The challenges of asking for a favor

Written by Johanna-Mai Riismaa, Zelos CEO

woman helping others

One of the issues volunteer coordinators share with me during coffee breaks (or happy hours!) is the feeling of personally running out of favors to ask. I often see this in organizations that host events with hectic schedules, where things are so busy that the call-to-action for volunteers is always “please do this thing”. 

Volunteer coordinators often have to go around asking for favors, an activity which can pretty quickly turn personal.

Since it’s always YOU asking SOMEONE to do something, you feel the need to reciprocate their effort. You also feel vulnerable when asking for help, because you depend on a “yes”.

Usually, this retaliates with regular complaints: Why was this not scheduled before? Why isn’t someone taking care of it already? 

This can easily make you feel responsible for the task, and uneasy about the “bad” planning that maybe isn’t even that bad, or maybe could not have been prevented.

And sometimes you get a straight “no”. 

Dealing with rejection

When a volunteer rejects one of your requests, you might feel uneasy asking for a favor the next time. You might wonder if you are asking for too much, doubt their commitment to your cause, or feel ashamed of having to delegate tasks instead of doing them yourself. 

It is the clash of this personal vulnerability and fear of rejection what makes volunteer coordinators struggle. To deal with this, we need to accept that we might not be able to reciprocate every favor we receive and that there are good people willing to go the extra mile.

In a world where bad news is broadcasted 24/7, we often underestimate how many people might agree to help or know someone who can. As American entertainer Mr Rogers said, we need to look for the helpers. 

Although requesting a favor is a challenge, it is my opinion that we should be more open to asking for help. This can lead you to build better relationships, a benefit known as The Benjamin Franklin effect.

Why favors matter

Favors benefit both the person who gives and the person who is aided and might make the giver more willing to help in the future.

Even if people say no, asking for favors will help you to build confidence and resilience as a coordinator. Keep in mind that all volunteers have the right to choose which tasks they will and will not do. Learn how to distance yourself from asking favors by changing how you approach this activity.

Keep things professional by setting up a process in which you keep track of what needs to be done and who you can ask for help, delegate activities using a task management software, and make reports that can help you improve your coordination skills. 

By asking favors using a professional instead of a personal approach, you reduce the uneasiness caused by the process and lessen the pain of rejection. And when you overcome this fear and look proactively for a “yes”, you are bound to find the road to success.