The (scary) act of asking

I’ve just come back from filming our latest little film to get a fundraising thing going…. We need patrons, we’ve come to a point where we know, for certain (especially in the light of having, this summer, to support Bik’s Dad through cancer), that without some kind of solid, steady income, we probably aren’t going to weather all the normal crises cafes face.

I’ve come home with a huge vulnerability hangover from having to ask people for money, on camera.

It looks easy when other nonprofits and charities do it. It isn’t easy.

When we’ve asked for help before, usually when there’s been a crisis (like when we we burgled a few years ago and asked folks to fund our new alarm system and ‘Fool da Robbers’) or during the summer months when we always take less in the cafe, it’s always been one-off. It’s great, this one-off help, but it feels like constant stop-start.

Constant big-push-pause-big-push.

Our cafe income pays all (ALL) the bills, and it goes up and down a lot. Imagine, if you are on a set salary, having a paycheck that goes up and down – and the ups are fine, you can pay the bills, but the downs leave you short.

It’s stressful. So, we made a video this afternoon to give people the chance to help us with this. I know people support what we do, I also know the very folks who are into us are busy people – artists, self employed people, peeps who grown vegetables and go travelling and take long walks and have families and volunteer and……..

So many people say ‘I keep meaning to come in’ or ‘I wish I could get to you more often’.

I know these people would like to know The Art House will be there when they can come in – for a workshop, for lunch, to meet a friend or go to a gig.

Being a patron means you know we’re still there, basically. There for the artists of Southampton, there sticking to our values of promoting grassroots art, ethical food and living lightly on the planet.

Our patrons will know (already do, those who have signed up) that they are supporting something they truly believe in.  They’ll know we’ll make every penny count, and spend it wisely and ethically. They’ll know that the chance of walking past our boarded-up outside because we had a few quiet months is reduced with every contribution they make.

So why is it so hard to ask?

Me being wired for sound and pulling a mightily silly face about the whole thing

Me being wired for sound and pulling a mightily silly face about the whole thing

We’re socialised (or at least I was) not to ask for things, especially money.  Most people are shockingly bad at it, and I am no exception.  Asking for money opens you up to criticism that can hit you in very vulnerable places – we all have a lot of ‘stuff’ around money, I certainly do.

Some people give you flack when you ask, and if you listen to those people (or the inner critics in your own mind who sound rather a lot like them) then you’ll never get anywhere.

That’s why I bit the bullet this afternoon, got wired for sound, sat in front of the camera with Kevin (who had volunteered to film for us – thanks Kevin!) and just ASKED. Video to follow once Bik has edited it!

Oh, and I’ll ask again –  If you would like to be a Patron, please click here!

A little (actually huge) helper for me was Amanda Palmer’s book ‘The Art of Asking’ which not only really reconnected me to the feeling we had when first setting up, with it’s raw honesty and clear purpose, but addressed a lot of the fears I have in real way.  I recommend this book mega amounts – order it from your local bookshop here and you can watch her TED talk on this here:

About janifranck

Artist, activist, founding director of The Art House in Southampton.
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