“HELLO!  Can you help me out today?  I’m fundraising to go to a United Nations Conference in Copenhagen! … Okay, thank you anyway!  Have a good one!”

That was my constant refrain this past week.  I spent a couple of days over the down at the Madeira Kroger’s (our local grocery chain) in a last-ditch attempt to fundraise some sort of meaningful cash.  It wasn’t always easy going.

First, I had to share the entryway with the Salvation Army–which made me feel like a terrible person, and very self-conscious.

Next, my plans took a major hit.  I set up Tuesday and was promised that I could set up on Wednesday as well (which happened to be the day before Thanksgiving) and fundraise; when I got there, they made me go home.  I was ready to kill management!!  I could have gotten another $250 that way.  I am sure!  So, I lost out on good money; they told me to come back Friday evening, after Thanksgiving, when absolutely no one wants to buy more food.  This still disappoints and embitters me.

The job was not always easy, either.  You had to stand right by the sliding doors in the entryway, which was sometimes very cold, and you couldn’t really sit down, lest you be overlooked.  You had to jump in the face of everyone who walked in the door and beg for money (which I don’t like to do).  It does teach you a few things about salesmanship and fundraising, though:

You have approximately half a second when the person walks through the sliding doors to grab their attention by saying Hello.  If you do not do so, they may never notice you at all.  The children generally will, but only about (I would estimate) one-in-ten adults will even glance in your direction.

You have to say hello to everyone, but there are exceptions.  Some people are too busy talking on the phone or with a fellow shopper.  I don’t disturb them.  Some other people plow through the door like the Cavalry.  I don’t disturb them either–they are clearly on a mission and in a hurry.  But most people amble on through, and you must smile and say Hello to these people.

After making contact, you have another 3-5 seconds to get your message out.  You must do it immediately, or you lose the momentum.  You can’t possibly cram your whole mission statement into that timeframe.  In my case, I recited the rather general and neutral statement at the top of this entry.  Those who want to know more will then engage you, and give you a chance to talk about being a youth delegate, sustainable development, your press credentials, etc.  Or, they will say “Not today” and keep on walking.

You can’t really judge a person by how they look.  A lot of people really look grumpy, but you can’t let that stop you.  Chances are they will smile when you address them and try to be polite.

Some folks are not polite.  They outright ignore you, snap at you, or engage in some other form of rude behavior.  My thoughts are that those people are afraid.  They are afraid to engage or else they won’t be able to say No, or they are shy, or think you are the “lower sort”, or whatever.  You can’t let it hurt your feelings, because THEY are the ones with the issue.

Not everyone has to agree with your cause to help you out.  Of course some folks will not agree with you, but don’t be intimidated–most are too polite to argue.  Still, even if they disagree with you or your cause, it doesn’t mean they won’t support you.  One man told me climate change was all nonsense, but still chipped in $5.  Someone else asked me what my stance on the United Nations was.  I told him, “I think it is an excellent forum for nations to discuss their differences and try to coordinate on global issues.  I certainly think the United Nations is a better idea than war.”  He asked me my role there.  I said, “As a youth delegate, I try to keep our lawmakers from messing things up for future generations.  The Secretariat has called us the moral voice of the UN.”  A Vietnam veteran, that man was convinced that the UN was a breeding ground for “communist and muslim spies”, and was not shy about telling me.  But apparently he approved of the idea that discussion is better than war, and that I would be acting as a moral voice to our policymakers.  He hated the UN, but he chipped in another $5 bill to help me out.

Also, it helps to know your audience.  My community is overwhelmingly Republican, which is fine.  But according to recent polls, only about half of Republicans think climate change is even real.  I found it wise to craft my message around the United Nations, the cuteness of being a young person, and to emphasize my role as a moral voice for lawmakers and guardian for future generations.  Certainly, folks who are curious will ask questions, about which you should be very open–but as a diplomat (and not an activist), I craft my speech carefully.

It’s a lot of fun once you get into it, but… I happen to hate asking for money, and I hate standing still.  I could only take about two hours of it on each day.  Still, I raised $137.00 and learned a few things about working a crowd, so I try not to complain too much.