Thursday, December 04, 2008

Fear/Anxiety/Concern... whatever you call it, it still holds us back

I'm writing this piece out of a lot of frustration at work. There is a particular person (who I shall refrain from naming out of kindness) who always seems to be "nervous" about something when we want to generate activity on a new program or ask for partnership in a new venture. One of the things that my job entails is overseeing our Cans for Habitat program. Here in Kansas City, I've figured out that if each person recycles only 10 cans for our program, we'll have enough money to build a family a new house. I know a lot of people who drink more than 10 cans of soda a week so this should be easy!

On Thanksgiving Day, the Kansas City Star newspaper did a
front page article on easy ways that people are helping their favoritie organizations that don't involve writing a check (since money is tight for everyone these days). Lisa Solvay, one of our program regulars, was featured and it's gotten a lot of feedback to my email. I have been wanting to really get this program going but there has always been some reason why the timing wasn't quite right before. Now that I'm getting emails from businesses and people all over the metro area, it seems like the time to really do it -- but wait. One of the things I'd like to do is talk with local retailers or distributors about donating some plastic garbage cans that withstand outdoor conditions to collect cans. Right now we offer free bins and liners to people who want to collect cans for us, but they are made of cardboard and don't last long outside. We can't even use them on our construction sites for volunteers who are drinking soda on site. If I could get, say 10 Rubbermaid trash cans, we could cut holes in the lid to make it clear they are for cans (not trash), and we'd have a sturdy, weatherproof collection bin that could go on our construction sites and be offered to those offices that don't have enough indoor space to add another bin. I have one such business I'm working with right now and I know that people in our office have connections with some local retailers who sell Rubbermaid trash cans but if I mention that I'd like to ask them for in-kind donations, I get shot down.

"I don't know - I'm nervous about asking people for things that are going to a program that isn't really fleshed out yet. We don't know how we're getting those cans yet and what do we do when those trash cans that were donated all get stolen?" This is what I'm up against. I've tried to explain that if we can't offer this option, people may not even collect the cans in the first place. Once they collect the cans we can work out how we're going to transport them to our office (whrer we have a dumpster). At least that's how I see it. I'm not a haphazard kind of person - I don't just do things without any kind of plan in place, but you can't plan out for every contingency ahead of time before you even ask for the basics to get the program off the ground!! Am I off base here? What can I do to overcome these fears that are killing my program before it ever gets going? How do I deal with a co-worker who is uncomfortable asking anyone for anything when we're a non-profit and the economy is putting us in more of a bind that usual? HELP!


Anonymous said...

is this a chronic "no" or does this person have info about the place (s) you're intending to ask for the trash cans?

does this person have to be the one to ask? could you call/drop by and ask? or does this person have to approve the asking?

you might ask her how often recycling cans get stolen. in this economic climate it could be a viable concern (i realize that aluminum doesn't go for as much as copper but folks are stripping copper from EVERYWHERE--schools, churches, etc).

you might ask the retailers what their preferences would be--which they'd rather have. then you could come back to her and say...the people who are donating want/prefer...

i know you think things through more than i usually do (because I am a throw it together/last minute/seat of my pants girl) but perhaps i've hit something you overlooked. sorry if you've already covered all of this.

miss you!

Anonymous said...

Tell that dude to give it a break. This doesn't sound like that big of an issue. I know at my non-profit agency they sometimes want to save a donor for another project but that is mostly bigger stuff; your talking about some trashcans.

Some ideas: maybe hit up a janitorial supply place, especially if you would be willing to put their name on there too - donated by bob's janitoral supply. Maybe a recycling place would donate some or maybe the business would buy there own and then could use it as more of a donation to habitat.

Big Unit

rae's space said...

So should I start saving up my cans for you? I just put them out in my OKC recycling. I sometimes take them to a guy who hangs out near my office. But hey, if they can help you build houses I'll save em.

mandyc said...

Thanks for the comments. This person (a male, just for the record) should know about all the donations coming into our org. so we usually run things by him before we just go and do them - but the constant negativity is pushing us to do things on our own and not tell him about it until after the donations come in. It just doesn't make things run efficiently as an organization to do it that way - if he's already talking with people, we don't want to hit them up for 5 things at different times when we could just make one pitch with several options. I'm looking at several options to support our program and am just glad that it's getting more attention with the recent article. Rae, while I'd love to have your cans I don't think it's going to be practical for you to get them to KC. I don't know if Central OK Habitat does the recycling thing but you can always check. I wish we had more people who were willing to save their cans from the municiple programs, but those curbside bins are just so convenient! I'll kepp you all posted. :)

Anonymous said...

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