Asking for donations may be one of the ‘least favorite’ things on my list. There’s just something about reaching out to people and requesting they make a contribution to one of my kids’ extracurricular activities that doesn’t inspire me. Yet, it’s one of those necessary evils… whether it was selling Girl Scout Cookies or wrapping paper when our kids were younger, I always had a ‘not another one’ attitude about the approach.
That’s why when we attended a meeting about a summer league team for my varsity basketball playing son – and the mom organizing everything said, “We’ll need to ask for donations or raise money for uniforms” – I cringed with anxiety and thought, ‘I kinda hoped we were past that phase.’
Yet being a good rules follower and helper guy, I suggested to my wife that we needed to reach out to establishments where we spend a lot of money and ask for their help. So through email and in-person visits, we requested donations from our dentist of 12 years, car repair place where we’ve been loyal customers for a decade and favorite two restaurants (one fast-casual and the other upscale).
What were the results? I’m thrilled to report four-for-four. These small business owners made a nice contribution – even knowing the reach for their advertising dollars would be minimal. One followed up with an email to Kathy that said, “Thank you for thinking of me.” I was so surprised by their responses that I decided Success Handler, LLC also needed to write a check.
There are two lessons here: 1) Never shy away from asking… you never know how much someone might want to help; and, 2) When a parent or organization makes a request of your business, catch them off guard by saying ‘Yes!’ They already have enough folks who will decline.
One other thing is certain: we’ll remain loyal customers of those four service providers for years. So they’ll end up way ahead regardless of whether anyone else becomes a customer after seeing their names on the back of our warm-up jerseys.
Here is the fourth most important lesson I learned during 2010:
Human Spirit – It’s set in my hometown. It’s about football. Its main characters are underdogs. That’s why my favorite book this year was “Twelve Mighty Orphans.” I remember my mother telling me that, when she was a little girl, Masonic Home – an orphanage on the south side of Fort Worth – was one of the dominant teams in Texas high school football. Before reading Jim Dent’s biography, I had no idea what the Mighty Mites accomplished during the Great Depression. Despite having only a dozen players each season, they established a dynasty, and a couple of players made it to the NFL. If you like stories that blend sports, history and overcoming great odds, give it a read.
You may have seen the You Tube video – shot with a cell phone – of a charter school teacher here in Houston allegedly beating up a student last month. She’s 40. The boy is 13. The video appears to show her kicking his back, slapping his face and slamming his head against the wall. News stories suggest other teachers were watching the incident.
Perhaps you heard about the pole vaulter in California – a senior in high school – who was the last competitor in the championship meet. She cleared the height to give her school its first-ever league title. As the girls and their parents celebrated, the coach of the losing team walked over to an official and pointed to his wrist. Then he pointed to the girl, who was wearing a small string friendship bracelet. Seems there is a rule – Section 3, Article 3 of the National Federation of State High School Associations – that states: “Jewelry shall not be worn by contestants.” The penalty is “the competitor is disqualified from the event.”
Officials discussed the situation and decided to disqualify the girl, thus awarding the title to the second place team. Afterward, the coach who pointed out the infraction – he’s 54 – said: “It’s unfortunate for the young lady. But you’ve got to teach the kids the rules are rules… I feel bad for what happened, but I guarantee you she’ll never wear jewelry during a track meet again.”
With adults acting like this, is it surprising when executives from the three companies involved in the Gulf oil rig disaster appeared before Congress this week, each chose to raise questions about their partners’ liability? Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) summarized the day’s finger pointing: “The conclusion that I draw is that nobody assumes responsibility.”
Perhaps it’s time to start reiterating those lessons you learned in kindergarten and many appear to have forgotten: 1) Maintain composure no matter how stressful the situation – or take time out; 2) Winning isn’t everything – but sportsmanship is the measure of a person; and 3) Accept responsibility – regardless of the consequences you face.
Why do grown-ups make things so hard?