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The Right to Ask campaign misses the point

The question of whether charities have a “right to ask” the public for donations has been stirring up controversy lately.

The Institute of Fundraising wants to remind the public that fundraisers – whether they stop you on the street, knock on your door while you are in the middle of dinner or phone you at home – have the right to do so because their beneficiaries need funds.

The aim of its campaign would be to reduce bad feeling among the public towards charity fundraisers, and to give fundraisers a more positive attitude to their work.

The institute is right to address the issue, but I think it is missing the point. Plenty of charity fundraisers know that they have a “right to ask”. The trouble is, most of the general public do not feel confident about their own right to say no.

I used to get annoyed and even embarrassed when I was stopped by face-to-face fundraisers. I felt guilty about not signing up. My new approach – of explaining that I do my charitable giving online and will not sign up in any other way – seems to be working well. But the trouble is, I am in a minority.

If people felt able to politely say no without feeling guilty about it, they wouldn’t have such a problem with fundraisers. If they wanted to support the charity’s work, they’d sign up. And if not, they’d let the charities spend their time talking to other people who might.

But I suspect this is a message the sector is less keen to promote. People do sign up because they feel guilty, and this is probably more common with face-to-face and door-to-door than with other types of fundraising. If these folk started saying no, charities could be sacrificing cash to appease public opinion.

Is it a price the sector is willing to pay?

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  • Fenris Wolf

    The problem is that the people who feel most guilty and unable to say no are the vulnerable and elderly who may well give away their electric or food money.

  • Katie Grey

    As a former chugger turned fundraiser I agree that face to face has to be a two way street for it to work. The vast majority of face to face fundraisers I meet do seem genuinely passionate about their cause, and when you talk to them as a human rather than a faceless sales person, the conversations are rewarding for both sides – even without a donation.
    Good to see a major charity defend their practices with sound reasoning rather than vague comments 🙂

  • Joseph Nagle

    This is great!

    I got tired of youth focussed non profits after a European Youth Forum meeting I went to during which the board (mostly in the late 20s/early 30s!) kept on talking about the role of ‘youth’ as though we should automatically have the right to attend meetings by virtue of our ‘youth’ and that we should focus on ‘youth issues’ because they are ones that matter to us

    I found it frustrating because I did not see my ‘youth’ as the reason for my being involved. At the time, I had just taken a job running a community centre in a multicultural area of Bradford so I actually did not want to be there because I was ‘young’; I wanted to be there to contribute to policy on an equal level because my views actually mattered and were quantifiable.

    One of the biggest barriers young people face is being underestimated by their older and ‘more experienced’ peers. The second biggest barrier young people face is continuing to think of themselves as ‘young’ and accepting or buying into the tokenistic and patronising attitudes of those around them.

    Well done for breaking the mould!