The other week I finished work early for a change (430), and as it was a sunny day sat in town enjoying the sun, watching the people. Mainly watching a group of three face to face fundraisers at work. Facing rejection after rejection, they carried on, cheerily catching the attention of passers by.
Never blocking the path of people. Taking no more than three steps backwards, ID visible, stopping contact when asked to. What struck me was that 99% of people they came into contact with walked away with a smile. Whether they stopped for a chat or to sign up, stopped to say “I’m not interested” ( or whatever), or didn’t even break their stride, almost every single one had a smile on their face as they walked on. The few I noticed who didn’t, had been frowning before they were approached.
In contrast at other times, there are a group of suited characters in the same space, selling expensive credit. I’ve noticed two main differences. Firstly, more people signup, and secondly, few leave with a smile on their face – sign up or not.
As a “business”, these people face no restrictions on how they approach people, path blocking, ‘chasing’ people or continuing their sales patter when told their prospect isn’t interested. I’m fairly sure there’s a correlation here, in both the number of new ‘customers’ (they get more) and the number of positive interactions (customer or not, far more frowns).
Yet it’s the people trying to encourage people to change the world for the better that have been vilified in the press all summer.
After watching them for some time, I returned home. On the doormat, an unsolicited mailing from a company. Now because of the unique spelling error on the envelope, I know they got my info from another company I’ve signed up with, who send me info I’ve asked for on a monthly basis using the exact same spelling error – despite me telling them to correct it.
At no point did they ask me about sharing my data, yet they’ve decided they can send share the poorly recorded contact details they have for me.
So why no national scandal? Is it that we expect this from “business”- so we excuse it, or ignore it?
Ive stated before that I’m against ‘list swaps’- the things my donors have told me about them – even just their name and address are some of the most precious things my charity knows, and I don’t know why I’d give it away or sell it even if I had permission, but unlike the “professional” company that felt the info they had on me could be sold on, without permission, charities only do this if they’ve made it clear that they might.
I believe, no I *know*, that charities already hold themselves up to far higher standards. Perhaps, given the trust that people have placed on charities, they’re not high enough yet, but charities need to stand up for themselves when criticised.
We need to remind people that actually, we do try, we clamp down on bad practice, we hold ourselves to higher standards, and all while being told we shouldn’t be spending much on fundraising, or ‘admin’.
If anecdotal evidence is enough to condemn us, then we need to use it to compare with ‘business’ that we’re told we need to be more like.
While we’re stamping down on bad practice, we need to stand up for ourselves. The work that charities are doing is too important to be meek about the fact that we do (as we should) hold ourselves to higher standards.