You May Know More Than You Know

I’ve learned a few things in the last year about fundraising, like You can never say thank-you enough and Tell donors what you are doing with their money, because it isn’t your money that you are spending.”

I’ve also learned that I need to ask Peace House Community’s donors a lot of questions, like How did you hear about us? Why did you decide to support us? and Do you want to receive our newsletters?

Saying thank-you seems pretty self-explanatory, but it took me longer to wrap my head around the asking of questions. I know that most people receive more emails than they want, so getting another message from me seemed like it would be more of an inconvenience than a blessing. However, I’ve come to understand that our donors know how peace House Community looks from the outside looking in, and the best way I can show them that I recognize their expertise is to ask them for it.

In this case, asking is important because the donors often don’t realize how valuable their insights are to me. They know things that I need to know, but they don’t know that they know the things I need to know. (My high school English teacher would deride me for that last sentence.) It happens all the time. We are each a wealth of knowledge, but the challenge is to figure out who needs to know what we know.

Sometimes at Peace House Community we ask our members and volunteers to share random knowledge just to see what we can learn. The last time we tried this we found out that:

  • If you can’t get a jar open, wrapping a rubber band around the cap gives you a better grip
  • Lip balm works better on dry, cracked feet than most moisturizing cream
  • If you don’t have a stand for your cell phone, you can cut a slot in the bottom of a Styrofoam cup and use that.

Of course, nothing on that list is an earth-shattering revelation, but it makes the point that we all face challenges, both big and small, each day. We’ve figured out how to deal with most of them, but once in a while something comes along that will trip us up. The smaller the thing is, the more frustrating it can be. A broken shoelace when we are in a hurry can push us over the edge. Knowing someone who knows how to deal with the small crises helps.

It works with the bigger issues too. How do you talk to your pre-teen about sex and bullying? What are the best places to get food and diapers when you’re short on money? What are the safe places to go when you just need somewhere to hide from the world? Sometimes we know the answers, but sometimes we don’t. Realizing that others have answers that we need, and that we have the answers they need, can make a big difference in the way we get along with those around us.

by Marti Maltby, Director Peace House Community – A Place to Belong

This article originally appeared in “The Alley,” the newspaper for the Phillips neighborhood of Minneapolis.