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Blog: The Fear of the Ask

PHOENIX, AZ – In philanthropic circles, fundraising can often spark fear in the hearts of the most courageous and fierce individuals on the planet. This fear, whether founded or unfounded is also translated as the fear of what looks like “begging for money,” the fear of rejection, and the fear of public speaking. For some, like me, it was also the fear of looking stupid. No matter how many times I practiced my “elevator” speech, I could never condense it into something that made any sense even though I knew the details of my work like the back of my hands. Perhaps its because we didn’t have too many elevators on the Hopi or Acoma Reservations as well.

Last night, I joined other storytellers and took the mic to talk about this deeply rooted and psychological adversion of talking about money during the Arizona Community Foundation’s Philanthropy For All Event. I think most of us will agree that talking about money is impolite. This is compounded by our belief that fundraising is all about money.

I recalled my first donor visit and the lessons I learned about what I’ve known all along. Philanthropic fundraising isn’t all about money. Philanthropy is about that age-old tribal principle and value of building meaningful relationships that is reciprocal in mutual respect. Philanthropic fundraising is about meaningful purpose when the values of two or more parties align in the opportunity to lift people up that is lasting and impactful.

In my much younger days, I thought philanthropy (even the word) was alien. I’ve learned that it isn’t. In fact, reciprocity is a communal value to most tribal cultures. Giving, and yes, receiving are equally valued because in this sacred space, even strangers can find common ground to make the world better.

I don’t think my fear of fundraising will ever completely dissipate and I find that to be healthy. It keeps me on point to be thankful for the love and generosity that flows out of philanthropic efforts and keeps it real. After all, “philanthropy” translates from the Greek to mean love of humankind. In Hopi, lolmat suminang tuksiwmani is another potent translation of a deeply embedded prayer, a vision, a mission, a value, and the practice of serving all our relations with the truest of intentions coming from the heart where love resides.

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