Get ready for a very heartfelt and honest blog post.
Design Cause is my baby and the thing I care most about in my life right now, but I would be willing to bet most people don't know that. This is because I never talk about it. I spend at least 75% of my day thinking about our first project in Cameroon; how the money can be raised, how to involve more people, how to get people excited about it, and how to further that into more projects so we can help more people, but I hardly ever vocalize it.
Long before the fundraising, the research and design phases of Design Cause's first project had their negatives. There were periods of time that were just tedious and frustrating, going back and forth about certain design elements and then getting a negative reaction from the community in Cameroon. My role as creator and mediator was difficult, but engaging and fulfilling at the same time.
Now that the design stage is finished and we are very much in the fundraising stage, my role has changed. I am now much more of a spokesperson and activist for our first project. This role requires a totally different skill set, one that is far outside of my comfort zone. Constantly talking about the project and asking for donations is something I avoided for a long time. I knew that it was something that made me nervous, but the success of the project relied on it. Now a few months in, I have realized that my passion and confidence in the project is the biggest 'selling point' for most donors. Unfortunately, as the challenges of fundraising become more pronounced, my confidence and outward excitement about the project diminishes. It's not that I am not confident that the project will happen, because I have no doubts that these classrooms will be built, but my ability to express my passion and confidence has become overshadowed by feelings of low self-esteem and doubt about my capability to fundraise.
I am not an overly confident person, and I was taught at a young age that being boastful and talking about yourself are rude and will result in people not liking you. I have believed this my whole life and stayed away from overly confident people for this reason. Now confidence, passion, and constant promotion of the project is the only thing that is going to eventually bring together enough people and resources to make these classrooms a reality. So I am caught trying to make myself into the type of person I dislike being around. It's like trying to rewire your brain to think that jumping off a bridge is a good idea.
I know that talking to others about a nonprofit isn't the same as talking to them about yourself, but I can't separate the two. Yes, the money I am asking for isn't for me. It's to build the school and better the lives of hundreds of people in the impoverished region of Northern Cameroon, but the completion of this school is my dream and to me their is no way to prevent this project from being personal.
For three years now I have been singlehandedly advocating for this project. I have talked to hundreds of people about it and I would say 99.5% of the time I get the same reaction: " Oh wow, the work you are doing is incredible. Best of luck." These encouraging words mean a lot to me, but I need a whole lot more than a few sentences of encouragement to make this project a reality.
When things don't work out, it is an almost crippling blow to my self-esteem. Last week we launched our online campaign. This campaign and the video have been months in the making, and I had high hopes that this initiative could bring in some money from sources that are outside of my immediate sphere of influence. Knowing that it's been a week and our online contributions only stand at $40 is very painful for me.
I won't stop trying until this school in Cameroon is built. I made a promise to this community and I will do everything in my power to see it through, but I find that constantly trying to push myself out of my comfort zone in order to make it happen has made me reclusive. I find myself terrified to talk to anyone about the work Design Cause is doing. I'm fearful that I will get the same "best of luck" response because it doesn't roll off my back anymore. Now it stings.
What I originally thought was going to be a tough period of fundraising to make my dreams a reality has become a seemingly insurmountable barrier that is crushing my confidence and changing my personality. Going your own way in life isn't easy, and I knew this going in. I would definitely say that I wasn't prepared for the emotional toll it was going to take. Design Cause is still $69, 760 away from our goal. In my naivety I was hoping to have already raised the money and be overseeing construction in Cameroon this month. Things don't work out as planned and that's just life. The journey is where the growth happens.
As I struggle to express my passion and commitment to those around me, I hope that you will see this project, business in general, and nonprofit work in a slightly different light. Yes, it is fulfilling, but that is because the road to get there is filled with potholes bigger than what you find in Northern Cameroon, and they are never where you think they will be.
But it's like they say- "Nothing worth having comes easy."
That's not to say that everything about this journey has been negative. I have learned an incredible amount throughout each step of this process, from setting up the website and getting 501 (c)(3) status, to hosting my first event, learning how to edit video, talking to potential donors, and strategizing what the next steps will be. Everything has been a first and it has been exciting. Design Cause has embedded itself into my emotional state in a way that I didn't think was possible. Now that I fully understand how strongly tied I am to the results of our projects, I know that there is no way our first one won't become a reality. As unbearable as this journey has been at times, and will be in the future, I know that I couldn't live with myself if Design Cause wasn't able to build these classrooms.
I invite everyone to become a part of this tumultuous but important journey with me. Together there will be highs, and I can guarantee there will be lows, but in the end our first project will become a reality and I hope you can say you were a part of it from the beginning.
If you want to be a part of this incredible project you can 'Join the Cause' here: