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Joan Goes to Washington: An Update

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I wanted to bring you up to date on what's been happening with this whirlwind fundraiser to bring DVDs to Washington DC and the "Take Back America" Conference next month. I can't take credit for the wonderful idea of bringing DVDs and conference delegates together. That honor goes to Rob Kall, my editor at OpEdNews. What he neglected to tell me was that the project would fall entirely in my lap and have to be funded and executed within an incredibly short period of time. Thanks, Rob!

Fundraising on this scale is uncharted territory for me. Since September, I've been in the more relaxed "I need seventy dollars to order some more DVDs in the next few days" mode. This is that, only on steroids.

I've collected a few stories along the way. I was visiting family friends one evening last week. They have heard all about the "Invisible Ballots" project since its inception. One of their kids, a newly minted college grad, took me aside as I was leaving. This is what he said: "I had a little extra money and wanted to donate it to a good cause. My mother sent me the article about your project a few days ago and I'd like to make a contribution. Please don't say anything about it to my family." Then, he gave me a hug and quietly slipped a check for $100 into my hand.

Another story. Last September, I had lunch with a friend of a childhood friend of my first cousin. We had never met before but were getting together to talk about my project, which was just getting launched. In fact, she was the very first one to borrow a copy of the DVD. Fast forward six months and I receive an invitation to a women's luncheon downtown for Washington Senator Maria Cantwell. I'm flattered, but I'm not a luncher and I'm terrible at small talk. I'll never get close to Senator Cantwell. This is not an enticing idea. The invitation comes from the woman I had lunch with in September. She has done fundraising for Sen. Cantwell in the past. It turns out that she is inviting me to an intimate affair with 25 women, each paying $1,000 for the privilege of lunching with the senator. I will be a guest, invited because of my political work. I am asked to bring a copy of the DVD to present to Sen. Cantwell. I go, reluctantly. It turns out to be quite fascinating. I meet active, involved women who are interested in my project. I make some connections. I get a chance to have dessert with Sen. Cantwell (she moves from table to table during the meal, a novel and quite effective technique). I present her with the DVD and she seems to listen to what I have to say. This is a perfect example of that adage: what goes around comes around. I never quite understood what it meant, but I do now.

A few days ago, I got an email response from someone to whom I offered the DVD. Apparently, we had already done this dance. Not only does he have the DVD, but he's been busy arranging group showings, one down and three to go. He explained his technique and concluded his email by saying "You're doing a wonderful thing, Joan. A great service to your country and, because we have so much influence, to the world. You and Bev Harris are my heroes. Bravo!" While I think his comment is (a bit) over the top, it's nice to have one's efforts appreciated. This is often a lonely job. I spend much more time on my computer than I do with any of my family members. It has become a friend and accomplice.

A contribution came today from CFER: Connecticut Citizens For Election Reform. Yes, they have the same name as our organization. CFER is run by four sprightly seniors who have put together a mailing list (real, with paper and stamps) of over 1,000 and focus on campaign finance reform in their home state. They discovered that we shared the same name a few months ago when I posted something to OpEdNews and someone forwarded it to them. Conversation ensued about one of us changing our name. We came to the conclusion that coexistence was possible. This week, I got a call from Marv at CFER. He wanted to tell me that they had decided to send a check for my project. This was noteworthy because it is the first time that they've made a contribution to another organization. They're usually busy trying to raise funds for themselves.

So. What have we accomplished so far?

The Internet has helped my campaign enormously. Let me give you an example of how powerful this network is. Exactly two weeks ago tonight, I made my initial appeal. Since then, I have received forty donations, ranging from $10-$100, with one incredibly generous donation of $200. Pretty amazing! Let's analyze where those donations came from. Fourteen are from people I know personally: friends, family, members of my community. Seven are people I've had prior e-mail contact with either through OpEdNews or my lending library project. Three are friends of friends (but not known to me personally). And the largest group, sixteen, are total strangers. They either read an OpEdNews piece that I wrote or got it from a friend. So, virtually half of the total number of contacts occurred through that chain letter effect I'm so fond of citing. Geography is no barrier to this force. An example. I live in Chicago. My cousin Diane lives in San Francisco. She made a donation and then sent my letter on to her friend, Sheri. Sheri also sent in some money and passed the appeal on to her friend, Lesley, who also sent in a donation. Where it will go from there remains to be seen. But the dynamics of this are fascinating. And productive. More than half of the contributions came from people that, prior to the Internet, I would have had absolutely no way of reaching. Coming from a very low-tech person, that's quite an admission.

Nineteen of the contributions, or almost half, came in the last three days. A few short days ago, I was deeply concerned (euphemism for "basically flipping out") that I would have to come up with several thousand dollars myself. I'm just not worried any more.

In one of my early OpEdNews pieces, I wrote that we stand on the shoulders of those who precede us. Likewise, each success has many mothers, regardless of our reluctance to acknowledge them. I have enjoyed the support of many. My own mother has been the biggest cheerleader ever. Everyone needs someone like her. She has avidly followed new developments as they unfold, savoring every contact, donation and accompanying story. Several days ago, she kindly offered to pay my plane fare to Washington. I was not too proud to accept. Judy, my fellow Citizen for Election Reform, has tirelessly manned the phones, enlisting support for my project. My boss and political comrade, Lori, is always full of great ideas and enthusiasm. A special thanks to Michelle, my new-found political buddy, who has supported my project from the get-go and been there with mailers, stamps, office supplies and cold hard cash. Also, and not less important, she likes organizing and comes periodically to help me dig out from under the mountains of papers on my desk. (I think it's that time again!) My dear brother John repeatedly walked me through a dress rehearsal for a phone conversation that I did not want to have. With his help, I was able to pull it off like a professional.

The list is long and undoubtedly boring and meaningless to you. Did it begin to sound like an Academy Awards acceptance speech? Perhaps. But, without each and every one of these crucial pieces (and other, unnamed but much appreciated helpers), this project would not/could not happen. Three days ago, I was still hyperventilating about the deep hole in my pocket after this junket to DC. Today, I am relieved. I feel a thousand times better. People have come through. They have affirmed the merits of my campaign. I liked the concept, but I wasn't truly confident that we could pull this off. I'm delighted to be proven wrong. This is happening because all of us are working together to make it happen. Like the galleys of old, where a shipload of rowers worked in tandem. Separate but together: each an essential part of the whole. With your help, I placed my order for 3,000 DVDs last night. I couldn't have done that without you. Many thanks for your vote of confidence in this project and in me.

Again, I urge you to subscribe to John Gideon's Daily Voting News. John connects the dots by reporting on election developments across the nation.

If you would like to jump on the bandwagon, contact and make a donation. It will be gratefully received. There is still much to be done. Welcome aboard!

If you'd like to read the various OpEd pieces which described the genesis and progress of this lending library project go to : my webpage
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Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of (more...)

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