Fundraising is yucky.

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It was nearly the end of the fiscal year at the nonprofit where I worked – like, the day before the final day of the final quarter. We still hadn’t received one big gift, though the donor had long ago promised he’d come through. As I looked at our spreadsheets that summer morning, I realized that gift was the difference between making our (publicized everywhere) fundraising goal and missing it.

I’d called the donor several times already, and though he was unfailingly polite, I knew I was getting to be a pest.

I could send another email, which I knew he wouldn’t read. He wasn’t an email kind of guy, and of course he didn’t text. At least with me.

Sometimes he just got busy and forgot to send us the check. It had happened before.

I could feel a knot forming in my stomach. What to do?

I’m remembering this story – and feeling slightly nauseous as I think of it – because I’ve been thinking a lot recently of how sometimes fundraising is yucky.

You have to risk hearing the word NO, or, perhaps worse, you have to risk being seen as an annoying pest. It’s hard not to overthink a request for a gift, especially a big one. It can all seem so personal – what if the donor doesn’t really care as much about my work as I thought? What if I’m asking too much? What if … what if … what if?

That’s why I was comforted, as I often am, by what I read this morning from Joan Garry, a national nonprofit guru who has forgotten more than I'll ever know about fundraising. (Want to learn more of what Joan knows? She has a great new book out -- I'm underlining on every page.)

I was looking for tips about how to help a reluctant fundraiser get more comfortable with asking for big gifts. She's already a great storyteller for her organization, and she's getting more help with research. Setting goals and figuring out how to carve out time is coming along, too. It's a great, young organization doing important work. The future is bright.

The truth of the matter is, though, sometimes you just have to do what you have to do: You have to ask. Clearly, politely, thankfully. Sometimes repeatedly. 

Which is what I finally decided to do with my big donor. I called him that day -- twice, I think -- and finally got him on the phone. He told me he was happy to write the check, but he'd put it in the mail.

"No need," I said, and jumped in my car to drive over and pick it up. 

Goal achieved. Lesson learned.

 

Thank you, Donald Trump.

The first time it happened, I was about to graduate from journalism school, and I needed a favor from a professor. He invited me into his office, then closed and locked the door.

“Sit here, next to me,” he said, gesturing to a spot on the worn couch. For the next 15 minutes, while I explained what I needed and asked him to help me, he moved closer and closer to me, finally putting his hand on my leg. I jumped up from the couch and got out of there as fast as I could.

No, it wasn’t assault. He didn’t push me up against a wall and try to kiss me (the People magazine reporter) or reach his hand up my skirt while also touching my breasts (the female executive in the first class airline seat).

But it was inappropriate, and scary. This was the person who would decide if I would graduate on time. Who, exactly, would I tell about his behavior? What would I say?

Of course I told my girlfriends, and many of them were sympathetic – this guy had a well-honed reputation for this kind of thing among the women in my class.

That’s why what Michelle Obama’s words in her amazing speech in New Hampshire yesterday had such resonance for me. The national discussion of “locker room talk” and how the Republican nominee for president has used, degraded, and objectified women over many years has been painful, much more than I realized before I heard Michelle say the words yesterday.

It hurts to remember the times when perfect strangers on the street in New York where I lived early in my career touched me inappropriately, and how mute I remained each time it happened.

It hurts to think that the professor from my undergraduate days went on to make advances on other women, and I never spoke up.

It hurts that it took all this time, and a national debacle of a presidential candidate, to bring this kind of a discussion out in the open.

Michelle is right: Enough is enough. I will no longer be silent about men who take advantage of their position and power. I will teach the young people I know best – my teenage son and his friends – to respect all people, and especially to respect and encourage the power of women and girls.

It feels good to tell these stories, after years of ignoring them. I am only sorry it took me so long. 

Wish I'd thought of that, 1

Sometimes I come across an idea that leaps out at me and makes me jealous that I didn't have it first. This is the first one I'm sharing here, though I'm always looking for more.

Memphis chocolatier and entrepreneur Phillip Ashley Rix has been doing a great Facebook campaign this summer, #dailychocolate. Each day, he posts a man's name and a woman's name, and if you see yours you can head to his Cooper-Young store for a free sample. (I like it so much I'm not even hurt that my name will never show up.) Of course, you tag your Facebook friends so they can get a freebie, too, connecting all sorts of new potential customers to Rix's account. Genius!

Rix is not just a savvy marketer (his first big splash was doing the chocolates for Grammy swag bags a couple of years ago), he's also building a profile as a dessert master chef -- at the end of the week he'll be cooking at the James Beard House in NYC.

My current Phillip Ashley favorite: Fig ginger. Though the mirror-finished chocolate ganache cakes he posted on this week look amazing, too.

 

Eyes wide shut.

One of the toughest things about working for myself is figuring out the structure of my days. I have all the flexibility I could want, but I also have an office. I'm a traditionalist -- I'm generally at my desk, iced tea in hand, by 8am.

This week, though, I've had several evening client obligations, including a dinner last night that ran to three hours and was full of fascinating conversation on topics I barely understand with people I would really like to work with. It was well after 10 by the time I could make my brain stop churning with excitement, much later than that by the time I got to sleep.

This morning I was TIRED. Like, weepy tired, where a snatch of a familiar song on the radio made my eyes fill. I had plenty of work on my list -- and another obligation tonight -- so I decided to do something radical: I went home at lunchtime for a nap.

Theo and Beau, the cutest nappers ever, from mommasgonecity.com.

Theo and Beau, the cutest nappers ever, from mommasgonecity.com.

You remember naps, right? Thanks to Theo and Beau, below, for reminding us how blissful a deep, daytime sleep can be. Here's their story, if you haven't seen these adorable photos before.

It worked, too -- after only 30 minutes of rest, I felt renewed.

Why, then, did I feel so guilty deciding to take a nap? (True confession: It was my husband, an entrepreneur with a successful, 15-year-old data consulting business, who suggested it.)

I think all those years of jobs that require face time, starting in school, have made it tough for me to trust myself to NOT show up. After all, showing up is my specialty. I also think there's a measure of guilt infused in the idea of taking a break. After all, in this job, I don't get sick days. 

It was a major lesson, though, to take a small step toward taking care of myself. Now if I can just learn to sleep as soundly as Theo and Beau.

 

Salad days.

I remember the day with the clarity of a movie frame: It was a lovely, sunny afternoon and R. and I were sitting on the outdoor patio of our favorite coffee shop in the East Village, drinking café au lait out of white crockery bowls. We were celebrating: I had just gotten a new job!

We were both impossibly young, and the world was ours for the taking. We knew that nothing but good would ever come of this promotion for me – I was headed to a famous magazine, working for a well-known editor – and my best friend was there to play back every detail of my conquest with me. I had worn her beautiful pearl necklace to the interview for luck, and it worked.

I remembered that wonderful fizz of accomplishment again last week, sitting in another coffee shop, years and miles away from the first.

My friend C. was telling me about her summer as an intern in New York at the hottest online women’s magazine in the country – “more subscribers than the online version of the New York Times,” C. told me proudly.

Swag ... and another coffee shop. 

Swag ... and another coffee shop. 

If landing the internship was huge, the actual summer experience had been amazing. C. found herself at the white-hot center of the successful startup. She’s smart, capable, savvy, and a hard worker, so no wonder by the end of the summer she had worked with everyone from publicity to budgeting, attended staff meetings, gathered data, and on and on. She also did a terrific project – the interns all do one at the end of their term – that led to her being asked to come back again as an intern next summer, something that rarely happens.

I was thrilled for her.

“I don’t want you to think I’m bragging,” C. kept saying as she told me her story. “And don’t tell anyone at school about this,” she begged me as she was showing me her project, the terrific idea nearly leaping off the computer screen.

Of course you are not bragging, I kept telling her, but I have been thinking about what that really meant ever since.

At what point do young women learn to own the talent and power they have? How can we make it easier for my friend to think of her accomplishment as all she needs to get to the next level, even if the next level turns out to be the wrong thing for her? (You know that job? The one we were celebrating with café au lait? I hated it and stayed only four miserable months.)

There’s no way that C. would ever come off as anything but enthusiastic and engaged. Why is she so worried that people will think she’s showing off by talking about her summer?

Yes, she is young. But her youth -- and the ability to turn her fangirl love for the publication into great ideas that work -- are huge assets, no matter where she goes.

I can’t wait to see what C. decides to do next. I will help her however I can, even if it’s only to remind her that sharing your love for your work with people who really care about you can never be bragging. 

I can't wait to meet her again at the coffee shop.

A place to dream.

I got a look inside the Crews Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Memphis yesterday, and it is COOL. Inspirational sayings on the wall. A co-work space for students and faculty. Colored Post-its, open meeting rooms, easy parking. 

Which got me thinking: How does the space you work in influence the work you do? And what is it about Post-its that make entrepreneurs so happy?

As someone who has been adamant about not working at home since I launched my business, I know that having an office, as well as being able to be creative there, is critical. But I've also discovered that what I really need is space to think -- someplace quiet, inspirational, affordable, and mine. I sometimes long for those days in The CA newsroom, when there was always someone interesting to talk to and something going on, but I think those days are over for me.

For now, I am happy with my own office space -- in the co-work space at Emerge Memphis, you should check it out -- and my own little stack of Post-it notes. Yep, they make me pretty happy.

Love wins.

I haven’t ever celebrated Pride Day. Even when I lived blocks from the Stonewall Inn, where the modern gay rights movement was born, it didn’t really seem like a holiday meant for me.

Until today.

I am just home from singing at my church in a lovely Evensong Celebrating Love and Justice – a one-year anniversary celebration of the Supreme Court’s ruling making it legal across the country for gay men and lesbians to marry whomever they choose. 

There was great music and prayers for the victims of the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. Three recently married couples got up to tell their stories.

The stories were blessedly typical, though I know the perseverance, strength, and grace behind them. They were stories of commitment (one couple has been together for 35 years), love, life, struggles, children, promises. It all seemed so obvious, and so, well, normal.

Still, I was struck by something Brent said: “What the Supreme Court ruling said was that we MATTER.”

My dad once told me he knew he was gay when he was 11 years old. (There we are, above, on my wedding day in 1987.) He finally came out at 57, after my mother died, and it was a terrifying moment for him. By then he was also sick – he was infected with the virus that causes AIDS. He would die six years later, ravaged by strokes, blindness, and the other awful manifestations of that terrible disease.

I missed him more today than I have in a long time. To be in a church sanctuary (of all places; thank you St. Mary’s Cathedral), surrounded by men and women who know that being gay or lesbian is not a sin, to hear the comforting words of the liturgy, to light candles for those we see no more.

Dad, you always mattered to me, no matter what you thought of yourself. I am sorry that your life was dictated by rules you didn’t make, and that you spent most of your life hiding from who you really were. I am so grateful for the example of love, laughter, and hard work that you and Mom showed us your whole lives. You made me the woman I am today, and taught me what I know about commitment, love, life, struggles, children, promises.

I wish you could see it.

Love wins.

You matter.