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.