I spot them from a block away, in their matching t-shirts with their backpacks, folders, pamphlets and clipboards, assailing the passing crowds with all-to-cheery greetings.
While I’m making my way to my next downtown meeting, they want me to pledge money to save the rainforest, Planned Parenthood and everything in between.
Without further ado, here are the successive levels of guilt they provoke in me.
1) Guilt in the Face of Poverty and Disaster: I should give money to such a worthy cause, and yet here I am, studiously examining something on the other side of the street until I’m past the canvassers.
2) Not-Doing-Enough Guilt: I don’t make any pledges to the canvassers because I already make a monthly donation to the charity of my choice, plus a dollar or two at every check-out counter in town that’s raising money for abandoned pets, gardens for inner-city youth or care packages for US troops. But almost half the world’s population lives on less than $2.50 a day. Surely I can do more.
3) Interpersonal Guilt: I am annoyed by the irreverent familiarity with which the canvassers address me, but then, what am I doing to make a better world? They’re just using any means necessary to get money for a good cause.
The following images are true stories:
4) First-World Sympathy Guilt: I should have pity on these idealistic, hard-working kids and help them meet their quotas by making a pledge. Canvassing must be a grueling job – little respect, quotas to meet, outside on the street all day and low pay (I read an article about it once). The unemployment rate for young Americans is sky-high and I want to support the work they’ve managed to find.
5) Self-Directed Mental Guilt: As I swing wide over the sidewalk to avoid them, I upbraid myself for the onslaught of useless thoughts that just prevented me from making a difference in the world. What other opportunities am I missing because I’m mired in selfish over-thinking?
I feel a follow-up statement is warranted here, given the response to this piece. While walking down the street of a nearby neighborhood where I was on assignment, canvassers assailed me: “do you have a moment for the Appalachian forests?” I demurred and passed by. Later, in a fitting finish to the ruckus over this post, I found myself seated next to the very same canvassers on the train home. I have yet to completely vanquish the five levels of guilt.
interesting city perspective! i receive the occasional telemarketing calls with a pretty good script… i wonder when that will be ancient history?
I used to hate telemarketers. Then I realized that they’re just people trying to do their job, and it’s a really hard job. Nevertheless, I joined the national do-not-call lists, which I can tell you isn’t foolproof – I still get unsolicited sales calls.
my sister had make calls to collect bills; a hard job. i am definitely nice, but obviously not as nice as my husband who donated once a few years back and put us on multiple lists, lol. it just seems like an outdated method, but it must still work.
Yeah, bill collecting must rate up in the top ten most emotionally grueling jobs ever. Thanks for your comments.
I had two telemarketing jobs in college! Now I always take pity on phone solicitors, and if they’re just doing a survey I’ll take it. Plus I can answer my friends’ questions about how to get off the call lists.
Now those phone surveys where there’s a machine reading the questions? Those have lost all my sympathy!
yeah, no reason to be nasty to phone solicitors – they’re just employees in a wider system. Once I got a survey-giver who was obviously really nervous and fumbled the questions. He admitted that it was one of his first calls on the job. So I was nice and answered his questions even though I didn’t want to (they were about some home-fragrance product I would never EVER use)
That’s a refreshing perspective on telemarketers. My first job out of college was telemarking calls– but they were to people who had put their phone number somewhere on some form requesting information. Be that as it may, people were downright nasty to me. Nothing like having a total stranger make you cry at 9 o clock in the morning just because you called them on the phone number that they provided to try and give some information that they requested. Sheesh.
I wish more people would remember that there is a human being with feelings on the other end of the line!
Thanks! That goes for all customer service venues. I think that everyone should have to spend a couple months behind a cash register. For some reason, a lot of people think that being nasty to the front-line customer service staff can solve problems like complaints about discount or return or promotional policies, store hours or what products are stocked. Newsflash: the poor chick behind the counter doesn’t have control over any of those policies. Ok, I know that was a bit of a tangent. But I think similar principles apply for folks mad at telemarketers’ calls.
This is spot-on — and then I always feel guilty avoiding the canvassers, who obviously feel guilty on their own. It’s very meta…
Glad I’m not alone.
My rule of thumb is to never make eye contact, and an iPod helps too!
I work for a nonprofit so I’m always up for supporting a good cause, but some of them get way too pushy. Also, if I’m not familiar with the organization I’m not going to just randomly give them money without looking into them.
Good point about the research. I have trouble with iPod thing b/c I don’t wear mine when I walk downtown. between seeing other ladies get their purses snatched and reading about the huge uptick in pedestrian deaths due to headphones, I like to keep as aware as I can when I’m in the city!
Many also swing a cell phone out and pretend to be immersed in the conversation as they blissfully pass them by.
I agree, there are actually several “non profit” organisation that spend a crazy amount, like 33%, of their earnings in commissions for the canvassers. These companies have been repeatedly blasted on forums and blogs for their unethical conduct and conniving ways. The leader of a team often is so despicable and conscience-free in getting his daily sign-ups that he will do whatever it takes necessary with each passer-by. Seriously. So only give to charities you trust and have researched.
Well, in “nice” Seattle, we have these obnoxious canvassers. They’re not all bad but some seem a bit hostile in how zealous they are and they do get in your face. It’s a shame. I see they’re desperately trying to meet their quota or else face the wrath of their crew leader in some dingy little office.
yeah, that’s totally the image I have of these folks.
The reason I don’t give money to canvassers is A) how do I know I can trust them, B) I already have charities that I have alloted my donation budget to and I can’t afford to add any more, as much as I would like to save everything in the world.
Or you could pull a reverse guilt trip on the canvassers.
“You’d do better if you work directly for the organization that’s pimping out the fundraising company that hired you. Or at least demand a bigger cut.”
I usually have very little cash on me, so I can get away with turning them down and not feeling guilty. But I do donate as much as I can when I can. Mostly I donate to human rights groups, ’cause let’s face it, humans can be pretty cruel to other humans.
They don’t want me to give them my cash – they want me to sign up with a pledge to the charity so they can e-mail and write and call me forever and ever begging for even MORE money!
Oh, they do that to me too! Not too long ago I got stopped by members of a gay-rights group. Now I’ve got a letter on my desk from them urging me to write my senators.
As soon as I signed up to donate to my charity (for international relief from famine and natural disasters), all I get are letters begging to me to give more than I already do…maybe one day I can afford it but right now they’re getting all I can give!
You sound just like my dad. He says the same thing every time he sees a canvasser or someone working for a charity.
I’m always hanging out with older folks, they must be rubbing off on me…
that’s not necessarily a bad thing. but if you find your life ruled by your job, that’s the pont where you need to take a break and step back or you’ll go crazy.
I used to feel guilty, too, until I established a policy in my own mind and then stuck to it. Unless they’re pushy or overfamiliar, I’m fine with them doing what they’re doing. If I don’t want to get on their mailing list, I tell them so and don’t sign, even if I give them money — and I only do that when I’m entirely sure of the organization. Usually, I smile and tell them that I only donate to groups I know well, and that it’s rarely on the street. The intelligent ones understand this. The others don’t have the power to make me feel guilty.
Nice perspective. Thanks.
That is a brilliant idea
Dont’ feel guilty about these people. They are mostly ‘charity muggers’ or ‘chuggers’ and paid to be there. You are not. I am entitled to walk down the street without being harassed by strangers, and get very angry when they accost me when I am clearly not interested in them. They sometimes get really offensive – I have reported a few. The worst was a Big Issue seller who said, ‘Ive been snubbed by better looking broads than you’ We’ve all got problems, but there is no need for this. In business, you generally need 10 good reviews for every bad one. They need to read and respect the body language of the public. They will make more money that way and make the rest of our lives a lot more bearable.
Yeah, there’s no call for rudeness.
“‘Ive been snubbed by better looking broads than you’”
A: “Honey, you’ve probably been snubbed by every woman on Earth!”
Don’t be silly, dear. How could one person possibly be snubbed by every woman on earth? And the fact that someone like Newt Gingrich has married three times proves that no man is going to be snubbed by everyone…
Sorry, I didn’t realize I should have suggested only completely factually verifiable comebacks for rude charity muggers.
Didn’t you see the tagline of this blog? Fiction Need Not Apply. I want all literalism, all the time.
I work in Washington so these people are everywhere, especially Chinatown because it’s a shopping district. I actually had someone try to collect money off me for the Democratic National Committee. I don’t think I said anything except “No,” but that really disgusted me. I help charities of my choice, but I tend to avoid causes like the plague. Too bad they don’t avoid me. 😉
If only we could determine who avoids US – it’s just not enough to avoid things under your own power…
I’m so fed up with them am thinking of getting cards printed with ‘whatever you’re plugging, i don’t care.’
wouldn’t you resent the expense of printing the cards? and then they could argue that whatever you spent on the cards, you should’ve just donated to them…
I used to feel guilty until I saw an advert for canvassers for some of the biggest UK charities, and the pay was £2 more an hour than what I earn.. I choose the charities I give money too in the privacy of my own home, not depending on how annoying someone in the street is.
I work in Boston and there are canvassers out ALL THE TIME! I understand that they are just doing a job (please, I used to work in customer service – I try to be nice to *everyone*) but I find them so annoying. If I have to walk by them without something to distract me, I just politely decline and go on my way. My main issue is that I just don’t know where my “donation” is going. Is it going directly to a starving child in Africa, or an employee’s 401K? (Okay, maybe that’s exaggerating…) I’m much more likely to donate to a friend or smaller, reputable non-profit where I could see my donation being used. Anyway, great post! Congrats on being Freshly Pressed.
Yep – how much of my donation is padding a CEO’s pocket and how much is actually helping to get clean water to children, etc etc…Thanks for visiting, I’m glad yo enjoyed the post.
The worst is when they get you with something clever. I was fooled by one because he told me I was going to help him with a project he was doing for school. Yeah right.
The other day, two young men came to my door trying to sell me something I did not need. I told them “No thank you. I am in debt and cannot afford it”. One of them then asked me for some water, so, I got it for him.
Then, they wanted to know if there was a port-a-potty around that they could use. I laughed and said there were no port-a-potties around the neighborhood that I knew of (I was not going to give them access to my home).
I hate turning people down, so I give what I can and am cautious when its called for.
Thank you for not letting them come into your home! Several months ago one of the news stories I wrote was about a local woman who let a man in who asked to use her phone or something like that – she was terribly assaulted. Not everyone who knocks on your door is nasty, but please, people, don’t open your house to strangers!!
Interesting perspective from the city and comparing that to college campuses. I’ve been on both sides, the one asking for donations (without pay though) for a cause (Hi, would you like to help schools in the US by donating a few change?) as well as the college student whipping out her phone to pretend to be texting\on the phone with someone to avoid being attacked by sororities\fraternities asking for donations. Even worse is when you want to donate but don’t have money\rushing to class and they say, “You could just say no!” All kinds of guilt because you know how it feels to be rejected in a sense. Knowing what it feels like to be on that side I have definitely donated more when I pass by fellow colleagues. Just going off one of the comments above, “respecting body languages” sometimes people who look the angriest are the ones who actually donate. It’s a rough job, a lot of what I’ve learned through my multiple experiences is saying, “What the heck, I’m never going to see these people again.”
But I don’t know! Maybe it’s different since when we (well myself and my org) ask for donations we aren’t getting paid…we genuinely care about the cause.
Just putting in my 2 cents!
Thanks for your visit and your perspective – glad you enjoyed the post.
I feel guilty too, but I usually just say “I’m sorry, but I am in a HUGE hurry right now. Thanks though!!”
Alot of the times, I don’t even have cash on me even if I wanted to help.
Yeah, I often go with, “sorry, I’ve got a train to catch!” Best part is that that’s usually true.
I dont mind health related causes. My bigest guilt trip is the girl scout cookies. I love them but i inhale them. I want to support the girls but I cant have that stuff in my house.
Too right you are. I haven’t bought them for years for exactly the same reason. Also, the incessant shrill cries of “Girl scout cookies, girl scout cookies” in the train station, day after day as I pass through, gets wearing (forgive me my girl-scout Scroogery).
i work in downtown DC, where you see the clipboard crews all the time. i feel a tinge of guilt when these baby-faced college kids try to flag me down on my way to the train, trying to get home after work. but then, i think about all the people who stop to bother me for something in my short two block walk to the train — businesses distributing flyers, homeless asking for money, dumb kids scamming for money, tourists asking for directions, and that damn liddy larouche pac that sets up shop here in DC — i don’t feel so guilty anymore. i just want to make my short walk without everyone in the world bothering me. thankfully, headphones help to weed out some and temper any remaining guilt.
Getting from point A to point B in the city without everyone in the world bothering you is an increasingly futile exercise. Maybe you’ll enjoy this post I wrote awhile ago about a particularly persistent subset of the harassers: people who beg for transit fare.
My late father (who preferred to do his charitable donations anonymously) had two techniques to cope with unsolicited requests for his cash.
Those telephone callers who invariably asked him “How are you?” in an effort to get on his good side would receive a non-stop 20 minute recitation of every little medical ache and pain to which he was then subject.
Then when he ran out of steam he would say “But enough about ME – how are YOU? They always gave up at that point – sometimes laughing!
Anyone accosting him in the street with a clipboard was told “Yes, I will happily answer your questions. My rates are £5 for the first three or you can have eight for £10. How would you like to pay?”
Always, though, done with a smile.
Thanks. I should adopt his method for every person who figures out I’m press and then tries to pitch me on their organization or event while I’m out covering another story. How many dollars should it cost for me to listen to them for five minutes and promise to consider writing about them?
I would ask your friendly local political lobbyists what they would have to pay – it’s how many politicians make a living after all!
I would, however, try to avoid cash transactions. I don’t know how things are in your part of the world but here in the UK a woman taking cash from a stranger (even one with a clipboard) on the street can quickly get a bad reputaion!
Forgot to say “Congratulations on Freshly Pressed status”.
Thanks Alfie! I don’t find that canvassers in Philly want your cash on the spot. Rather, they want me to give my contact info, sign up for a financial pledge, join the organization’s roles of official donors…all of which is infinitely more than I ever want to do when I’m hurrying down the street.
I always feel the guilt too, however, I really want to know about the charities I contribute to. I will always politely ask for the website so I can research things like overhead (how much of my money is REALLY going to help the deforestization of the rainforest???), if the organization is even real (I’ve def been scammed by more than a couple canvassers), and then I look to see if I really can contribute a meaningful amount.
Yep. Crucial to do your homework and check out how the organization is rated by legitimate charity watchdogs. I think there’s tons of “charities” out there that send a pretty paltry amount to the needy versus what goes into the staffers’ pockets.
The simplest response is to simply invite them in for dinner. All guilt will vanish by dessert time.
I once looked like. “You look like you’re love to support ________.”
My response was “Appearances can sometimes be deceiving.”
I have to be honest with you that I don’t feel any guilt whatsoever when I walk passed them and turn down their approaches, pleas, bored stares etc.
The way I see it, they’re paid $12-14 per hour, just so that they can take down my credit card number and charge me on a monthly basis. The annoyed me the most when I was in college and I would see them on the corners trying to get my money.
The way I see it, if I want to give to an organization – say Planned Parenthood – I will do so directly, maybe anonymously, maybe just by getting involved because I believe in the cause and not because someone who has to make a quota is asking me to.
Although, I do like the idea of charging them to ask me questions.
Thanks for implying the possibility of volunteering. That’s something I’ve done in the past when I don’t have funds to give. Your time can be even more valuable to some organizations than the paltry donation you can realistically afford. Plus volunteering is the BEST for career networking purposes! So you really do get something out of it for yourself that money can’t buy.
My worst is the Greenpeace kids- so earnest, and I totally believe in Greenpeace! But you know what- I pass them almost EVERY DAY, because they target a really busy shopping street that happens to be the shortest route to my bus stop. Every day. I cannot stop and talk every day. And, I am a teacher- I make shit. Ten lira every now and again is what I can afford to give. But then I feel awful for all the reasons you pointed out, and I feel like shouting, “I’m not shopping and ignoring you! If I had extra in my budget I’d totally give it to the oceans cause the oceans are important! Also, I’m late for my bus!” Instead I avoid eye contact and scurry on.
Just console yourself that you’re taking public transit instead of driving your own car all over creation. That’s got to be worth something.
Guilty? In NYC they come out in full-force! The only ones I have no problem with is Planned Parenthood- I gave $10 bucks once. But I go through hell trying to avoid the canvassers. I was once telemarketing (duped into doing it) while in high school while I was busy with school projects (not summer school mind you, just the summer homework that I needed to do to get promoted because it was a “new visions” school) and doing that while I gave up making calls (not at an office, someone’s apartment). It’s a horrible job, and rejection is painful. But the minute I hear a voice advertising for something I don’t need, I’m all the more grateful for answering machines. They need to eliminate telemarketing and save everybody the guilt trip.
Once I mistook a human telemarketer for a robo-call and made some comment just to blow off steam before hanging up. He stopped his pitch. “Do I really sound that bad?” he asked in a small, sad voice, when he realized that I thought he was a computer.
this comment made me laugh and a bit sad all at the same time..:P
The poll really says something, that yes! is at 0%. I do give to charities of my choice and often at the register, but I am less inclined to take time out of my day for canvassers. I did work a simliar job a few summers ago as a recruiter and was paid for every lead whether it panned out or not. If I have spare time in my day I will sign up with the canvasser as a fake person, because we all need to make money. If for some reason the cause they are promoting that day sparks my interest I will go home and look into it.
Wow, the fake sign-up! That shows extraordinary devotion to avoiding the guilt outlined in section 4!
Truth. I also take the pamphlets people hand out on the street and throw them away around the corner. I figure at least they are trying to make a living instead of living on unemployment or being homeless.
Wow, you’re wily and good-hearted, all at once!
I have heard that in many cases, very little (if any) of that money goes to those organizations. Just as when you donate a car, very little goes to the nonprofit. A lot of it is scams. Also the people who hire those naive young people are often charlatans who make them a lot of promises, and sometimes the workers don’t get paid. Some are paid on straight commission. At any rate, most of them could be spending their time a LOT more productively than that. You wouldn’t catch a kid of mine doing that. But volunteering, interning, working on a real job, making a real difference, yes.
Reputable nonprofit organizations don’t need to resort to these kinds of tactics because if their mission is worthy, people will support it. They also usually have a marketing arsenal at their disposal that does not involve this kind of chicanery. You want to support Planned Parenthood? Or any nonprofit? Write a check and mail it in. When you see these street solicitors, just keep walking.
They are a public nuisance.
But before you let any nonprofit play on your guilt, know this: the tax forms for these organizations are online. Just go to Guidestar and download the forms. It’s free.
I support the mission of Planned Parenthood. That is, the idea behind it. Less happy that (for the headquarters alone, not talking the hundreds of other centers) they spent more than 1 million dollars in their last reported tax year on a single consulting firm. And this does not count the millions spent on lobbying and fundraising expenses. And this is just one example.
Still want to fork over your cash?
I was ill-inclined to fork over my cash anyway, my cash barely covers my student loan payments as it is. Thanks for the level-headed info.
Be sure to read this, too http://www.sfweekly.com/2011-09-28/news/grassroots-campaign-nonprofit-solicitation-taylor-friedman/ It exposes the truth about these for-profit fundraisers (who hire clipboard kids)
Thanks for the link.
Often get calls for the local police athletic league or firefighters, to “help the kids.” Found out that these are commercial boiler room operations, contributing as little as 18% or less to the actual cause, the rest to the calling company. I always say send me the literature and I will look at it. There are enough legitimate causes out there, even local ones, to not waste money on these money mills.
I used to work at a charity who employed these canvassers, and I used to take all the customer service calls relating to the canvassers. The things they used to do to get people to sign up were unbelievable! They would out and out lie to people, and there was one person who followed this poor young girl to her car to get her credit card number and the girl was too intimidated to say no (this canvasser had a number of complaints against her but she was never disciplined because she consistently had the highest number of sign-ups).
Don’t feel bad for not signing up, because it’s much better to give the charity your donation directly. Outsourcing to these canvassers costs the charity millions of dollars a year, and the donor attrition rate is something like 90% in the first year because of the problems with these canvassers. I do feel bad for travellers who take these jobs to earn a crust for a couple of months but still. I just want to walk down the street without being assailed by someone who wants to shake my hand, and so do most people.
Walk down the street without being assailed. Sigh. What a lovely fantasy. As a city-worker and a woman, I know this will never, ever happen to me.
These are all great reads….man… Nice stuff Love, thanks for being incredibly good at what you love doing.
I don’t sweat this group of solicitors..
This clipboard brigade generally crosses the road to avoid ME!…..due of course to imposing presence and angry look on my face. Or, if they do accost me, I prefer to mess with them just a little… Or ask if they have change for a $500 bill….. “I’ll be needing $499 back please..”
two side notes Laina;
1) It’s a lot of fun to mess with telemarketers that call your home phone at 7:30 pm. My favorite is to listen for a sec, then ask them an interesting or suprising question…with my best English accent. My last one was, ” exactly how many people are in the room with you right now?”
2) Herds of little GirlScouts selling cookies. This used to bug me. Now I just them hand over a buck, and be glad I didnt buy and scarf down a whole box of Thin Mints on my way home.
Nice Girl Scout solution. I really can’t articulate in words how much I love Thin Mints.
Sometimes I think of what life’s like for you, Dad, when you walk down the street…a tall, muscular man with an infinite intimidation factor, instead of a short curvy blond girl. If people aren’t asking me for money or hitting on me, they’re begging me for directions. I practically have to build the interruptions into my travel time.
Great post and congats on FP! I really wanted a more emphatic ‘no’ option on the poll… Like a “F*** No!” I’m with you on this, mostly on point #2. I support the charities I choose to support, not the ones that seek me out. Unless I later choose to support them. What gets me is charity overhead that saps away donated money leaving less and less to help with the actual problem they claim to be working on. Charity Navigator, my best friend. I use it to check out and choose charities, based mostly on their financials and how much money actually ends up applied to the problem they’re about. Which is not to say that don’t also always donate the reusable bag credit at Whole Foods to whatever they’re supporting that day… But that’s only a dime. If they waste my whole dime on their CEO’s salary, well it’s just a dime.
yes but if they waste 50,000 people’s dimes on the CEO’s salary, where does that leave us…?
Exactly. Yeah… Just saying that’s where my otherwise rock-solid resolve does break down… 🙂
Could I use this in a therapy group?
Sure. I charge $175/hr for the first hour and $250/hr after that. You’ll just have to report to me how long you spend discussing my blog with the group and then I’ll send you an invoice.
I used to be a market researcher – yes, one of those people in the mall – and I hated the job, for many reasons. I will do surveys, in person or on the phone, if I have time and fit the demographic, but I NEVER donate money on the phone or in person, except for the bell ringers at Christmas. I don’t sign petitions because I don’t have time to really research what I’m signing. If I want to donate or sign a petition, I’ll research it first and I’ll be the one to do the deciding and follow up. Do I feel guilty? Sometimes but usually it’s drowned out by the annoyance. And enough people must be stopping and responding or they wouldn’t keep doing it.
Yeah, I’m sure people wouldn’t still canvass this way if it wasn’t bringing in $$$.
I can avoid the ones in the street, now I have to fend them off my front door step. People coming round with the little envelopes for spare change fine no problem, now the canvassers have started! I do give to charity but to come round your house it’s no better then begging. I would not give my card details to stranger no matter how much ID they have got!
Sometimes people offer ID with the strangest assumptions that it’ll make you trust them. Once a strange man drove up to me in SUV while I was walking out of the train station and offered me a ride. I said no, thanks. He said, “I’m an architect, I can show you my ID!” In what world does knowing your profession or looking at whatever you claim is your architect’s ID mean that I will decide to get in the car with a strange man?
agreed! cash or nothing to a stranger on the street.
Haha. We don’t have that kind of people here in Mexico. What we do have, however, is folks in white coats collecting for the Red Cross or various addiction clinics. You more or less feel the same kind of guilt when you drive past them, but at least you have the advantage of being in a car.
Whenever they ask me about carbon footprints, I tell them I am more concerned about my methane assprint – those bean burritos were just kickin in…
Are you my little brother?
why can’t I be a big brother for once? Or perhaps the capitalized version…
I’m sure big brothers talk like that too, but all I’ve got is a little brother so that’s my only reference. Sorry.
My policy is that I never give to a charity that I haven’t researched myself. So when approached by these people, I say some variation of, “Your cause sounds very worthwhile and I’ll research it when I get home and possibly make a donation online.” Which of course, I pretty much never do, because charities that outsource their fundraising to canvassers are highly unlikely to pass my stringent standards of how I think they should be spending their money.
Yes, when charities can accept donations through online systems, I’m hard-pressed to understand why it’s vital that I give my information to someone on the street. I guess statistically harassing people in the street is more effective than e-mailing them.
Yeah, they do it because they know people who otherwise would not donate will open their wallets because they are being put on the spot. And even if a charity isn’t set up for online donations (hard to believe that would be the case), I’m sure they will always take a check or cash through the mail. What those canvassers do is borderline robbery.
Yeah, canvassing is tough! A lot of times it is just signatures. When they do ask for money, I want to make sure that it is a legit organization. However, at school when they say out loud, “Do you want to save the whales?” and I say no, I feel really guilty.
It’s a tough job, right up there with phone solicitors. I get it. I work for a nonprofit. With an inside view, I secretly wish them well. I know we don’t compete for the same guilt besmirched dollars, and yet I resent being accosted while I’m trying to make my next meeting, or simply trying to enjoy a beautiful day on the city streets, thinking nice thoughts about the world in general.
I used to be a canvasser. I still hate them
Amen. So well put. They are ALWAYS in front of the grocery store. It makes it worse because it is a health food/ organic / local expensive store. You are clearly caring enough to put healthy food in your family’s mouth and you can afford not going down the hill to shop at Safeway… so there is no reason you do not have the ability to not care… is what they are thinking. There is only one enterance too. Makes it hard to avoid. The best trick is entering when someone else is moving a little bit faster. Headphones help too. I have to because if i gave to every single one, we’d be the ones needing handouts!
Operating on the street is one thing, but I think that’s really crossing a line, to stake out a store’s single entrance. You shouldn’t have to work out some kind of strategy (i.e., following someone in or wearing headphones) just to get in the door of the market unmolested.
Yeah, but it is on a corner and at a bus stop. I can understand why they chose that spot. You can cut in at an angle and they will be looking down the sidewalk not the crosswalk and so they will have their back to you until just past the time it is possible to make eye contact. They kinda spin around. Its funny. You have to hide behind someone on the way out because sometimes they make a point of trying to catch you on the way out… like it is a game and points just got away. I have to keep walking. Times are tough for ALL of us. but as long as they dont follow me and dont try and talk me out of my no… it is ok. It is a stratigic mission to get dinner!
Ok, I guess it does add a certain spice to life, having to fight canvassers on the way to buy dinner.
Excuse me, ladies?
What ever happened to ‘just say … um… no?’ … thank you. I often simply say just that, and how I ‘get by’ is pretty simple: I refuse to believe that any ‘higher powers that be’ put me in this world to justify my own existence–such as it is or ever will be–to anyone, anywhere at any time…[period] Sounds an awful lot like there’s a lot of ‘survivors guilt’ under all this strategizing, angling and over-thinking in there somewhere, does it not? We don’t have to make a chess game out of what is really only a point-blank solicitation, and if any such accosting either by phone or on the street is broached with “Hey . . . [ANYTHING?]’, I personally feel compelled to offer some pithy, witty advisement on basic courtesy to trump these kinds of commercial disruptions of my otherwise reasonably enough meaningful life.
Good luck with your postmodern burdens of commonplace neurosis though. If it all becomes just too much to ‘work around’, then perhaps investing in your own personal sanctity of sanity (& checking those elephants one’s liable to be draggin’ ’round with their ‘grocery’ baggage? ; ) is really THE BEST place to begin being responsible for your part in the world. We really can’t help others so well without helping ourselves generally, and it IS well said about being charitable to the point of mere compulsion. “We cannot help the poor by becoming one of them.” Said the C.E.O. of the Salvation Army–and the same goes for being poor-spirited, I always add. The world needs not ‘random acts of kindness’ anywhere near so much as a whole lot more ‘concerted acts of reasonably human responsibility.’
Fare well gals!
~[a former Greenpeace + Public Interest Research Group canvasser who also had his own high-guilt anxieties over asking strangers for money! ; ]
Oh come on – have you no postmodern burdens of commonplace neurosis? Or are men exempt from those?
Love your description of making a chess game out of avoiding solicitations.
I actually say no thank you. sorry. and then give a weak smile. Usually that is all that is needed but there are times where there are really agressive canvassers out there that require a little more work.
But… i forgot to say that i DO respect them doing a hard job for low pay and not selling drugs or stealing etc!
Reblogged this on I am not dead. © 2012.
They have canvassers here in the less developed world as well by the way (Im in India) and they’re just as guilt-inducing, or at least try to be…
Personally I think it’s good to give to a cause and if I can afford to then definitely so. The thing is not to do it out of guilt. When I give, it’s because I’ve got money to spare and the cause seems worthy. And I say this (though not all may agree) but not every single one of them needs it that badly. Feeding starving kids? medicine in impoverished places? homes for the destitute? disaster/war-zone aid? I’ll go with that, but not every time and not always. You do what you can and live with the choice you make.
Helping is one thing but it should be out of willingness because then you don’t want to and I think thats a horrible feeling and disingenuous.
Funny story: my sister was studying in the UK some time back and when she was asked by someone for donations for the 3rd world on the street (while she was in a not-happy mood because sending someone to live there even as a student is not easy on the family’s bank account!), she turned and told them to just skip the middle-man and give it to her instead!
Not all donated funds make it to their intended destination, but enough do most of the time and if the charity is a respectable one that is known to do what they set out to – or at least try their hardest. So in the end it’s good and if you give regularly (as you’ve stated you do) then don’t feel too guilty and just tell them you already donated to X number of charities.
Cheers. (and congrats on being freshly pressed!)
But should it even be the canvassers’ business how many charities I’m donating to? I feel like this is a personal piece of information that I shouldn’t have reason to share with them, unless I’m afraid they’ll think I’m a meanie for walking by without donating to them.
Thanks for stopping by!
My point was precisely that – if I do give and I have no real reason to feel guilty then why should I feel obliged to either give or justify myself?
They want to judge me? Thats their problem unless it bothers me, you know what I mean?
Of course the only one thats unaccountable is your thought about feeling bad for them and their job – thats something I couldn’t advise anyone about 😀
In Australia we call them Charity-muggers, which I think is fairly apt nomenclature…
That just makes them sound cute, like teddy-bears or something…
When I was little I used to go out with my mother/father and collect money door-to-door for the British Red Cross/Help The Aged respectively. We were always very polite and nearly every house where somebody was in would give us some money (whatever they felt like). That was something we did voluntarily.
I don’t like the fact that modern charity workers try over-familiar smalltalk then demand you give them money upfront. Also the fact that these people are getting paid to fundraise clashes with my idea of what charity-giving should be all about. Hence why I fake conversations on my mobile as I walk past them in the street…
I don’t deny the fact that most successful charities are going to have to have staffers dedicated to fundraising. I’ve dabbled in development through my jobs with various non-profits (mostly PR or front-line staff jobs), and I think it’s one of the hardest fields there is, even for scrupulous people/charities. But the canvassers are probably a different situation.
I do give to causes…of my own choosing. Local charities or organisations where I can see, and check, where the money goes. So I do not feel any guilt whatsoever. Canvassing is a mild form of harassment and intimidation. Kerb side canvassers are one thing, the street is a public place after all, but tele-marketeers are the worst in my opinion. I am not impressed with any unsolicited intrusion into the privacy of my own home. I do try very hard not to be rude to them, but when I am that is when I feel guilty!
Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed.
Thanks! I appreciate your comments. Come back anytime.
Oh, I hate it when you feel like you should be doing something that you really don’t want to!
I don’t feel guilty at all. I donate to some favorite charities already. I volunteer regularly and know I can’t do everything. I don’t like giving to groups I’m not thoroughly aware of or haven’t checked out through Charity Navigator. I’ve lived in Third World countries. They will get better jobs in the future.
Glad you’ve so successfully rid yourself of the five levels of guilt, all while making a difference in the world – thanks for your comment!
I actually told one to stop talking to me. That might be worse than ignoring. And it was right by my work. Honolulu’s a small town, I’m sure I saw him again in a different environment. It’s hard to care when they’re so irking!!
Uh-oh, the small island perspective on canvassers! easier to ignore them when you’re in the big city…
This is very funny!
Anytime I see one of these guys I start to panic. I’ve crossed traffic filled roads, vaulted road works… anything to avoid the awkward response of “No… eh… I’m fine. I’m not evil though”
Sounds like you have an even worse case of the five levels than I do. My sympathies.
Once out of complete desperation (and possibly a heavy dose of stupidity) I took one of those jobs. I wore a bright yellow t-shirt and tried to stop people on the street for Greenpeace. I lasted all of one day. WORST JOB EVER! There is nothing more demoralizing than bothering strangers for money on the street– just because it’s a worthy cause does not make you less irritating than any straight-up panhandler. What most people don’t realize is that keeping those jobs depends on actually getting people to donate. I met this young (like 19) guy from the Ukraine who was doing the job for the summer. Greenpeace (though it’s not technically GP since all those orgs outsource this putrid work) gave him the work visa so he could stay in the US– if he didn’t make the weekly quota, he would lose his visa and get sent home. Craziness! I quit without even collecting my paycheck because the idea of going back to their offices made me want to retch. And I kept the shirt too!
Yeah, hence my agonies over level 4 guilt. You’re not helping…Thanks for your comment though. I wonder what happened to the Ukrainian kid??
I use to have canvassers outside my old job, every time i came out for break, to leave or get into work, every single moment I saw them I get a “You don’t have a minute for the environment?” or “do you have a minute to show you support gay rights”. I’d be in the middle of working, moving something to an offsite location and the MOMENT i step out the door I get prompted. I have no sympathy for them anymore, to me it’s just another commercial in my face trying to get money from me..
yes, the “minute” questions are crafty – the truth is that once they’ve got your info, they’ll be e-mailing and calling you til the end of time.
I never feel guilty about this stuff and I never care. It’s annoying.
Simple solution–I never carry any money. Not one red cent. I smile, make eye contact, greet them, and then announce in all honesty that I don’t have any money at all. Also a great help to maintaining a budget.
Wow! Freshpressed! Congrats! I don’t have much to say about canvassers because I’ve never lived in the city–but honestly, if I were to ever run into one I’d probably act like I can’t see them. XD And I don’t like handing out my money when I don’t know where it’s going to.
Thanks Alicia! It’s been a pleasure having you around even before all this Freshly Pressed craziness!
I worked as a canvasser for about a week. My job was to go door-to-door in neighborhoods in the middle of the Atlanta summer attempting to solicit donations that would go toward protecting land just off of the Appalachian Trail from development. I worked this job not because I was especially passionate about the cause but because it was the only thing I could find at the time.
Until you’ve done it you have no idea how frustrating it is to spend six hours a day giving a memorized pitch to obviously uninterested people who really just wish you would bugger off as quickly as possible. In an effort to meet my quota without leaving my designated area I had to revisit houses that did not answer me the first (or second, or third) time I rang the bell. Some people look at you through the window while refusing to answer the door, others yell obscenities through barely-opened door, and sometimes you get a nice lecture on why the cause you’re trying to raise money for is entirely misguided; you’re obviously young, ignorant, and idealistic.
So yeah, I felt bad for interrupting people’s lives to pitch a cause to them but honestly I was just trying to make some money and chances are that’s all the canvassers on the street are trying to do. Just smile at them, say no thanks, and keep on walking. Even if you don’t stop to hear their pitch a little politeness and a smile can go a long way toward making a day of canvassing a little less miserable.
I’ve never been so happy to quit a job.
Thanks for your perspective. I think you’ve hit on just the right approach: politeness and recalling that we’re all just human beings trying to make a living.
thanks very good blog
OK. Back in the Pre-Cambrian era (1981), I worked full-time canvassing various towns in the Bay Area (“Northern” CA, suburbs of San Francisco & Oakland). This was for a statewide organization, that, interestingly, declined to become part of ACORN. (It was considered too centralized, perhaps somewhat as NPR might be today.)
This won’t be liked, but there IS a 1st Amendment issues here. Some inconvenience IS the cost of living in America as opposed to China or Russia.
Back then, we didn’t canvass passers-by in the streets, but only went door-to-door WITH each towns’ permits. We were rigorously trained on civility. If someone said a weak “no thanks”, we were allowed to discuss the issues a little further and hopefully get/convert to a weak or strong “yes”. Two “no”s meant you had to move on.
Our quota was $60.00 per shift. NO credit cards. Checks OK. Our commission was 30% or $18.00 a day! How I managed to live on that I don’t entirely remember. The rooming house was only $50/wk though. (near California & Hyde!) That should get an extra exclamation point I guess. The poorest neighborhoods we canvassed as a matter of principle, but of course almost never made quota (more like half). The best neighborhoods were the working class & lower middle class. “Straight” middle class was OK. “Upper” was usually a waste of time. The “highest” class, towns like Tiburon, were a bad joke. We were often greeted with hostility, including slammed doors, tirades & the occasional threat! I would come back with less than $20, if that. Although I am obliged to say Mill Valley was an exception, we were always treated very well there, INCLUDING being invited in for a drink of ice tea rather often. (Not recommended today, sadly.)
My favorite BIZARRE Tiburon response was the following: “I can’t talk with you now, – the wind is blowing my furniture around!” I was so bemused I didn’t even laugh in his face.
Actually, it wasn’t all bad. Looking back there are some good memories.
SarahD had the best reply so far I think. An interesting topic, especially how things have morphed.
Many thanks for chiming in. Feel free to tell us all more about the Pre-Cambrian Era – that’s two years before I was born, so I really can’t imagine it.
Right on about the First Amendment – when I pass the fundraisers and Bible-yellers and boycott proponents in the streets (one dude with a ragged Bible always parks himself right by my most-used center city station entrance), I remind myself that a little annoyance is a small price to pay for a society where we’re allowed to speak diverse views.
This was a fun post. I also live in a city and understand how you feel. I find the crowds often make it even more difficult to avoid canvassers. If you have to charge through a mob of people going in the opposite direction just to avoid canvassers, is it really worth it? Instead, Over the years, I’ve found a pretty effective way to get them to give up and it goes something like this:
“Hello, I’m such and such and I work for company X, did you know that a simple donation of $1 a day can blank”
“Sorry, I’m not interested.”
“It’s not my thing?”
“Helping people isn’t your thing?”
“No, it’s not. It’s not going to make a difference. You have to first change societiy’s attitude towards issue X. Philanthropy only goes so far and quite frankly I don’t really care anyway. If I did, I’d be an activist, but I’m not because I don’t.”
And that pretty much works. I’m sure this particular canvasser thought I wouldn’t be heartless enough to say that I didn’t care–or that fear of being judged would keep me from saying it out loud. But no, and thus, I was left to go on my merry way. Congratulations of being freshly pressed.
I guess that’s one way to go about it. Thanks for weighing in.
You should have yelled, “Hey blue!” Just to confuse them.
Enjoyed your post and congrats on being FP.
I have to admit, there is legitimate cause to call me “purple”. On any any given day, about 70% of my outfit is practically guaranteed to be purple.
Thanks for that entertaining article enjoyed it.
Thanks for reading. Come back any time.
I don’t feel guilty about by-passing them because I know what I do and have done to support causes — if they choose to presume something else about me, that’s on them…
I really appreciated this post, and the way it captures the tensions of our natural repulsion to this approach to raising money, as well as our sincere desire to do something to help.
Thinking about your post makes me wonder, is this really an effective structure for raising money? Usually when I feel guilty (in the particular ways you describe above) I give something symbolic to assuage my guilt, whereas when I am truly moved, empowered or inspired I am more inclined to give sacrificially. I am sure I am not alone in this.
Do you think charities could benefit from your post in thinking about how they empower, rather than shame, their potential donors?
Thanks for your comments – glad you enjoyed.
Shaming donors rather than empowering them is a really good way to think of it. I wonder: do these street-corner fundraisers resort so easily to shaming people into giving (“what, you don’t have one minute for the dolphins?”) because it’s much easier to instantaneously evoke shame in other human beings than it is to make them feel empowered – probably a more complicated emotion? With two seconds to catch you as you go by, perhaps playing on negative feelings is all the canvassers have time for?
If a charity can convince me that it’s doing something to empower its beneficiaries, I think that sense of empowerment rubs off on me if I give to support that. For example, giving to provide food in a famine, etc, is a good, but I’m especially drawn to charities that provide programs that help people in their overall lives – i.e., give destitute third-world women funds and support to launch their own businesses and feed their families. Or organizations that provide education to people who wouldn’t otherwise get it.
I think you are exactly right about charities resorting to guilt because that is all they have time for. It is the natural outcome of putting young people on the streets with the pressure to meet quotas.
But I can’t escape the feeling that this strategy is self-defeating. It might leverage guilt to get a sea of five dollar donations, but it certainly isn’t creating a depth of support for the cause. If someone gives 5 dollars, but does not walk away more passionate about what they gave to, and instead might actually respect the organization less because of the bad taste of manipulation lingering in their mouths, then I think the charity has shot its own cause in the foot.
Especially in the digital age, when every time one of us gets offended, we spew invective at the company online so a thousand of our closest friends can boycott them too.
If I got the cash on hand–not all that often since the advent of the debit card–I have to give something. If the person asking has obviously been on the streets for a while, panning for beer and smokes, he’s probably going to get at least a dollar if I have it. I’ve given some rights across town and whatnot, as well. Santa suits and the jingle bells outside Safeway send me in the other direction. I hate the institutional beggars.
Love this. Brings me back to the brick yard of my college days.
Wow, great post. You were definitely spot on with what you have deduced to be the 5 levels of guilt. I canvassed this past Summer and “little respect, quotas to meet, outside on the street all day and low pay” was almost what made me hate that Summer. What is funny to me is that I ended up hating everyone I worked with. They “trained” us how to respond to ALL of the above “excuses” as to why you can’t/won’t give. They actually told us to do everything we could to make you feel bad.
Our job was to convince you if you gave to another charity and not this one, then you didn’t care enough. If you lived in one of the poorest neighborhoods in New Orleans (yes, we went there) and you couldn’t spare the minimum amount of money, then you clearly didn’t care enough. Lying was encouraged as long as you didn’t get caught in a lie, and they advised you to get your friends and family to pledge if you wanted to keep your job.
I was one of the few people who had a heart, and couldn’t tell the family dealing with unemployment with TWO grandparents living there on life-support that they “weren’t doing enough”. Yes, I told one of my co-workers about them and he told me I didn’t push hard enough. He’s right, I wouldn’t push. I was fired after 2 weeks because in that time I was only sent to neighbourhoods in New Orleans known for their poverty and I refused to tell them “I’m sorry to hear your house is being foreclosed upon, but you clearly don’t care about new Orleans if you won’t give me your money”.
I appreciate the effort these canvassers have to put it, as you said, its a shit job. But when most people canvassing don’t even really believe in the cause, its just an easy job to get, I can’t support them. Yes, I have since decided to treat telemarketers and canvassers with FAR more respect, I can never forget how my boss made me feel like nothing more than a pawn sent to abuse the poor. I will never forget the guilt that I imposed upon those families with nothing to give.
Wow. Powerful stuff. This post is bringing out a lot of great real-life perspectives.
Very relate-able! I have, however, found a way out of much of this guilt. Personally, I have never found canvassers annoying, they’re usually polite, respectful and cheerful (wishing me a nice day even when I don’t stop, etc.), so I’ve decided instead of ignoring them, I would just say hi, smile, maybe say “sorry” or shrug apologetically. In the end, they know they’re not going to get everyone, so refusing even to talk isn’t a big deal. Ignoring people, on the other hand… is rude, and discouraging. I’ve never been a canvasser, but I’ve handed out flyers and stuff like that, and honestly? People who pretend I don’t exist infuriate me. People who simply say “no”? Perfectly fine with me. The key word is quality, not quantity.
Maybe it depends on the organizations, but personally, I’ve seen pushy canvassers less often than I’ve seen blatantly discouraged ones. Like, they are supposed to try and talk to people, and instead just stand there talking among themselves, waiting for people to pass them by. Not professional. It made me a little sad, too. If even you don’t care, I thought, who is going to?
Although I guessed they were paid, I had always assumed these people came from within the organization, though, and were activists themselves before being employed for the cause. These charities and organizations have just dropped a notch in my esteem…
Thanks for chiming in. I like your take on at least saying “no” nicely instead of acting like the canvassers don’t exist.
I was in Sydney, I was in a rush when I met this young energetic canvassers with NGO banners of supporting clean and fresh water, she stopped me, literally Offered her hand, and straight to the topic, of some statistic information about clean water access
“Do you know that 50% family in this bla bla bla country etc etc..”
” And meanwhile in this particular area.. there …is ..
.. I tried to listen little bit and felt like I was an empty bucket, stormed by lot of water, without any space to response and comprehend what she wanted to say.. I left her since I was in a rush..
She then, unexpectedly confronted me by saying ” What will you do with this kid? Do nothing?”
I replied ” Good on you, keep doing your good work”
Having read you wrote, yes they are working really hard around the world. In Indonesia, recently, there is no big occurrences I can see of their existence, few years ago they were hardly noticeable by by people.
After all no one in the world expecting rejection, smile and apologize are perhaps the humanizing act when we don’t want to communicate with them.
Love your insight..
its when they are there trying to be my friend that i have a major issue. i mean they have only just met/seen me and they assume that we are best friends. i think that if they were to have a sign and not be as jolly and friendly they may have a bit more success. the success would come by those inquisitive people asking what is going on, maybe that way regular people would be left alone 🙂
nice post though
Thanks. Nice to hear that someone else is struggling with with #3. Thanks for stopping by.
Just want to say that I love your drawings!
Hey! In all the Freshly Pressed responses, I think you’re the only one to mention the drawings! They’re very time-consuming and sometimes I think, eh, I should just publish the post and not go to the trouble of illustrating it, or just nab photos off the internet or my computer, but I think the drawings add a little something extra. I’m really glad you enjoyed them.
I no longer have guilt for two reasons:
1. I give directly to the people actually IN need.
2. I no longer trust “organizations” to use the money donated to them wisely. But labor is a much harder resource to squander.
Salvation Army, Red Cross, etc have all been caught at local levels, “skimming” off donations. Churches are notorious for fake “charity” drives. Hey, if you want to help the pastor build a new roof, then that’s great for you. But make them admit that’s where the money is going first. Unless you get a record or have a full understanding of HOW your money should be spent, do not blindly throw money into someone’s cup.
Take their information and do your research first. And when people come to my door, I am 100% blunt with them, guilt free. “Give me your card and I will research your charity online. If they are a truly beneficial organization, I will help them directly.”
Nice. It makes sense that with the volume of information now accessible to all of us, we can be smarter about where our money goes if we do our homework, whether we’re shopping for goods or giving to charity.
Alaina makes a really valid point – guilt is not a great sales tool! Far better IMHO to find out what’s important long term to the prospect and then make your solution, product or even charity, the only sensible way to achieve it.
As a canvasser (over the years I have canvassed for a political party), I have not noticed much guilt, though perhaps the items below are the manifestation of guilt. Here are the three general reactions I have noticed:
– Polite tolerance: eyes glaze over, head nods: they can’t wait for me to leave (even supporters of the party)
– Unaware: of the fact that they are half dressed, and/or that their dog is eyeing me up for a snack
– Angry: at my gall for knocking on their door; at my ‘sauce’ for promoting a political party they hate
Eventually, for the canvasser, it becomes a game to reach as many people as possible. The reactions are not important, it is the progress at getting your message out.
Canvassers have something altogether different going on in their head and don’t perceive your guilt.
So to the canvassed I say this: let go of your guilt! Be free!
Whew. That’s better. Thanks from all of us!
I can relate to your agony as I go through it every time I see a canvasser!!!
I’ve gone door-to-door canvassing (for environmental group) – it was out of desperation for a summer job back in college. And I’ve been coaxed into going door-to-door for Obama, Mark Dayton, and other political candidates.
These experiences have pretty much blistered all belief in humanity. People who swear, yell, or slam doors. People who turn off TV and pretend to not be home, draw the curtains shut, or tell you they have no money whatsoever whilst Husband pulls up in BMW or the cleaning lady silently collects her cache of bills and departs.
People are passive aggressive. Why don’t they just say I do have money, I do care about your issue (they usually do), but I’m too stingy and greedy to part with my money. Such candor would be refreshing, if not invigorating.
Not only this, everyone tells you that their neighborhood is uniquely overtargeted by canvassing hawks.
In sum, I am polite to canvassers. Sympathetic. And give money if I can. Even if I can’t pay the full pledge or membership, I will offer a one time cash gift of 5 or 10 bucks.
And on a final note, canvassers don’t harrass the canvassed. It’s the canvassees who harass the canvassers.
I think from a lot of the experiences people are sharing in the comments here, even if MOST canvassers and canvassees are perfectly polite, it’s obvious that both sides are guilty of some harassment – as is often the case when any human factions collide.
1. It’s not your place to decide what people can “afford”. For all you know, that BMW is a loaner or a gift or there may be a sickly family member eating up all the income in a hospital bed. The assumption that outward wealth = bank account balance is a faulty one. One easily represented by coworkers I’ve seen blow an entire paycheck on a pair of shoes or a purse.
2. I donate to charities often and I find it disgusting how many beggars and canvassers try to make me feel guilty for not donating to them. Even if I agree with your cause 100% I will still need to verify how the money is being spent before I just give cash to some random stranger and hope she/he isn’t pocketing it.
Yes – personally implying anything about what a stranger can or cannot afford is totally crossing the line.
Touche – I agree outward signs of ‘wealth’ or ‘poverty’ aren’t always accurate. And sorry if I offended you there. My ‘vent’ wasn’t meant as scientific fact or a societal indictment. It was the voice of a 20-year-old who spent a crappy summer going door-to-door and stomaching all kinds of abuse 🙂
At the core of the issue, people have a hard time being direct. Passive aggression and white lies makes both parties uneasy. Saying ‘I don’t want to give’ or ‘I don’t give door-to-door, I need to research further’ really is ok. It’s actually refreshing.
At any rate, this is my 2nd day trying to blog and I am feeling kind of beaten up. Maybe I’m not meant to be giving it a go. Sorry if I upset you.
Congrats on your foray into the blogosphere – don’t get discouraged. I tend to have just as much fun as a writer whether or not folks agree with me. I like to generate constructive arguments. Of course, there will always be some nasties out there (not that anyone who’s commented on this post has been nasty, I think the discussion’s been civil and interesting, but there have been some pretty mean comments directed to me on older posts – but it’s ok). You do need to have a thick skin if you’re serious about blogging or being a writer in general – it can take practice and there’s nothing wrong with that. Just stay honest and courteous.
I wasn’t trying to beat you up. I apologize. I just get aggravated when people look one over and assume they have the means to give. I take care of my appearance and dress nicely, plus I love reading and speak “well-educated” though I am living paycheck to paycheck and trying to run my own business while paying for school out of pocket. So sometimes I get people who look me over and just assume I have money to give them. Here in New York, we get very aggressive canvassers since the market is so competitive. It’s probably why I failed so miserably at the job last summer. I had more sympathy with people than I had been trained to.
Boy can I relate to the paycheck-to-paycheck life. Good luck!
I was once walking through my town centre, as opposed to my university campus. A girl working for a charity came up to me.
She started asking me a lot of questions, which I answered. At first I thought she was going to ask me to take part in a volunteering scheme so I went along with it. Then after explaining how many volunteers they had, the insinuation being that they had enough, she asked if I would make a regular donation.
I said I didn’t mind making a 1 off donation, but I already pay a fee to 2 charities and I’m a student. She then asked which ones, and corrected me on mispronouncing the second one. Instead of taking the hint she persisted and asked me to sacrifice a small luxury (a pint of beer a month) to donate.
This pissed me off so I just said “I’m sorry…. I really don’t want to donate” and walked off feeling confused about whether what I had done was morally right and why I felt guilty.
In retrospect, she can fuck off.
Sounds like she was well-trained.
Funny story and I share your sentiment.
Note: I don’t want to sound like a heartless prick in the above entry; I think everyone’s burnt out having canvassed or being a canvasser. I would never had corrected a mispronounced charity or asked someone what other causes they gave to.
Was it Green Peace who approached you? I’ve offered them one-tim gifts before that were spurned. They only wanted people who would pledge $20 a month for a year, or nada.
No it was a really big one, Red Cross I think.
I mean I have nothing against the charity. It was just her. And don’t worry I don’t think you came across as that.
Guilt is a natural response but we can’t support every cause or else we’d go bankrupt. And once you’ve chosen what you’d like to support the others are just going to be a pain in the arse.
Reblogged this on estacylynn and commented:
Yes, I have canvassed before. For Sierra Club and HRC (under the vestiges of MN Pirg.) For John Kerry and Barack Obama, for Mark Dayton and for Rena Moran.
I’m 100% guilty of avoiding the canvassers at all cost and though parts of me feels bad for ignoring them… sometimes I just want to run and get a cup of coffee in peace ya know!
I live in a major city and am also guilty of crossing the street or planning my route to avoid canvassers for every charity under the sun. I don’t mind signature gatherers per say, but often they are so militant in the belief that they don’t understand the reason I am not signing the petition is I don’t agree. Heaven forbid, if I want to read the thing first!
So now even when they step right in front of me, I can side step the best of them. I don’t want to shake their hands, and I really don’t want them to hug me! If I stopped every time, it would take me forever to get anywhere. A polite but firm, “No thank you” almost always works.
hugs? really? Ack!!
I’m out in California, the land of perpetual petitioneers, and this election year they’ve started getting pretty aggressive. We were minding our own business at the farmer’s market the other day when one accosted us. We politely, but firmly said, “No thank you.” The fellow proceeded to follow us down the street and try to shove a petition in my hand. When I declined more firmly a second time he said, “Don’t you care about your kids’ future?” Clearly I don’t care since I’ve gone out of my way to feed them food from a farmer’s market.
They just won’t take no for an answer! And I’m stuck feeling guilty for having to get verbally forceful with the fellow! Please people! Let me buy me vegetables and honey in peace!
That’s so rude… How dare he… Beyond belief.
Canvassers: I cannot imagine how many people have so much time to Canvass on the street corners. I do not give very often to them because I do know that there are groups that beg for personal profit, which sometimes hurt the legal ones. I stick to the organized organizations of my choice, and the ones that I have knowledge of without guilt. I feel as long as I give from my heart, I don’t have a need to feel guilty. However, I do increase my speed sometimes as I pass by them, and usually reply with a quick “no thank you.”
Haha… Such an honest post. I can relate to all the levels of guilt. People are generally less aggressive in my country, so being harassed is a rarity.
What I find amusing is when our schools send out kids to ask for funds for these charities as part of their community service projects. Often, these kids are 1) clueless as to what the charities they are helping actually do, 2) unwilling (perhaps because of Point 1), 3) not trained to interact with people socially and end up standing at some dodgy street corner looking like a statue with a tin can.
Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!
Thanks! I appreciate your comment.
😦 You’ve summed up my feelings quite well. Then I try to preach to them about the hope that God gives for the future and the help we can get from the Bible to alleviate some of my unpleasant feelings…
I do agree with your sense of humor. Really inspiring one.
Oohh this is soo true. In the UK we have the same issues, and the ‘infamous’ Big Issue is constantly thrust upon one, accompanied with ‘shoe’ a kind of medley of ‘Big’ and ‘issue’ – it supports homeless people and they get a cut of the profits. Unfortunately all too often the same people can be seen drinking strong alcohol around the corners, although they are not allowed to be intoxicated whilst selling it. In their defence, they are addicts to one drug or another and trying to sort themselves out, but I can’t help but wonder if my cut of a £1 will simply be funding more misery for them a few hours later. Anyway, great blog and I now feel guiltier! But glad it not just me…
Ok, that’s fair. Your guilt isn’t alleviated, but at least you don’t feel alone. Got to be worth something…
I’m sorry if people don’t like my view but i feel no guilt towards them at all. The job they do may be hard, but so is many other jobs. I’m afraid i see it as a begging trick in this day and age. If people really wanted to give to these charities or complete surveys etc they would search them out for themselves. The majority of the ones you see on the streets of my town are those trying to sign you up to something you have no interest in what so ever and costing you a fixed sum on a monthly basis and not just a one off payment. The only reason they are there out on the street is because people find it harder to say no when they are face to face. As for tele marketing, well i make do with a mobile phone and refuse to answer calls from numbers i don’t recognise, reason being is because i used to get a lot of calls offering loans and other services.
I’m of two minds. I do think that some some active fundraising is necessary for worthwhile charities, because I think that if most of us were left to our own devices and never were faced with anyone asking for our contributions, we wouldn’t give – not necessarily b/c we’re lousy people, just because we’re busy and it wouldn’t be at the forefront of our minds unless someone put it there. That being said, there are tasteful ways to go about fundraising, and these probably don’t include being heckled by strangers in the street.
I think you’re right about the effort to get you sign up and therefore donate on a repeating basis FOREVER…
I have just realised what i didn’t mention above, actual charities are not allowed to approach people here in England unless they pass within a certain distance, however they do still approach people most of the time when they do that or sometime even just look in their direction. The biggest problem we have now are the relion ones who do tend to follow you down the street almost shouting at you for all you have told them yournot interested in an attempt to convert you to their relion. many a time i have told them to go away by swearing at them.
I find that Philadelphia evangelists are usually pretty friendly, just doling out magazines with a smile. If anyone gets pushier, I just tell them I’ve got enough religion in my life already, thanks.
I don’t personally believe in giving a strict amount of money every week, month etc, unless you are very wealthy or very settled because in this climate, you can’t necessarily be sure you will always have that money to give.
I do believe in giving whatever you can give a week, month etc to a cause you care about depending on your circumstances.
I don’t feel guilty about ignoring them because I seek out and give to my own charities and we can’t give to them all.
Exactly. And investigate how much of the funds collected actually goes to the cause. One can’t do that on the street…which I believe is the point
This is like the chicken feeling guilt for the fox. It’s an industry and they want your money , not our “care and understanding”.
A pittance of what one gives ( if at all ) goes to the needy veteran blind whales orphans in the latest natural disaster hook they use …or they want your name and info to sell. That’s all it is.
a fresh way of thinking abt the way we negotiate and are made to negotiate directions in our cities!
enjoyed reading it!
In South Africa one can’t go anywhere without being accosted by people wanting something from you. It’s sad but after a while one develops an immunity to them. I give to my chosen charities, but never in the street.
When I am in Johannesburg I find that hawkers are really aggressive. I do stand out a lot at Jo’burg’s main taxi rank. But other than that I haven’t been bothered by people asking for things any more than I have been in Philadelphia, where I live. Thanks for your comment!
I totally agree with you, and I’ve even done some canvassing before!! It was so impossibly awful, I never did it again, and although I feel sorry for the poor guys that are doing it, I tend to try and just cross the road whenever I see them.
Love the drawing! While working SxSW this past week, I was greeted by Greenpeacers everywhere I turned! They seemed fine when I politely declined, but I always feel bad because it reminds me of when I used to sell my Girl Scout cookies. We didn’t have quotas, but we had incentives and I so badly wanted that red bike. Just ONE person and a box of Samoas could get me to my dream!
I’m sure the Greenpeacers found someone to donate.
Great illustrations and blog! I’m not a shopper, but will occasionally take my daughter to the mall. I’ve noticed more canvassers there than on our city streets. They don’t usually approach me, but I guess this is because I’m preoccupied with my daughter. I think research is key before you donate to an organization.
This is bang on!