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Why I had to beg in the streets of Jerusalem

Why I had to beg in the streets of Jerusalem

August 09, 2012

For a time this week, I was reduced to a beggar in the streets of Jerusalem just like this man. Read on to find out what happened...

It's true. I really was begging in the streets of Jerusalem this week.

I'll tell you why I was reduced to a beggar and what happened in a moment, but first let me ask you a question: What's the most important trait of which a leader can never have too much?

Is it experience? Charisma? Emotional intelligence? Extroversion? Self-esteem?

I'll tell you what I think it is ' and how that landed me in the street stopping strangers and begging for any coins I could get'

One trait you can never have enough of

The most important trait of which a leader can never have too much, I believe, is this: Humility.

As I've been studying the great leaders in history here in Jerusalem, I've discovered that the greatest leaders were also the most humble. Without it, all kinds of leaders in history, and even today, became arrogant and self-centered, and ultimately wind up losing everything they had worked so hard to gain. Humble leaders, however, are more sensitive to their employees, their customers, the people they love most, and even people they meet for the first time.

This is one of our core principles at Brand Launcher. We firmly believe that for our clients to really understand their markets, for example, they have to walk a mile in the moccasins of their customers. They have to humble themselves enough to empathize.
Otherwise, they can never truly understand what their customers are going through to help them solve their challenges.

My personal challenge

My study of humility has also challenged me personally and it's something I've been working on improving. Look, I've been blessed with many wonderful things in my life. I've been trying to find ways to integrate my humility, which led me to begging in the street. Here's what happened'

How I ended up begging in the streets of a foreign land

Most beggars hand out a few coins hoping passersby will drop off some spare change. Many of us do the same thing in our businesses. But I have a better idea. Read on to find out more...

I went to pick up my son at an event in Jerusalem earlier this week but I arrived an hour early. I noticed some beggars who were invisible to those walking past them. I've walked past them too, many times. Many of us often drop a shekel in their hand but don't actually engage with them as we look down on them and judge them: 'Why don't they get a job?' 'I don't know. he looks pretty well fed.' 'I just gave to someone else.' 'I don't know this person's organization.' 'I don't like the way they look.' The judgments are a blur.

So I had this idea, why don't I step into the shoes of a beggar and let the experience improve my humility. You know, no stature, no respect, a bit of derision. So I decided to become a beggar for a period of time. I saw some beggars collecting for themselves, some collecting for others with the coins in their hands reaching out for any change someone could spare. I struck up a conversation with one of them who was collecting for needy families in Jerusalem and he had an official letter of approbation from someone whom I knew and trusted. I asked him if I could use his letter and his bowl he told me no.

I made a deal with him. Anything I collected I would give to him and he would distribute the money. So I got a box and started collecting. All I got was a few coins and lots of people brushing me off; I found it quite frustrating. No one wanted to give me the time of day. They didn't want to be bothered by me ' and give up their hard-earned money to someone like me ' a beggar.

I also realized that I've been blessed to study advertising and fundraising campaign techniques. Not just that, but I've practiced a great many of these with clients. I didn't know much about begging, but I did know fundraising and persuasion!

First I had to have a compelling story

I asked the other collector to tell me the most heartfelt, specific story that he knew about on behalf of the people for whom we were collecting. I didn't want just generalities, I needed something specific and compelling. Something that had curiosity, emotional impact and specificity. Now listen closely because this is really key. His first response was "I DON'T KNOW."

This is a huge problem and we see it all the time. Whenever you ask a company or a supplier, "Tell me deeply about your customers, and how your product, service, or donations make a huge difference in their lives," they usually are clueless! So you must push on and ask for a real story. I did. He told me that there was a family who has a disabled child. But the people who are really suffering was the family, because it was crazy hard for them, expensive, the other children were being neglected, as a whole family of caregivers the family was falling apart. Now I had the ammunition that I needed -- a compelling story.

Next I needed to change the game and expectations


Sometimes we get so busy chasing dimes, we step right over the opportunities to raise dollars.

What do you do if you really want to collect bigger donations?

You must change the expectations. I saw most beggars had a handful of shekel coins and received a single or half shekel coins (that's about $0.12-$0.25). So I took a couple of $100 bills from my pocket along with some other larger Israeli bills and put them into a box with a few shekels. You see if you expect a little from the world you will get a little. If you expect a lot you will get a lot (provided you are doing the right thing). I realized that most of us are stepping on the dollars and chasing the dimes. If you ask for pennies, you'll get pennies. Ask for dollars and you'll get dollars.

Next, I changed the approach from mass marketing to target marketing

If you ask for a little, you'll get a little. Ask for a lot and you'll get a lot. As I started showing people the types of donations I was expecting, the bar was raised and soon people were donating larger amounts as I worked towards my goal of raising the equivalent of $1000 for a disabled child and her family.

I saw most beggars stood with their hands open asking everybody who walked by, 'Charity please." This wasn't working, most ignored them and those who gave only gave a coin. So I realized it's better to target fewer people who could give bigger donations. I started looking at peoples faces, into their eyes, how fast they were walking, how they carried themselves and the clothes they wore. Only then did I decide whom to approach. I needed to be able to have a short conversation with them and actually engage them.

Lastly, I needed a reason with urgency. I decided to tell people about our specific goal of having to reach the equivalent of $1000 by the end of the night. By doing this they were more likely to give a larger donation and help reach a specific milestone.

Now I was ready. I had a compelling story, changed the positioning from begging to leading a campaign with a specific goal, urgency and a way to target the market. So what were the results?

Within no time, I was raising far more than any of the beggars around me. Why? First, because I had a story to tell. A story that I knew would be compelling enough for people to stop for a moment. Before that, I was just trying to interrupt people. That's interrupt marketing ' and it's the worst possible position to be in. If you find yourself trying to stop people so you can make your pitch, stop!

Secondly, I didn't try to appeal to everyone. I identified those who I thought would be interested to hear my message and could afford larger donations. As I approached them, I said to them, 'Excuse me, I know you're busy but can I ask you to take a moment to help me raise money for a disabled girl and her family?' I asked permission so they would stop and listen. Permission marketing is always better than interrupt marketing.

Some walked right by, but many more people were stopping and donating. I received a 20 shekel bill instead of just half shekel coins' it was working! I was feeling really good about myself. Within a very short time I raised quite a bit of money as the beggars around me were trying to collect any change they could. I was feeling very proud of myself how I figured it out, improved the system and raised a bunch of money for poor people. When I was done for the evening I gave all the money I collected to the other collector and then it was distributed to the families we spoke about.


Here's the irony: I actually became more arrogant from my experience. It didn't humble me at all. I became so proud of myself and totally forgot about my goal of becoming more humble!!!

I learned two very valuable things from my short time as a beggar.

  1. We must act radically to work on ourselves and humility is something I must continue to work on.
  2. also learned several valuable things about fundraising and marketing from my experience I want to share.

Don't ignore this and think, I'm not into fundraising. This is applicable to ALL business people.

There are basically two types of people in the world (when it comes to fundraising and selling) and you need to identify what kind are you:

  1. (1) those who comfortable asking for money outside of the office and, (2) those who are comfortable asking for money from inside the office.

Here are two questions for you:

  1. Which type of style do you need?
  2. More importantly, which style is more comfortable for you?


To find out which style you're better suited for, try our Sales Style Matrix when you GO HERE. What I've found is that most people love one style and hate the other. There is usually no in-between.

Take, for example, Isaac G., who is a friend and one of the best fundraisers I've ever seen. He's literally raised millions of dollars for his organization. He does his best in one-on-one meetings and schmoozing at receptions, dinner parties, social events and sitting with people over coffee. Another friend, David F., is a brilliant fundraiser for his organization but he is a marketer who hates soliciting people one-on-one. He's much better at creating direct mail pieces, letters, and campaigns from his office where he's raising millions of dollars.

Here's what's funny about these two guys, neither can relate to the other one's style. David's skin crawled when he 'tried' Isaac's way, and Isaac failed when he 'tried' David's way. Look most organizations need both: one-on-one sales and a strong marketing system. If you are strong in one play to your strength and find someone who can compensate for your weakness.

Which Sales Style is best for you? What do you need to do now? Find out for yourself when you GO HERE.

7' money making takeaways you can use right now

Download our Sales Style Matrix and find out for yourself which style is best for you and what it means to you and your organization.

And whether you're meeting someone one-on-one in their living room, marketing online or you're sending them a letter by mail, here are 7 takeaways:

1. Target your message
    1. to those who will most likely listen. Don't try to stop everyone on the street. Instead, identify your Hungry Fish and work in a small pond.

2. Address objections immediately. Once I started introducing myself by saying, 'Excuse me, I know you're busy' I eliminated the most obvious objection -- "I'm busy!" -- so I could present my story.

3. Get a compelling story instead of broad generalities

4. Stop chasing dimes and stepping on the dollars. If you ask for small things, you'll get small things. Ask for larger things and you'll get more. Raise the bar.

5. Change your positioning from beggar/sales person to person of influence and importance

6. Set a specific goal with urgency ' and let everyone know your goal. Once I told people I was trying to raise 1,000 shekels for a specific family, they realized that I expected them to contribute more and that this was really important and urgent.

7. Be willing to take no for an answer. Be willing to accept the fact that many -- perhaps most -- people will say no. (Most direct mail fortunes have been made on response rates of less than 3%!) Move on to the next person. Don't take it personally. Understand that it's about them, not you, and be willing to try again ' and again ' and again.

7'. Work on your humility, you can never have too much humility just misplaced false pride or lack of self worth.


Try it yourself. And if you really want to work on your own humility trait try putting yourself to the test, or try begging in the streets for a little while.

Always taking you from where you are to where you want to go,


Jon Goldman, President