From the April/May 2007 Charity Rating
Guide & Watchdog Report
Solicitations Promote Uninformed Giving
donors being mugged at $210 a pop?
Is there anything more annoying than
being accosted repeatedly in the street by charity solicitors
as you are trying to finish up your errands before your parking
meter expires? Chuggers, short for charity muggers, are probably
the least liked type of charity solicitors. A 2003 study of British
donors found that only 6% picked street or doorstep fundraising
as their preferred method of being solicited and over 30% chose
this method as their least favorite. The over 65 crowd dislikes
street solicitations the most.
So why are charities irritating people
by stopping us on our way to the grocery store or bank? Because
they are having success raising money through street solicitations.
Polite and kind donors that regularly screen out telemarketers
with their caller ID, change the channel when a charity ad is
on the radio or TV, or throw away direct mail solicitations before
opening them, may not be able to dismiss an eager street solicitor
so easily. Since most street solicitors are younger, they are
better able to engage potential younger donors who have a lower
incidence of giving in response to more traditional solicitation
Save the Children raised a little
over one-half of its new 18,000 child sponsorship donors this
way in fiscal 2005 and the Massachusetts Public Interest Research
Group signed up 15% of its 50,000 members from street solicitations,
according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy. Greenpeace,
Oxfam-America and Children International have also
reported attracting large numbers of new donors through face-to-face
Giving to a reputable charitable organization
on the street is better than giving to an individual panhandler,
who may use your generosity to enable his alcohol or drug addiction.
However, AIP has concerns about organized street soliciting beyond
it being annoying to a lot of people. Charity street solicitors
usually have I.D. cards, clipboards, charity specific shirts,
bibs, hats and informational material from the charity. Even so
it is possible for a scammer to counterfeit any of these items.
Giving your credit card information to any stranger trolling the
streets is risky in this age of increasing identity theft.
Even if you are convinced that a street
solicitor does actually represent a charity, never let yourself
feel pressured to give on the spot. Informed donors take the time
to read a charity's materials, compare it with other groups and
check with an independent source of information on charities.
Wise giving decisions are more likely to be made in the comfort
of your home than in the chaos of the street.
Since many people will not have it
in their budget to make one quick, large donation, charity street
solicitors typically ask donors to agree to a monthly payment
plan. Typically, the solicitor obtains your credit card information
so that the charity can automatically charge an agreed upon monthly
payment. Fundraisers prefer this arrangement because it locks
in a stream of contributions from the donor and lessens the need
to constantly remind you to give. Some donors may not care for
this arrangement because they would rather have the flexibility
to decide each month which group to give or not give to. The Institute
of Fundraising, an association of British fundraisers, reports
that half of street donors discontinue giving during the first
year, according to a November 2005 article in The Christian Science
DialogueDirect, a professional fundraising
business which reported recruiting 260,000 donors for its clients
such as Children International and Plan USA, pays
its street solicitors $9.14 an hour plus "performance related
pay." DialogueDirect also reports on its web site that its
"Dialoguers" or street solicitors "are averaging
between $500 and $1000 per week." A full-time 40-hour week
at $9.14 per hour is only $365. This means that the average solicitor
earns 27% to 63% of their pay by meeting "performance and
quality targets." AIP is concerned that paying such a significant
amount of a solicitor's compensation in bonuses tied to performance
goals may encourage fundraisers to put undue pressure on donors
to contribute. This is why paying fundraisers on a commission
basis is generally frowned upon in the nonprofit world. While
DialogueDirect says it is not paying commissions, its bonus pay
for "performance" closely resembles it.
The web site of DialogueDirect states
that they "charge [to the charity] a flat fee for donors
acquired." Anyone contemplating giving to a street solicitor
should find out if the charity pays a fee for your donation and
if so, how much.
Children International pays DialogueDirect
$210 for each new child sponsor who agrees to a minimum monthly
donation of $22, according to the charity's current fundraising
contract with DialogueDirect. This means that a donor will
have to make regular $22 payments for ten months before any of
their contribution can start to benefit children. The campaign
goal, according to the fundraising contract, is 19,048 new Children
International sponsors for a $4 million fee to DialogueDirect.
I have found from personal experience that street solicitors
do not like it if you don't sign up on the spot. Last year when
I told a street solicitor in Chicago that I needed time to research
a charity before making a contribution, he was not very happy
with me. The solicitor said that he would not get credit if I
sent a contribution in at a later date. It is wrong for any fundraiser
to encourage people to donate without giving them adequate time
to think about it. AIP strongly believes that professional fundraising
companies should address this problem by giving its solicitors
credit for donors that later mail in a contribution. This could
be accomplished by simply giving the potential donor a coded solicitation
slip that could later be identified with an individual solicitor.
AIP encourages its members to: find out how much a charity is
paying to solicit you, take the time to check out a charity before
giving, and not feel pressured to give on the spot in the street.