!MBA Musings (on Fund Raising)

by Megan M. on December 15, 2008 · View Comments (Blog) |

I’ve been thinking a lot about this.

I don’t like “fund raising”. I don’t like asking for something without giving something—or more—in return. (As you might have gathered.) I don’t like the obnoxious overtones it often takes on—even when obnoxious overtones are being specifically avoided!) and I don’t like what it does to people. It sometimes disconnects them, gives them guilt, and it’s hard to steer clear of those things even with the best of intentions. Maybe someday I’ll have perfected the formula, but that day is a long time coming.

The positive side of it is the part that trips me up. (It’s easy to stop doing something with no upside.) I’m pretty thoroughly certain that I can do great things for great people, if I can just find the people who want the opportunity. Second-guessing the urge to fund raise—and no, I haven’t thought of a better term for it, but please feel free to suggest—means not only closing a door for me, but closing windows for potentially dozens of other people. People who could use those windows.

It’s just that I’m not willing to go too far to find those people. I’m not willing to engage in tactics that would alienate half my audience and guilt the rest into putting a dollar in the pot. It’s just not worth the ugh feeling, all around.

This may mean that I’ll have to create another opportunity elsewhere and make this my big trip to New York, but I won’t budge on it. It’s too important. So the question is… what do I need to do to go as far as I can, responsibly, consciously? And maybe succeed?

That’s a damn good question.

  • Megan M.
    Joel -- I get what you're saying, there's a funny place there that I don't quite understand yet. On one hand, there are many people that want to act and only need to be asked; on the other hand, many people are sensitive to this whole issue, and it's difficult to know where the best action lies unless you know your audience incredibly well. Man, I'm learnin', though! And I will have to decide how to navigate this discomfort eventually, and decide where I stand. It's definitely something I'm still thinking through (a lot).

    Everybody who commented -- thank you a ton for your thoughts!
  • spinhead
    There is a line between expressing a need to people who care, and asking for something.

    If someone I care about says "I need to go shopping, but my car's not running." I have a choice: offer to take them, or not. They haven't made me uncomfortable by asking, and making me say 'No' either tacitly or explicitly.

    But when someone, unless they're really close to me, asks point blank "Can you take me to the store?" I'm uncomfortable. No way around it, I'm uncomfortable. It may just be me.

    So, mention your needs. Describe your position. Be clear and detailed. I'm not at all bothered by you saying something like "I'm going to have to earn $X,XXX to go to this thing." I'd be miffed, to say the least, if you added "Will you give me $XX toward that?"

    And, in the interests of full disclosure and because you brought it up :) I'm even a little uncomfortable with cries of "Hire me, hire me!" even though it's a far cry (yes, I meant that) from pleas for donations.

    You seem to be pretty open and forthright (or an excellent actress. Or both.) Just say what you really mean in a way that makes you comfortable, and you'll be fine.
  • Angel
    Fund Raising = Monetary Optimization
  • Trish Lambert
    Hmmmm...not sure I'm with you on this one. I get all the points you've made, but I suggest that you may have left one out:

    You are uncomfortable receiving support--particularly monetary support--with no strings attached. With no reciprocal requirment from you. (You are not alone in this discomfot.)

    I also suggest that you are shutting out people (me, at least) who would LOVE to contribute to your success with money, no reciprocity required, and who can't do it at the levels that you've put forward in your business propositions.

    Maybe the solution, everyone, is that we leave Megan out of the equation on this one, and mount our own fundraising effort. I'm pretty much on the periphery of her life, but I will happily participate with anyone who has good connections with the people who want to support her to make the !MBA happen for her. Get in touch with me at and we can come up with a way to make something happen here (without Megan having to ask or even vote!).

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