Can I stop you for a minute?
At some point during general chit chat I’ll get asked the all important question; “So what do you do?” I try and explain but most people glaze over when I mention data and numbers, analysis usually makes them catatonic. What they hear is “Blah, blah, blah FUNDRAISING blah blah blah CHARITY” They then launch into one of two monologues. Version one is where they tell me about all their charity work, they put money into every collection box they pass and would I care to join their school’s/church’s/toddler group’s fundraising committee? In version two I get a rant over the desecration of our streets and doorsteps by Chuggers; Charity Muggers if I wasn’t already aware of the term.
I don’t know which is worse?
My answer to number one is a polite thank you, but it’s not my forte – I’m not that type of fundraiser. And my response to the second? Well let’s just say it’s a bit more complicated.
In our recent history different industries have been put under the spotlight, for reasons that are entirely justified. The banking sector is still firmly in the public’s sights for what is seen as a flagrant abuse of their position within our society. Most recently care homes and carers have come under scrutiny. But with an objective head on, can we say that the behaviours of part of these industries or some of the people employed to deliver these services are representative of the entire sector?
Fundraising is the same.
I will never be able to tolerate poor and unacceptable behaviour by any fundraiser – especially if they choose to justify their shoddy actions as being in the name of charity. Wrong is wrong. But how can I, personally, justify what others see as aggressive and intrusive?
Regular donations are the lynch pin of most charities, without which many would cease to exist. And despite most people providing emotional support to one or more charities the majority of them would never make a donation unless they were asked. My experience with so many different charities, big and small, reflects this; completely unsolicited donations are rare.
That means charities have no choice but to fly in the face of our Britishness and ask for money. We just don’t do it. It’s an affront to our national psyche.
The fundraiser’s doing the asking are just like you and me, so be nice. If it’s not convenient then let them know. Arrange another time for them to call perhaps. Or, and this is the really radical idea, explain to them that you appreciate their efforts, but you would rather support a charity that was in the UK/overseas/helped animals/helped children. If you’re being asked to increase the amount you already donate, only do it if you can afford it/want to, if not, say no.
And this is the point – it’s OK to say no.
I suspect that as a society that has been built on politeness, stiff upper lips and regular discourse on the weather, we just don’t like the directness of most of the modern fundraising techniques employed. We can argue about the legitimacy of these methods, paying the fundraisers or their unwelcome approaches but these say more about us as a collective. I’m not comfortable being approached either, yet I know how valuable direct fundraising (of any kind) is. So maybe next time we’re stopped and asked for if we have a minute or if we answer the phone to be asked if now’s a good time, we’ll stop and listen. And if you really can’t do it…then there’s always the internet – a grand place for setting up a direct debit, without having to talk to anyone.