It used to be really hard for me to ask people for money. Even if I was asking them to help fund a cause I deeply believed in, even if I would receive no direct benefit, I would still get this yucky feeling in my stomach whenever I even thought of picking up the phone to do my duty as part of the PTA or a Board of Directors. Then, in 2008, I had my first really Big Dream. An idea came to me one morning in a gloriously exciting download and I felt that I was meant to be the mother of this new vehicle for community connections, for people having the power to share their own stories vs. having to rely on local newspapers, TV or radio. My company, Bridges Connecting Communities, Inc. was birthed over a year after that download.

Many things happened during the year the idea was growing in my heart and in my belly. I wrote business plans and learned to craft a kick-ass elevator speech. I entered and won business plan competitions in Raleigh and Charlotte. I walked into the offices of some of the biggest power players in our community in business, academia and the creative economy and helped them to get excited about what I was creating and how it would benefit our community.

And I had to learn how to ask for money.

IW love fear

The day I really got over my hang ups about money was the day I asked for, and was given, $15,000. Bridges was a semi-finalist for a $75,000 Knight Ridder News Challenge Grant. To be competitive we had to build a complex web site and create physical meet up spaces. In addition to the money and support I’d already raised, I need this final amount. One Wednesday at 12:30 pm, at a modest downtown restaurant, I met my funding angel, a local big business dude, for a pre-arranged lunch meeting. I made my pitch. He said he could give me $10,000. And then, out of nowhere, something activated inside me and instead of saying thank you, thank you, thank you, I looked him right in the eye and said, “I need another $5,000 if we’re going to have a real shot at winning. It will be a great way to shine the spotlight on innovation in our community.” He looked back at me, paused, and said, “OK. I’ll write you a check for the additional $5K out of my personal bank account.”  THEN, I said thank you, thank you, thank you… and almost passed out.

That day I discovered the power of asking for what you really want so you can make a big impact. Of course people can always say no. Or not right now. I heard that a lot when we were launching MyBridges. Sometimes when people didn’t want to give us money they generously made a new connection to someone who could offer assistance and support far beyond anything money could buy.

Generosity and the desire to Pay it Forward is a powerful force for good in a community. We are blessed in Winston-Salem to have many folks, at all income levels and from all kinds of backgrounds, who know the power of giving freely. The truth is that whatever you give will come back to you ten fold. Again, again, and again I have found this to be true.

I’ve also noticed that the people who are really good at giving are the ones who are the most successful in their endeavors. When it comes time for them to grow something new, or to share their next big dream or big idea, people are bending over backwards to help them out, to invest, to donate and to show up. These folks who are successful are also good at graciously accepting money and other forms of support. They get that it’s a beautiful back and forth. They also understand about Paying It Forward. Many times what you receive doesn’t come directly from the people you gave to. It comes full circle.

I am so grateful to be surrounded by people who understand the power of generosity: both giving and receiving graciously. Thank you for being in Circle with me.

And for those of you who have paid it forward by donating to The Imagination Installation’s Indiegogo Campaign that we launched this week (or are getting ready to do so) … thank you!  You are demonstrating the power of what generosity can create in your life and your community.

If you’d like to see our fun Dream Campaign Video go here.

The part where Jaco, our African Grey Parrot, shares his dream is especially fun.