asking is difficult and wonderful

I learned how to fundraise in college. I applied and was chosen to be one of the students who represented Kalamazoo College at events with alumni and donors. And then I applied and was chosen again to be one of the students who encouraged fundraising among fellow students. This work was a little tricky sometimes, especially among my peers. Conversations sometimes ended in, “You want me to give more money to the school where tuition is almost $50,000 per year?” More often than not, though, it was pretty easy. Alumni and donors wanted to hear about cool things I’d done at Kalamazoo College. People generally wanted to support the school.

But what I’ve learned in the past few weeks is that it’s easier to fundraise for the college you attend, to fundraise for an institution, for a school than it is to fundraise for yourself. It’s easier to fundraise for an established, accredited institution of higher learning than it is to fundraise for a young, largely unestablished writer to work on a crazy project.

But now, I spend a few hours of every day doing just that. I’m working on a Hatchfund project, trying to get enough money to go to France and research what I ambitiously hope will be a book one day. I was sleepless and anxious in the first few days. I never thought I’d reach my goal. The asking made me a little ashamed and a little sheepish.

I spoke with a British woman who’d previously used Hatchfund to fund her residency at La Porte Peinte. I was looking for some inspiration, but instead, she told me honestly how difficult crowdfunding was for her. Something about being British, that it’s against the cultural grain to ask for money.

And then my project started gaining. I celebrated loudly and emotionally with every donation. I wanted to wrap every patron in a weepy hug, wanted to thank them for their generosity, for their faith in me and in my work.

In time, I started to feel connected to donors in a way I hadn’t anticipated. Suddenly, I owed this project to them. I was worried I wouldn’t do enough, wouldn’t succeed, and they would be disappointed in me. I’d fallen into the arms of my family and friends and they’d started to catch me. I did not want to let them down. I spoke with my project coordinator at Hatchfund. “There’s no way you won’t succeed,” he told me over the phone. And I was thrilled at his faith in me, then felt his expectation weigh on me like the hope of my family and friends.

In a big flourish, my project reached the minimum goal. I danced and cried a little, quietly, to myself. Finally, I knew my project would happen. I would get to France. I would research and write and do my absolute best to make my supporters proud. That was just a few days ago. I’m still warmed with relief.

The fundraising, though, isn’t over. I’ve exceeded my minimum goal, but that minimum won’t get me as far as I wish it would. I won’t be able to stay in France as long as I wanted to or do as much research as I hoped to. Because my hopes and greatest wishes are pinned on my “maximum” goal–one too lofty to be realistic–I’ll have to make some concessions in order to make my project happen at all. A shorter stay, less research, less time to immerse myself in village life, to write. So I’m faced with this weird thing. I’m not sure how to at once express my most profound gratitude and also ask for more support.

Part of my heart tells me I’ve already received so much, I should be ashamed to think, “Thank you, and…” But another part of me–the part that feels indebted to my supporters–makes me remember that the more resources available for this project, the more likely it will be to succeed. And I want it to succeed for the memory of the family I hope to write about, for the archivists who have already given me so much support, for my donors, for my faith in literature and crowdfunding, for all of it.

So here I am, thanking and asking. I feel so grateful, so humbled, and I’m also so hopeful. Six days are left for this fundraising and my fingers remain tightly crossed. Yes, asking is difficult. But it feels so wonderful to know that this is a communal work, to have that community right in front of me. The directness of this support gives me chills. I think, quite simply, that this is one of the coolest things I’ve ever been involved in.

I’m going to do my best to cherish the next six days of such direct teamwork, try not to stress. This is happening and it’s difficult and wonderful and so, so cool.

Here’s where you can support this work–please, and thank you, and…


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