it. Who need’s cookies? Grandma’s recipes are you kidding me, how about a gluten free cookie.
- Reframe my attitude: Lipsey gives me a mantra, “I am not bothering anyone by asking them for money.” Instead I will offer people an opportunity to be part of something I am passionate about which is helping others while adding a little sweetness to the world. I like this one and I could practice her mantra.
- Shake my nerves: She has lots of advice on this one. “Fail and fail often, be a proud advocate, build relationships, don’t judge those who can’t give, find the positive in an ask that does not yield funds, it is my job to lead my company and asking for funds is part of leadership.” I might need to listen to Shake It Off by Taylor Swift and Mariah Carey to get all those nerves shaken off and follow all her advice.
- Lastly, and in Lipsey’s view most important, realize I am giving potential funders a chance to make a difference. Potential funders can learn about my company’s mission and be a part of leading the change to empower others through baking.
I now ask my fellow students to tell me what are your fears about funding? Do you have any? Do you have any tips for helping me get over mine? What have you learned about asking for funds today you wish someone had told you before your first ask?
Lipsey, Rebecca Fishman. “Do you Hate Asking for Money? Here’s a New Way to Look at Fundraising.”
The Huffington Post, TheHuffingtonPost.com, 17 Feb. 2015,