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Charity Shouldn't Start By Being Guilted Into A Donation

Perhaps more constructive, open-ended questions would have fewer people crossing the street.

26/05/2016 4:15 PM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:53 PM AEST
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Penny Stephens via Fairfax

The other day a person on the street asked me if I cared about children with HIV.

They asked it just like that, as I have typed it. "Do you care about children with HIV?" the man asked as I was briskly walking past, on my way to somewhere.

How was I supposed to answer that? Well, I know how the gentleman would have liked me to answer it. "Yes, of course I do," would have opened up a dialogue about the topic, segueing into a discussion about the charity he was chugging for.

'Chuggers' (a combination of 'charity' and 'muggers') are commonplace in Australian capital cities. Fundraisers (uni students, foreign visitors, do-gooders) lurk on busy streets and systematically stalk the public in an attempt to appeal to a passerby's good nature in the form of charity donations or subscriptions.

That part I have no problem with. Charities are wonderful, necessary, commendable organisations. I love charities and I give to charities often. I also appreciate that charities need to raise funds by a variety of means and that at times means face-to-face interactions with the public.

My issue is with the language used around the topic in a bid to lure would-be philanthropists. Chuggers use open-ended questions, which, when phrased correctly are intended to engage the person they're speaking with and encourage full, meaningful answers (and are supposed to be less leading than closed-ended questions).

But in this context, I feel this type of language is extremely leading. In Sydney's Martin Place just a few days ago I was asked shouted at: "Do you care about animals?"

My answer was a short, sharp "No" because I didn't have time to say: "Yes, I do care about animals. That's why I don't eat them. Do you eat them? I also have two rescue pets and donate a decent sum monthly to my chosen charities. I am on my way to an important meeting right now so can't talk but as a whole I think charities such as the one you represent are wonderful and I applaud their good work."

And can you guess their response? "Well that's not very nice", to which I replied "nor is your approach".

Perhaps more constructive, open-ended questions would have fewer people crossing the street to avoid such situations. Perhaps a little professionalism would do the charity these people represent some justice. Maybe some statistics and facts around the cases they're spruiking could ignite a meaningful interaction and coax a coin from a pocket or two.

Because right now the attention-grabbing one-liners that chuggers are employing are the street equivalent of tacky clickbait, and I'm not biting.

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