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Charity collectors – good samaritans or a public menace?

By Alexandra Craig - 23 September 2014 41

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We’ve all been there; walking around your local shopping mall when you spot a charity stall in the distance. You change your route if it’s not too late, but if you get caught out at the last minute you’ll probably reach for your phone and attempt to distract yourself from making eye contact with the person manning the stall. Even if you’re clearly occupied, they’re still quite likely to call out to you. Charity collectors using clever tactics and sometimes just being incredibly rude in their quests to squeeze money out of passers by.

I should provide a disclaimer to this yarn, I’m not against charity or charity stalls. I’m against the way some of the employees at these stalls conduct themselves. I donate regularly to a handful of my favourite charities, usually through one-off online donations.

A heavily pregnant friend was recently doing a dash to the shops at the end of the day; in tow was her toddler son. She was exhausted, as you can expect most heavily pregnant women are. As she passed an Oxfam stall, the employee called out to her “you look very drained!” Obviously this was an attempt to get her attention so she’d stop and hopefully donate, but rudeness is not the way to solicit interest.

Last Friday night I was at the Canberra Centre with my partner. We walked past a Starlight Foundation stall and when the employee called out to us we called back with a polite “Not today, sorry.” The employee called back out “What, you don’t care about sick kids?!” What warrants this kind of behaviour? We were polite to him, and he guilt tripped us in return. In what world would someone stop after being treated like dirt to present a donation? I definitely wouldn’t, and I didn’t.

I’ve noticed that a lot of these stalls are no longer accepting cash donations. They want a credit card number and ask you to sign up for monthly donations. I don’t like doing this because I hate the idea of having too many direct debits coming out of my account and losing track of them all. I suspect I am not alone. For many people, some months are much tighter than others and if they can’t cancel the debit in time, they’ll be out of pocket before they know it.

Many organisations are also suggesting a minimum donation amount. I recently heard an example of a young woman who told a Heart Foundation employee that she could really only afford $10, only to have the employee turn around and say that they would need at least $30 if she really cared. Again, this goes back to the sheer pushy behaviour of some employees, but the issue remains – they are looking for regular donations at a set amount.

If I was a charity, I like to think that I would be happy to take whatever I could get, even if it was just $10 or a handful of silver coins thrown into a bucket. However, the costs of running a charity are increasing and perhaps charities can no longer rely on volunteers to staff these booths and have to employ paid staff instead? At what price does this come? They hassle people and in some cases they’re incredibly rude to passers by, guaranteeing a donation of exactly zero dollars. If anyone can shed some light on costs of running stalls versus donations received per day, please share your insights.

What’s Your opinion?


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41 Responses to
Charity collectors – good samaritans or a public menace?
Masquara 1:04 pm 23 Sep 14

I ask: “Are you a volunteer or are you being paid to collect”? Usually they say they are being paid. There’s my excuse (not that I really need one) to not donate. If they are bona fide volunteer collectors, I tend to donate if I like the cause.

Antagonist 1:01 pm 23 Sep 14

bronal said :

There is also well-known beggar who, I am told, also operates at Erindale and Wanniassa shops.

He was outside the Coles entrance at the Dome on Friday evening.

bd84 1:01 pm 23 Sep 14

Most definitely a public menace. I refuse to give any money to the tourists employed to get in people’s faces and harass them into giving money for charity.

Most chuggers are not wanting a small $2-$5 donation, but for the never ending large monthly donation. If you gave into each of them that almost crash tackle you, you would be spending thousands each month.

Happy to give money to appeals such as the salvos etc, but the chugger invasion needs to be outlawed. I’m sure there’s vulnerable people out there that can’t say no that have been conned into giving what they can’t afford.

pierce 12:56 pm 23 Sep 14

The biggest problem with the marketing companies hired by charities to run this kind of fund-raising is that in a number of cases, they keep 80%+ of the donations for the first year of direct debits. This scales down over time, provided the giver doesn’t cancel the direct debit.

Clearly it still works better for the charities than managing it themselves though, otherwise why would they do it?

HappyT 12:38 pm 23 Sep 14

Wow – I’d say get over it!
I walk through Civic every day: either avoid eye contact, say “no thank you” or just be your rudest possible self and say nothing at all.
This is starting to look like someone is stirring up comment about something which isn’t really a problem; apparently the rangers from Canberra CBD Ltd. have been canvassing Civic business about this “issue” as well, even going so far as to want to introduce “legislation” to “curb this menace”. Seriously Canberra?! Because lord forbid, anyone talks to anyone else, or is a little bit loud, or pushy, or does anything else to bring a little bit of life to the wasteland that is Civic.
You’re all adults: so GET – OVER – IT!

And no – I’m not one of those professional charity workers, am just as annoyed with them and have never given money to a charity that way.

BenAlexander 12:05 pm 23 Sep 14

“You say they should be happy to take what they can, even if it’s just a handful of silver coins. Are you actually serious? .

Australians are quite selfish and need social pressure to do good. The most successful campaign of recent years is the Ice Bucket Challenge, that explictly relies on peer pressure to donate $200.

Until you can personally say that you donate 10% of your income each and every fortnight to charity, I don’t think you have a leg to stand on on this issue.

Wow Braddonmonsta – did you forget your meds this morning? Why not just chill out a bit, take a deep breath and actually read the article closely?

The author was saying about the charity should be grateful for any support it receives, not the poor jobless sod who takes the gamble of the train/bus ticket to get out there and give it a go. Attention to detail please.

Also, maybe you don’t know anyone who gives very much to charity (maybe that says something about your friends and/or acquaintances but…) that in no way justifies the breathless arrogance of your self serving generalist statement that “Australians are quite selfish and need social pressure to do good.” What a load…Australians are actually amongst the most generous givers in the developed world…But don’t take my word for it. Associated Press did a 2010 article which placed Aus equal first with NZ in the charity stakes…

See this link: http://www.smh.com.au/national/australia-tops-list-of-charitable-countries-20100909-153b5.html

In that article, The executive director of the Red Cross, Lewis Kaplan, said and I quote “he was not surprised Australians ranked as the world’s most generous citizens.”

Tell me Braddonmonsta – did you even bother to do the vaguest bit of research before you held forth on your totally unsupported opinion that Aussies are mean when it comes to charity???

I suspect not.

Lastly – your personal attack on the author merely betrays a self aggrandizing sanctimonious lecturing attitude that you know better than everyone else – for shame.

This is a free country and the author is entitled to her opinion whether you like it or not. Just as you, Braddononsta, are entitled to your ill informed vitriolic opinion.

Have a nice day.

bronal 11:56 am 23 Sep 14

Big Issue sellers have become a pest in the Woden precinct. There used to be only one but now there are normally two, sometimes three, strategically placed along the route from the Sirius Building to the Plaza. What’s worse they don’t seem to be able to remember who their regular customers are.

There is also well-known beggar who, I am told, also operates at Erindale and Wanniassa shops.

Alexandra Craig 10:30 am 23 Sep 14

braddonmonsta said :

Until you can personally say that you donate 10% of your income each and every fortnight to charity, I don’t think you have a leg to stand on on this issue.

Why not? Even if I donated nothing to charity throughout my whole life, I shouldn’t have to be treated rudely or be spoken down to.

And no, I don’t donate 10% of my wage to charity but for transparency purposes, here’s what I’ve donated this year (that I can remember)

* Regular monthly donation to the Cancer Council – $50
* $200 to the RSPCA – I also held a cupcake day fundraiser last month for them, raising over $300
* $50 sponsoring a friend for Dry July
* $50 sponsoring a friend for the 40 Hour Famine – I also participated in the 40 Hour Famine 6 years in a row, raising over $6000 all up.
* Ronald McDonald House – $30

I also put whatever coins I have into charity boxes at cash registers, no idea how much that all amounts to.

Re – your comments on the handful of silver coins. I didn’t mean the charity collector should be grateful when thinking about their bottom line – I mean the charity itself. Every little bit counts right? So, let’s just say they get $50 a day in donations from one box at a shopping centre. They’ve taken away that box and made it credit card monthly debits only. That’s $50 less they have. Why not offer both coin donation and credit card?

Antagonist 10:23 am 23 Sep 14

braddonmonsta said :

Traditionally, one gives 10% of their income to charity. In a city like Canberra, that should average at $165 per week. I don’t know -anyone- who gives anywhere near that much. “Regularly donating” through small one-off donations just doesn’t cut it.

Tradition? Never heard that one before. I know some religious organisations demand 10% of earnings from their congregation (I’m looking at you, Seventh Day Adventists) but that is less about charity and more about perpetuating their religion.

VYBerlinaV8_is_back 10:13 am 23 Sep 14

neanderthalsis said :

I refuse to support any charity that pays people to harass me (except to buy the occasional copy of the Big Issue). More than happy to give spare coins to the Salvos, support legacy, donate to colleages attempting to grow facial hair, etc. But when it comes to charities paying people, whether they be chuggers or call centre staff to ask for my money, I believe they have their priorities wrong.

Same for me. I generally just look them in the eye and smile and say no thanks and keep walking.

braddonmonsta 10:09 am 23 Sep 14

I hate them as much as you do, but I think they are a necessary evil.

Traditionally, one gives 10% of their income to charity. In a city like Canberra, that should average at $165 per week. I don’t know -anyone- who gives anywhere near that much. “Regularly donating” through small one-off donations just doesn’t cut it.

You say they should be happy to take what they can, even if it’s just a handful of silver coins. Are you actually serious? A handful of silver coins doesn’t even cover the cost of the bus ticket to the shopping centre for the collectors. You also say that rudeness guarantees “a donation of exactly zero dollars” – this is also garbage; for every 10 people that get p$ssed off, there’s 1 that signs up to a $50 per month donation ($600 per year). Those 10 people would each have had to donate $60 on the spot in order to have made politeness ‘worth it’.

Australians are quite selfish and need social pressure to do good. The most successful campaign of recent years is the Ice Bucket Challenge, that explictly relies on peer pressure to donate $200.

Until you can personally say that you donate 10% of your income each and every fortnight to charity, I don’t think you have a leg to stand on on this issue.

neanderthalsis 10:04 am 23 Sep 14

I refuse to support any charity that pays people to harass me (except to buy the occasional copy of the Big Issue). More than happy to give spare coins to the Salvos, support legacy, donate to colleages attempting to grow facial hair, etc. But when it comes to charities paying people, whether they be chuggers or call centre staff to ask for my money, I believe they have their priorities wrong.

I usually find that a “begone foul peasant” gets them out of my way.

Monomyth 9:48 am 23 Sep 14

pepmeup said :

Curtin shops has a major problem with charities and beggars. Most days there is the standard Big Issue pair, who yell at people, then the homeless beggars, and then the professional fly in charity workers. The ones I’ve spoken to come from Brisbane and Sydney. Apparently the company they work for has an agreement with Coles. But the never set up outside Coles. I have spoken to many people who don’t like coming to Curtin because every day there is a new professional charity team set up. If they have an agreement with Coles they should be set up in Coles.

Unless the arrangement is NOT to be in Coles! Also, the Big Issue guys are okay, I say ‘no thank you’ and no more is said, to me at least.

Monomyth 9:45 am 23 Sep 14

I lasted 3 days in this role, in Brisbane. We were 100% commission-paid, so we did not have a minimum wage and if we sold nothing, we earned nothing. This was for an Australian charity most people would be happy to pay a small one-off donation for, but because I am not pushy or rude I failed to get any credit card details. So in those three days I actually lost money by paying train/bus fare to each destination. You were not allowed to sit down either, so the train ride home was my favourite part of the day.

I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a loophole in the minimum-wage laws that stipulate they only make a certain percentage off who they sign up – which would explain (but definitely would not excuse) their persistence.

pepmeup 9:34 am 23 Sep 14

Curtin shops has a major problem with charities and beggars. Most days there is the standard Big Issue pair, who yell at people, then the homeless beggars, and then the professional fly in charity workers. The ones I’ve spoken to come from Brisbane and Sydney. Apparently the company they work for has an agreement with Coles. But the never set up outside Coles. I have spoken to many people who don’t like coming to Curtin because every day there is a new professional charity team set up. If they have an agreement with Coles they should be set up in Coles.

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