Are you proud to be a fundraiser?
In my experience, when you tell people that you work for a charity, or that you are a fundraiser you get one of two reactions.
The first is that people look at you in a strange new way, their eyes fill with love and admiration, like they are seeing something wonderful in you for the first time. They think that you must be a really lovely person. How could they not have noticed this before?
How ‘nice’ that you devote your life to doing good for others. They often will tell you about a charity they have donated to, or volunteer for, in a way that seeks your approval – because they want you to think that they are a nice person too. You can almost hear their minds whirring with questions. Sometimes people say what they are thinking out loud, (always dangerous in my experience) its often the question;
‘How can you afford to live in London if you work for a charity; that means you don’t get paid – right?’
With a heavy heart I explain that generally charities employ paid staff that work for them ‘like a proper job’ especially some of the larger charities. Volunteers are incredibly important in supporting the charities work and fundraising, but that if someone says they work for a charity then that normally means that they get paid a salary.
People are generally intrigued by this. Often some of the wonder disappears from their face as they realise that you are not the altruistic individual that they previously thought. You just get paid to do a job.
The second reaction when you tell people that you are a fundraiser is a look of anxiety and fear, usually followed up by a cautious look round the room for someone else to ‘rescue’ them if required and a raised eyebrow as they enquire,‘ You are not one of those chuggers are you?’ They then talk about about all the charitable donations they make, that they have no capacity to give more than they already do, the time that they and their friends and family have spent volunteering, some recount how they did actually give to someone on the street once, but more usually I hear a story about a bad experience with a money grabbing ‘chugger’. Often I’m asked if I know that some of them don’t even work for the actual charities! – outrageous. One day they could be asking for money for children and the next day for animals! Shocking.
With a heavy heart explain I am not a chugger, so they do not need to fear that I am going to somehow extract money from them. Then I tell them how ‘street’ or ‘face-to-face’ fundraising raises a lot of money and gets new donors on board which makes a significant difference to both the children and animals and other causes too. We discuss how its ok that people are specialists in this sort of fundraising and raise money for a range of causes. I try and help them understand that it’s a real skill to approach people in the street, and while not all street fundraisers are created equal, its a tough job, and that if done well raises significant money. By this point the person has labelled me as the ‘chugger defender’ and is desperately trying to get eye contact with someone else who will happily agree with them on the topic.
Has anyone else had this experience?
It would be much easier not to bother to explain how charity staff are generally paid and that ‘chuggers’ are not the lowest life form, and other misunderstandings that crop up time and time again in conversation about the charity sector. As fundraisers, part of our role is to help people understand how charities work and be proud of the jobs we do and the sector we work in. After all if we don’t do it – who will?