Posted by Sharon Danosky | Posted in The Philanthropy Therapist | Posted on 24-03-2011
I have to confess, I really don’t know the answer to that question. In all my experience, when you use five magic words … “Will you please help me?” People say yes – with a smile.
I remember the first time I went to Paris. Everyone told me to be prepared for how rude the Parisians are. Then I read a travel book someone recommended: “Friend or Faux?” And I followed their advice. Try to speak French, but if you can only remember one phrase, learn how to say “aidez-moi s’il vous plaît?” (Translation: will you please help me?”) It worked. I had a fabulous time and found every person I met to be most accommodating. I think the book I read simply articulated a universal truth. When you ask, people are willing to help.
So, why can’t we ask for help when our goal is to extend our hand to people in need? It makes absolutely no sense to me. Yet, I find it to be the case time and time again. Most frequently I find the leaders of non-profit organizations (presidents, CEO’s, executive directors) are the most uncomfortable asking potential donors for help for the non-profits they run. This is the same organization where they spend many hours, forego pay increases, fight like mad with state legislators, but cower at the thought of asking a donor – often a person waiting to be asked – for help.
The oddest thing is that it is most prevalent among founders – those who actually started the organization. The people who have the greatest vision, an incredible amount of energy and enough passion for their cause that they could fill a small ocean are reluctant and even averse to asking for help.
I’ve decided to call it the Herculean theory — the willingness to take on an enormous, daunting, extremely difficult task and feeling you have to do it all yourself. Therefore, you can’t ask for help because your duty is to take on that task. The truth is that when you ask, people take on the weight you have borne by yourself happily and willingly. And rather than feeling like a by-stander, they begin to feel like a part of the team you are building with a sense of purpose. I have literally watched donors melt when their non-profit leader went to them for help. It means that much.
It is true that there is a bit more to it than simply asking. But not much. It is being honest, sincere and forthright. That’s all. And if you approach asking someone with that intent – they will offer whatever help they are able . You never offend anyone by asking for help.
Don’t be afraid – go ahead ask. And watch the weight of the world melt away.
“Aidez-moi s’il vous plait.”