Friday, March 9, 2012

Charities - what do you do when they come to you?

Not that the poor, unsuspecting young man at my front door knew any of it, but I had had a crappy kind of day. The sort of first-world crappy that doesn't win me any bleeding heart medals but they were my focus in the moment. The sort that didn't put me in the most ideal frame of mind to humour an uninvited stranger.

So when I was attending to - ahem - the other kind of (monthly) visitor that isn't exactly the most welcome because of its uncanny knack of turning up at unpleasant, unplanned times (one week early this time and paaaainful.... SURPRISE!), I did not expect to have to handle any other unwanted surprise guests.

But sure enough, I heard a rap at the front door at the worst possible moment. Followed closely by "MUUUUUUM, someone's heeeeere" from the LGBB.

I got to the door as quickly as I could - no way is a door-to-door .... what are telemarketers who go door-to-door actually called? (be nice) .... seller going to go anywhere if they know someone is home! - and I was greeted by a very cocky young man standing with his hand placed high on my door jamb. Not a euphemism, thanks for wondering. It was not the most endearing pose, put it that way, and while it may work on a Saturday at the nightclub it's not the best stance to have when you're trying to talk to home owners about the plight of the Ugandan people.

Furthermore, aren't they supposed to wear some sort of badge identifying who they work for? Well... there was none of that. In fact, there was no introduction of any kind. The young man simply launched into a spiel that, while well rehearsed and certainly speaking of dismal circumstances for an entire race, was unsolicited, seemed to be going nowhere and left no gap in it for me to explain as I stood there as patiently as I could that he had not even wished me a happy International Women's Day yet, despite the fact that:

• I was harbouring worse stomach cramps than he'd likely ever have in his entire life
• I had sprinted out of the hairdressers so fast earlier that afternoon, when I realised they had overshot their timing of how long it would take, and now had a half-cut head of hair that would not be corrected until next Tuesday!!! (anyone got a hat they can loan me? Urgh)
• I had been so upset about being, therefore, almost half an hour late to collect my daughter from school that I was still, now an hour later, feeling the after-effects of the sudden adrenaline fight-flight rush
• I now had about 2.3396 seconds to get myself and my kid out the door - her in her swimming cozzie - in time for her class because I had been so late picking her up
• I hadn't had anything to eat since breakfast (it was 5pm)
• It was 5pm! What was he doing here at such a busy time of day!?
• perhaps most alarmingly, there was no chocolate or marshmallows in the house to reverse the effects of the first five points.

Now, I realise their job is to pluck at the heart strings to try and raise funds for whatever cause they are pushing. I will not deny that if I let it, my heart would bleed dry for my fellow man - anywhere in the world, whatever the dire circumstances - but the thing is, how does a person fronting up to my door or calling on the phone know how many (and what) charities are my choice to donate to?

Truth is, while I live a very comfortable life, I am far from a position where I can willingly donate to every single cause that presents itself. I just can't. Factor in the apparently endless stream of school fundraising (that begins in kindergarten!) that we have to pick and choose and tactfully negotiate our way around so we appear to be giving "enough" as a family without giving blindly to everything - I mean, come ON! $6.50 for 6 hot cross buns???? I LOVE hot cross buns but there is a line that has to be drawn! - and you've got one heck of a funds-bleed that threatens to push us into overdraft very soon.

I cannot deny my flush-faced frustration at this kid who was on my doorstep. The sheer arrogance of him - as if his fancy French-accented demeanour was supposed to make me stand there as a captive audience even after I told him not once but twice that I was late to get out the door - made me want to slam the door in his face. But he was talking about clean drinking water. Death and destruction. Women and children. War.

I tried to cut him short with, "Do you want money?" and he said no, he had not asked me for money (I assumed the unspoken "yet" was implied). I asked him if he could leave me the information and he said by law he wasn't allowed to - whaaaat???! - and then proceeded to continue with his torrent.

This kind of apparently endless one-sided regurgitation of recited information makes me seethe. I admit it. It has long since brought me to the decision that I will no longer donate more than a couple of gold coins to anyone who is coming around door-knocking. And if they're on the phone, I bid them good luck and a good day but firmly hang up the phone. Some of our hard earned, scarce money does go to charities but they are ones of our choosing - those causes we are passionate about, everyone has their preferences - and we cannot give to all. Nor should we be expected to give just because they send someone directly to our door.

So.... how do you succesfully remove a person off your front porch? Hanging up on the phone is one thing, but they're wise to that tactic (obviously). I find it the height of invading my space when it's a physical person I'm then forced to be firm with in order to remove them from my property.

What do you do with door-to-door donation seeking types? The ones who have a spiel longer than your arm and don't want to get to the point - you giving money - no matter if you try and round them up to get to that part so you can just work out the money bit already??

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