In the Face of Rejection, Ask for Something Else
The process of putting together The Afghan Women’s Project took nine months. I began to feel like a Roomba–I’d keep going in one direction until I hit a wall and then I’d go in another.
Cold calling organizations asking to work for them in exchange for things I needed was, at first, excruciating. But I learned to do it and became good at it. First I’d make an outline for my script, and write out my first line. Then I’d pump myself up and make the call. I batched all of my calls and once I got in the swing of it, calling became easier.
I’ll never forget my call to one of the editors of a top photo magazine in NYC. I was given the lead by the director of my photo school and was told to call his office very early in the morning. He answered gruffly, speaking fast—NYC style—asking what I wanted. When I explained that I wanted a donation of some simple film cameras to give to RAWA* members so they could document Human Rights abuses from under their burqas, he went off in a rapid-fire tirade, saying that EVERYONE calls him asking for stuff and who was I to bother him with it. Somehow, I held onto my composure and asked him, since he couldn’t help me did he know anyone who could? I could almost hear him relax and he gave me the name of a woman at Canon who ended up generously donating a box full.
That was one of my larger lessons. When people reject your proposal, ask them for something else. Often they feel bad about being asked for things they can’t/don’t want to give. I had the feeling that his gruff reply was a self defense strategy and by asking for a referral, I was asking for something that he could give, and he could feel good about himself. I could hear it in his voice.