Revolution #186, December 20, 2009
Door to door flyering and fundraising in the projects
This was the first time I was part of systematically asking for money as a major thrust of what we were doing and this is something me and my partner got better at as the day progressed. We were going door-to-door in one of the housing projects where we have done a lot of work over time and then particularly during this week of saturation.
First, we made fundraising a central theme of what we were doing. We didn't just talk about the revolution we need and the leadership we have and then, after that, ask those who were interested to give money.
Instead, we told everyone that they need to know about this rev and this leadership and get involved in putting this on the map because we need a different world and it can only happen through the involvement of those who most need revolution. (Often, I would do very brief explanatory agitation about we are talking about revolution to get to a world without police brutality and murder, without the U.S. waging wars on people across the world, without the abuse of women that happens every day on the streets and in the home—this revolution is possible because of Bob Avakian and you need to know about him, but so does everyone else) We'd then immediately tell people, "Let me tell you quickly what we are doing out here—our goal today is to distribute 10,000 of these leaflets and raise $300 from folks in the projects and neighborhood around here. This type of thing is happening in concentrated areas all over the country—as part of making a real beginning towards revolution. We are asking EVERYONE to give something to make this possible—and for everyone to take 2 or 3 more statements to give to folks you know, to start spreading this now."
It made a difference to stress right up front that our goal was to distribute and to fundraise—and that we are asking EVERYONE to GIVE SOMETHING.
Then, we'd ask for 2 or 3 dollars and mention that even 50 cents would be important. We found that some people, even after they initially said they didn't have anything to give, would go and dig for some change or a bill after we came back with, "This would be a very meaningful thing to do with 50 cents, really be part of making revolution real right here where people need it." This was FAR MORE successful than when we responded by saying, "Even a little bit would be okay, even if you just have some pocket change." While the amount we ended up with sometimes was "pocket change"—sometimes it was more, but even that we were much more likely to get if we let people know that it would be a meaningful thing to do, a positive thing, and very little can be done that is more meaningful as an individual with $2, but as part of a community helping support getting revolution and Bob Avakian known, this can have a real impact.
One young guy, maybe 19, who was wearing his colors listened intently to the brief description of the revolution we need cited above. I asked him, "Do you ever think about revolution?" He said, "No." I asked, "Now that you are hearing about it, how does it sound to you?" "It sounds good." Then, he said he couldn't contribute, but after I responded about how it would be a meaningful thing to do, he looked up and said, "Hold on," and went and dug around and came back with a handful of change. He then took 3 fliers for folks that he knows and promised he would read the statement.
Even people who didn't agree with the kind of revolution we are talking about gave money if we struggled with them. One guy, who was one of the few who had seen the statement and knew about this revolution, told me he had read half of it only and stopped because he thought it was "too radical." I responded by saying, "You know what radical means, right? It just means getting to the root and that is exactly what we need to do if we want to understand and solve the problems we are faced with." Then, we struggled over Obama (he was really arguing for him) and he was winding down saying he just didn't agree. I said I appreciated him taking the time to talk and that he really needs to read the whole thing and weigh what I had been saying about the problem being deeper than Obama, about how Obama had just committed 30,000 more troops to an unjust war, and about how a different system is possible through revolution and Bob Avakian makes that revolution much more possible. Then, I told him we are asking everyone to give something to support getting out 10,000 of these statements as part of a nationwide effort to do even more.
He responded that he didn't agree with it so he wasn't going to support it. I didn't give up, arguing back that whether he agreed with it completely or not, if he thinks the kind of engagement we just had was important and that other people, especially people up in these projects and other places like this, as well as campuses where there are young people thinking about the whole world, need to be getting into this stuff as well, he needed to help make that possible. He repeated again that he would read the whole thing and if he agreed he would support in his words, in his actions, and with his money. Again, I went back at it and argued that there is no corporate sponsorship or state funding that is getting this out, no one is making a profit off this or asking him for money to fatten our pockets—that we need to cover the cost of the fliers and making more materials. I pointed down the hall, where he could see that we'd left English and Spanish fliers on every door where people hadn't answered. I said this needs to be supported by people who want the world to change. He pulled out his wallet and gave $2.
As the day progressed, we got much better at raising money. Better at asking for it and better at arguing for it, but also ourselves we got better at seeing that it is integral to what we are doing and that it actually IS a meaningful way for people to first get involved in this revolution. And, that if we put that to people—not as an add-on or just as something people should do because it won't impinge on them too much (we're not asking for much, just spare change—type approach)—but as something really meaningful to do and worth stretching themselves for because it will make a difference, and as we gave them a sense of the overall goal and impact it is part of (including that by giving, they will be joining with others in their area and beyond in making a collective difference)—we would say that at least half the people we actually spoke to gave some form of donation.
Also, when we asked people if they wanted to take extra fliers to help get around, most people said no. But, when we concluded our conversations with them by saying, "Okay, so I am going to give you 4 more of these statements for you to give to other people to help get this revolution and this leader known," almost everyone took them. Often, we would talk with them then about who they might get them to (one woman said she was going to a nursing home where she is a care-giver and she would put one on the bulletin board), and you got the sense that with even 2 to 4 fliers that people were thinking seriously about where they would take them (as opposed to just leaving them on their table sitting). A lot of folks have never had these kinds of conversations or spread them, so being concrete and finite and then talking about where they'd take them seemed really important and it will make a big difference for them to hand out even a few to people they actually know—it will change the conversations they are having, the way this revolution is introduced to their friends will be much more "from the inside" and this will be in the context of us continuing to be out there as us in ways that are bolder than most people we are just meeting will be ready to do.
Of course, a few people will take more than this, but I don't think we should underestimate what it means for this to start to take root even in this kind of beginning way.
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