Sunday, January 08, 2006

Fund Raisers With Clipboards: Be Wary

Every day for the past five years I have walked (weather permitting) from one job to another. It's about two miles. And every day I have been approached by at least two or three street fund raisers asking me if I "have a minute." For the longest time, they represented the environmental organization Greenpeace. Lately it's been Children International. I am usually walking quickly, since I'm busy at both jobs and leave the first one with little time to spare. Without fail, these Stepford-type solicitors always respond to my negative grunt with a huge smile and a friendly "Have a nice day!" which just makes me feel worse.

I have thought about these people a lot, trying to figure out why they make me so angry, and I think I have figured some of it out. First of all, I resent that they force me into a position to say No--No to starving children and No to the environment. I don't want children to starve and I want our planet to flourish but, hey, I'm trying to get to work here--don't make me say No to you. I want to choose who I give to in a leisurely, thoughtful way--not as I rush from job to job.

The other thing is that I've always suspected are that these people are too darn organized to be a bunch of volunteers. They all wear the same spiffy jackets and hold the same logo-strewn clipboard and they are all equally good-looking. I've volunteered for charities plenty of times, and we all dress in sweats and wear the one organization shirt we have (which is usually dirty and ill-fitting). Organizations that depend on volunteers don't have a lot of cute uniforms to hand out.

Well, it turns out that they aren't volunteers but hired guns paid for by a for-profit corporation who get paid an hourly rate. See this article in the Christian Science Monitor for the details.

Now it all makes sense. Your charity dollar is now getting divvied up twice before it ever hits the charity. And, according to this article, lack of disclosure is a concern when it comes to these charities. These street fund raisers are definitely not encouraged to reveal that they are getting paid for talking to you and that they don't actually work for the charity.

And that makes me really mad! They don't so much care about the children as want to pay their rent (paying my own rent is what's on my mind as I walk past them).

At least I know that if I give the panhandler on the subway a dollar bill it wont go further than him (or her) or get split with his representative. Now, where that money goes is another story.

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