You will no doubt be familiar with a fund-raising technique involving people coming to your door and asking for money for one cause or another. No matter how good the cause or how respected and established the cause,
the technique seems always the same. They’re trying to set things up on their terms. They’ve knocked on your door and want to engage you in a conversation until they get money off you. If you say you’re busy, they say ‘when would you like us to return?’
The one thing they don’t have is pamphlets for you to check out at your leisure. They’re obviously all following the same playbook or getting fund-raising advice from consultants who are. In any event, at the beginning of their shtick I always interrupt as politely as I can and say that I’d be very happy to take some material from them, but beyond that, I’m not available for a discussion.
This has just happened to me, and I’ve just hightailed it up the stairs to my office to get it off my chest and have a counselling session with you, dear reader whether you are of the commenting or lurking kind. I do try to be as polite as possible, but the process is almost invariably irksome. Confronted by an extremely well-meaning volunteer, I try to deprogram the careful sales programming that’s gone into the construction of the whole interaction by the professional marketers and fund-raisers on the other side.
After telling them that I’ll deal with them, but only via some material they give me, some say “well you can go to our website”, but they don’t even have a card to give me with the address on it. I say something like “I’m hoping you’ll convey to your managers that some of us won’t donate without being given material that we can consider in our own time.”
At this point, I trigger item #43 in their training. On this occasion the guy said to me “if you don’t want to donate, that’s fine”. I responded “I do want to contribute (it was the Alannah and Madeline foundation which as I understand it does great work), but I’m not doing anything without considering it in my own time”. Anyway, this triggers the next item in their training. I’m trying to go meta and these guys, nice as they are, don’t go there. Instead they default to the next part of the manual. So it’s all very frustrating.
Right now I have two resolutions. Firstly I must focus even more on being nice to these people. I’m not very good at it because I’m trying to get them to understand something which they seem carefully trained not to. And secondly, I’m not giving to organisations that try to pressure me that way – at least for a time. Perhaps if others do, the pressure techniques of door-to-door sales and doing good will become slightly less comfortable bedfellows.