I went to a store this morning. As we approached the cashier, we could see that there was a fundraising campaign for a charity. The name of the store and charity don’t matter. This is not a criticism of the store or the charity, but only of the method that so many charities use to solicit donations: The in-store request for a dollar or two as you pay at the register.
I hate this method of fundraising. With a passion. With such a passion that it actually turns me off of the charity itself, regardless of how good the cause may be.
There were a number of people ahead of us in line. So we heard the cashier ask, over and over, “would you like to donate 2$ for [fill in the blank]”. At times she had to repeat it three or four times to the same customer given the noise levels. It was soul-crushing to listen to for five minutes. I can only imagine what it feels like to have to do it for an 8-hour shift. It is impossible to remain genuinely enthusiastic when forced to behave like a robot. I felt bad for the cashier. And when we started chatting, it was obvious she wasn’t loving the task either.
Not only is this fundraising method demoralizing for the employees (or an added source of pressure if there are internal contests or quotas), it’s an imposition to the customer. And now I can hear people yelling at their screens while reading this… “What a first-world problem and a selfish jerk… calling a request for a donation of a dollar or two an imposition”. To be sure: I donate to charity. I fundraise. And I support friends and family who fundraise. It’s not a question of the money. It’s a question of the tactic.
Indeed, the request is not a financial imposition, but a psychological one. We all have charities that are near and dear to us which we support, with time and/or money. We don’t need to be ambushed at the register and made to feel guilty or selfish for not supporting someone else’s cause, even if they are only asking for a dollar or two (although if you add it up for all the stores and restaurants a normal person frequents in a week, it quickly adds up). Some might say that no one is “making you feel guilty” for not donating – it’s up to you. Hogwash. That’s the whole raison d’être of the tactic.
But aside from how it makes the customer feel (simply for wanting to go to the store), it also looks cheap. It looks lazy. It looks pushy. There is nothing creative, novel, or engaging in the tactic. It doesn’t woo you in. It just gets in your face in an obnoxious way. And let’s not deny a reality: All things being equal, charities are competing with each other for donor dollars, so there is a user-experience that needs to be considered. It’s not just because one charity catches you with your wallet that you are going to be more inclined to support them. And even if they do manage to extract a guilt dollar or two, the user experience will influence future contributions to that cause.
Bottom line, and this is just coming from a schnook with an opinion, charitable organizations would be better served finding creative and engaging ways to solicit donations and engage their donors. Above and beyond being off-putting, in-store donations are purely transactional. They do nothing to engage an individual and get them emotionally invested in the cause. Quite the contrary, they often leave the person feeling irritated and/or shamed, and this at the cost of a dollar or two. In the long run, this tactic will likely push people away from the cause instead of drawing them in.
My two cents (pun intended). And on that note, check out a video of our night out at our kid’s paediatrician, Dr. Paul Rossy’s show at the Corona Theatre. It was to support the Children Hospital, and the music was incredible!