Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Charity begins on the phone but not again.

I agree with giving to charity. I think that it is a moral imperative that if you can give afford to give a little then, as a human being witnessing the despair of another human being, even through removed mediums like television, the press, and the internet, that you should do something. Last year I responded to the UNICEF appeal for children in Syria caught up in the deadly fighting. No big deal, I did not donate a fortune, just what I could afford at the time. It felt like doing the right thing.

A few days after I made my donation I received a call from a private number. I do not normally answer unrecognised numbers but this time I did. A young man went into a scripted speech of how grateful UNICEF was for my act of kindness, now if only I could see my way to making another, bigger, donation or how about taking out a direct debit and paying just £5 a month?

Straight away I got it. The psychology is pretty basic, complement the person, build them up, then hit them with a sob story and ask for more money. It has very little to do with charity. I told the caller that I had given what I could afford and that I as I already supported two charities through monthly subscriptions then I did not feel that I could take on a third. This represented no problem to the UNICEF spokesman, he just told me to ditch one of the two and take on his charity instead!

Being English I tend to be polite even when annoyed and I politely told him that I would not do that and that I could not at that time make another donation to UNICEF. He asked if he could call back and I respectfully said no because my mind was made up. The next day the same telephone number appeared on my mobile again as it busily played The Rolling Stones’ ‘Brown Sugar’ to alert me of an incoming call. I did not answer it or the several other calls that followed over the next few weeks.

They don’t take no for an answer, well not immediately anyway.

A few months later I was moved by an advert on television by Save the Children and, totally forgetting my UNICEF experience, I used my mobile to make another donation. It probably will not surprise anyone reading this to discover that a charity representative was quick to start ringing me; it was only my sluggish brain that got caught out. I did not answer the calls, however, but instead entered the telephone number into Google and discovered it was the money raising arm of Save the Children. I also read several complaints from other people who resented this unasked for approach from charity fundraisers after making a donation in good faith.

I have now vowed not to use my mobile to make any charity donations ever again. It is not the slight annoyance of unsolicited telephone calls that prompts me to this decision, it the lack of respect and genuine appreciation that the charity fundraisers give my donation. To them my donation paid through my telephone is a valuable piece of information; my mobile’s number! Armed with this they can ring me and make me feel guilty about the paltry sum that I offered, convince me to sign up for a monthly subscription, and may be even get me to make a larger one off donation. Then in a couple of months’ time they can ring me back and try and get me to increase my contributions.

Make a donation through your mobile phone and you become a cash cow or so it seems.

The two charities that I have supported for many years through monthly subscription have something in common; neither has contacted me to ask me increase the amount of money I give them. They both send me updates on their work, by email now instead of printed matter, and if I feel able then I make an extra donation. I also shop in charity outlets on the high-street by the way. I believe in charity.

I am not a cash cow I am a human being with an ounce of compassion of fellow human beings and I do what I can when I can. I find it rather telling that paid professional fundraiser for large charities treat my effort with such cynicism whereas the people I see selling copies of the ‘Big Issue’ on the street never fail to be polite whenever I buy a copy from them; and they never ask me for more money either.

The point for me is that by displaying just a little gratitude for my efforts the two charities that I do support, and the ‘Big Issue’ sellers, get more money from me in the long run. The artificial, even cynical, approach of the professional fundraisers just turns me off to giving to them ever again, which cannot be good. The whole point of charity is surely the provision of relief for human beings by human beings? The key component is not money, which is just a tool for use, it is people and when the fundraisers fail to appreciate that fact then they are not going about their business in the proper manner.

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