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Why I’ll think twice before donating by text again

I’ve had two experiences in the last week that have made me think hard about the way I donate to charities.

The first followed a donation I made a few weeks back while watching an advert on the TV. The voiceover urged me to make a one-off, £3 donation to the charity by text that would buy a gift for a beneficiary.

I loved this method. I find texting much easier than picking up the phone or visiting a website. The donation amount requested was small, and it equated to an actual gift – so I felt my money would end up contributing something, that it was a one-off, and that I wasn’t being asked to commit to something more long term.

So I was surprised when I received a phone call out of the blue from a London-based number (not from an 0800 number that might have stopped me from picking up) a few weeks later. The caller was pleasant enough and explained she was just finding out if I could Gift-Aid the donation, but I was continuously badgered over the next five minutes to commit to donating each month. I explained I wasn’t interested, but she persisted, using a script she had in front of her. I know this because once or twice she apologised for getting a word wrong and would start her sentence again, which made her ‘thanks for donating’ feel particularly disingenuous.

Once she’d finally got the message, they then asked if I wanted to make another one-off donation. I explained that I was happy with the donation I’d made, and that I already supported other charities so felt I wasn’t in a position to give any more at this time.

I ended the phone call feeling angry and guilty at the same time. I was made to feel my donation hadn’t been enough, though it’s all I feel I’m able to give.

It’s a shame, as had I watched the advert again, prior to this phone call, I would have donated again. I think they need to rethink the way they ask about Gift Aid – a follow-up text would have been more appropriate, though I’m not sure that’s possible.

Now, I’m afraid, I’ll never donate to that charity again and would worry about donating by text in future in case this kind of thing was to happen again.

The second incident happened while I was at home last night. A knock on the door at about 7.15pm revealed a fundraiser collecting for a big charity. I was surprised as I’ve never had a door-to-door collector visit my house before and I felt ambushed. He was perfectly polite and friendly, but I hated the whole experience. I didn’t feel comfortable and felt trapped because I couldn’t escape without shutting the door in his face and being rude. I was also caught off guard, as I’d not expected him so didn’t have a handy excuse prepared. For the first time I realised how much easier it actually is to avoid chuggers on the street.

Twenty minutes later I’d committed to a monthly donation, but I don’t know how long I’ll keep it up for. I was uncomfortable handing out my personal details and bank account information, though his credentials appeared genuine. I felt guilty for suspecting him and angry that I couldn’t double check about him with the charity because it was out of hours, and I didn’t want to offend him in case he was the real deal.

I appreciate it is necessary for charities to fundraise actively, but my experiences with these two have left a sour taste in my mouth, and I can’t see myself donating again to the first one, or keeping on donating for or much longer to the second.

  • John Barnes

    Perhaps I have a more suspicious mind but I would never give out bank details to someone who came to my door as I dont know who they are or what they will do with the information. I tell the caller that so hopefully the information gets back to head office that people are not prepared to give in this way.

    Similarly I wont sign up with chuggers for the same reason – although I guess you can be a bit more confident that they are who they say they are.

    As for the charity people that ring up – I try and be polite and get them off the phone but I do get annoyed (not as annoyed as with the ‘Windows support team’ and reclaim PPI phone calls but its a fine line!)

    I tend to take a dim view of charities that engage in these practices (especially the ‘donor development’ or whatever they call it)

    • Shirley Scotcher

      I am really interested to see your comments, and am hoping that you might have an answer as to how charities can gain donations at a time when money is so incredibly tight for everybody, and advertising space and mailing costs are at a premium? It is such a difficult time for all charities, and they must ask for donations to not just continue the great work that they do, but just to survive in these very challenging times. The charity I work for does not undertake any telemarketing or door to door fundraising, however I do sympathise with those charities that need to.
      Do you have any suggestions?

  • Roger Craven

    The complaints you make are about inappropriate behaviour by telephone and door to door fundraisers, not actually about text donation (despite the headline). Overly pushy fundraising will cause the charity long term problems and costs with unsubscribers. To control that the longer term rate of unsubscriptions should be one of the key metrics in monitoring and rewarding a fundraisers performance.
    Any time that someone makes a donation the charity needs to obtain the permission of the donor to use that information for marketing purposes (there is no assumption of consent in donations compared to other forms of charity fundraising). Whether the nature of the permission is opt-in or out is a moot point, but the donor must be given the opportunity to do so.
    Used properly text based donations can be a good way to create a “warm list” for outbound fundraising calls, but it has to be done properly. Personally I think the donor should be asked by text for their agreement within 24 hours of the calls starting and given the chance to opt out. Calling unwilling supporters is a cost the charity can do without.
    A good warm list of text donors who have given permission for follow up calls will achieve significantly higher average donation and conversion rates in our experience at Vir2 as a supplier of such services to major charity brands.

  • Thank you all for your comments. Some great points made.

    I do appreciate that perhaps the headline was slightly misleading, in that the article focuses on the follow-up phone call, however this call has dissuaded me from using the medium to donate again.

    I find that the reasons I have been prompted to donate in the past have been:

    – encountering a street fundraiser for a charity that I had meant to support but hadn’t got around to before
    – an emotive TV/print advertisement, particularly ones that want one-off donations
    – disaster relief campaigns
    – TV fundraising initiatives – like Comic Relief/Sport Relief/Children in Need
    – Friends who are doing fundraising challenges
    – street collectors collecting change
    – and finally charities that support causes that I have been affected by personally

    Not sure if that helps!

  • Emma Jones

    My concerns are around the cost of the charity phoning and cold calling once I’ve made a donation. In your article, you say that you made a £3 donation. Their phone call plus the cost of overheads will probably have negated the donation to a large degree and it’s this that I find more uncomfortable and also wasteful of hard earned money that I’ve donated. A reply text to say thanks is good as it can be automated. Like you say, you may also consider donating again when you see their advert, rather than feeling pressured and uncomfortable by them badgering you which has the opposite effect.

  • Vickie Wood

    The dilemma for fundraisers is that the fundraising activities that are at least in the short term most effective are also the very ones that are likely to cause greatest annoyance and be complained about by the public. The fact that they are direct ways of making asks is exactly why they are most effective but also why they are harder to ignore and therefore for some people, cause annoyance. A charity would only ask for a £3 donation in a TV ad as a way of finding likely people who they can then convert to regular giving. Its an investment to build long term income for the charity concerned and a long established technique. It isn’t an approach aimed at building meaningful relationships with supporters. That’s a much more interesting process but in the current recessionary environment when charity incomes are under pressure, its an even harder challenge.

  • Julie Ward

    I have given by text donation before and then recieved the thank you and the request for gift aid by text so this is definitely possible. I have also signed up to a door-to-door fundraiser before but only becasue I had a previous link to the charity. I did however then recieve a follow up call asking me a double my monthly donation whihc left me feeling really, really unconformatle. And people badly following scripts are the worst!

  • Rex

    I too have made donations to charities online and been phoned up unexpectedly with the fundraiser strongly pushing me to sign up for monthly contributions. If having sex with someone after they’ve said No once is rape then some of these fund raisers are the biggest rapist going. ‘No’ given a variety of polite ways and excuses doesn’t seem to get through and they will badger you until you cave in or hang up on them. It does indeed leave a sour taste in ones mouth for having given them anything at all.

    Charities need to move forward with the times and find new ways to support their causes. I more readily donate to causes which offer me something in return, some small token which I can pin to my shirt or bag or a sticker or something. I also like knowing what my money will be spent on so showing how the money is used is another incentive.

    Lastly.. if they want me to come back and give more, don’t badger me! Leave me with a warm feeling having done something nice and I’ll do it again. And if I don’t just accept what’s been given with good grace and move on.

    Oh and always make the minimum contribution 1 pound! I NEVER donate to causes that set the lowest amount at a 5iver.

  • yhude

    Valid points here, most importantly just dont sign up with phone companies using real details. they sell your information to anyone else and keep it online for companies…just like the alias I am using atm