Today is the day of my fundraising deadline, and with a lot of work I have finally hit: eight, zero, zero, pounds! I never thought I would do it. From crying to my Mum about the harsh and ungenerous nature of humanity, to screaming at strangers on Oxford Street, this thing has definitely been a tough journey. Though I will never understand why 90% of people make a good deed so gruelling, I can summarise my ICS fundraising experience as incredible. That rare gem of support when you least expect it can keep you smiling for days. This is about what makes and breaks collectors.
I learnt this thing in Psychology ages ago called weapon focus theory. If a man comes at you with a knife, naturally your attention to his face is going to be a little distracted. Exactly the same thing happens with fundraising. If you see someone pointing a bucket at you, you panic. ‘Where is my wallet, is it safe, how can I avoid this.’ You can see the step by step thought process and nothing you say is reassuring. People don’t understand quite how much most collectors would rather hear the word ‘no’, than see that same wounded expression of disgust muddled up in shame. We know we can’t give to every fund, and we can’t always find the time to stop. Its ok to say no, its so much nicer to be treated like a human being.
A second thing that is rather nice is the ‘community of collectors’. Sometimes, you don’t even care what people are collecting for but when you see that helpless person standing uncomfortably on the corner receiving evils for working that good cause, you have to stop and say: ‘I know its tough, well done.’ I’ve had past collectors approach me when collecting, and talking to the India team we’ve found its a common feeling.
Are they legitimate? Its a totally understandable fear that’s surfaced a few times. I don’t mind when people ask me, in fact its great that people are responsible enough to find out. I can assure you though that any collectors on privately owned land have license to be there, security would boot them out otherwise. If anyone asks you and you’re not sure, just ask their charity number so you can look into the organisation. Anyone has access to these numbers so its no guarantee but it usually cuts out the liars pretty well.
Taking an interest is worth £1000. Even just asking why a bucket collector is giving up their time is an incredible thing to them. The same applies to friends and family when people share a cause. I’m actually rather scared about working in rural India for three months, as I’m sure collectors are about exposing themselves on the streets day after day. I’ve only experienced verbal abuse but it does get worse! When people treat us with respect and appreciation, it makes us feel way better.
And finally, there is no moral high ground. Its a common thing that people feel superior, giving to charity, inferior when they feel they are begging, whatever. It doesn’t really matter. Giving a few coins to somebody means nothing unless you are truly interested in understanding stuff about humanity. If you look into causes, give time, and work on meeting people you get this kind of bug for it. You understand things you never could before and, honestly, I’m not playing saint. I never had it before but in the drive to make my CV look hot I am hooked. You learn so much more because your relationships with people are no longer economic. You step outside of the world where you’ll only talk to people if you have to put up with them or if you want something. You stop clock watching your wages and you start looking at what you can learn from people. Thanks to the Active Change Foundation for the gig.
So, I hope your perspective on fundraisers will be changed forever! Probably not, but its out there. I leave you with the story of walking under Waterloo bridge seeing a Big Issue seller parting the crowd like your modern day Leper. I walked up to him and apologised for only having my card and being in a rush. He thanked me as though I had given him a tenner before stepping into no man’s land to let me walk past. Respect ain’t so hard.