Giving in to the Guilt

The other day I had some time to kill – I know, a rare luxury – and I wandered past a guy with a clipboard. Now, a guy with a clipboard is either going to be a fundraiser trying to get people to give a regular donation or someone conducting market research or that sort of thing. Either way, a pretty good way of killing time. As I got closer I could see he belonged to the former and the charity for which he was fundraising looked like some sort of international aid type deal. I was curious and figured it would be good to learn more about this charity. I had no intention of signing away my bank details or anything like that – I just wanted a bit of info, really.

So I stopped and listened to his spiel. First, there was a lot of the formalities – I am this person, here is my badge, blah blah blah. Kind of went on a bit – maybe I’m a trusting person but I don’t expect street fundraisers to be anything other than that. Besides, if you were posing as one, surely you’d make a badge and all of that stuff – to make it seem legit? I don’t know, anyway, this guy was giving off a slightly desperate vibe and kept using subjective language – making judgements I felt should really be left up to me – you know, about how ‘amazing’ they are and what ‘fantastic’ work they do. To be fair, listening in between such adjectives, they did sound like they were doing useful stuff in places that needed it, and I did like his point about them not putting money into marketing their brand to explain why I hadn’t heard of them. I guess the longer he talked to me the more I felt like I was wasting his time – or would have wasted it if I didn’t sign up. Also, he was pulling all the old guilt-tripping tricks, such as comparing the amount of donation I’d be giving to what I could buy with it – in this case I was drinking a coffee, so he said it was the same amount as a coffee a week, which automatically made my brain think ‘you could live with one less coffee a week to save the children in Africa’. Clever, very clever. I don’t even drink coffee very often – in fact, I hardly ever buy coffee, so it wouldn’t really be coffee I’d be giving up. I wouldn’t give anything up – it would just be another bill, really.

I tried to get out of it – I was genuinely interested so I asked for something to take away and read, in the hope that I could get a bit more information – you can’t really get specifics from a street fundraiser – and possibly sign up to donate then. However, he said he didn’t have anything because the charity didn’t want to waste money and resources printing off a load of literature for people to throw away – I kind of got that, only, if it was just for people who were interested and asked for it – rather than it being forced on passers-by…surely it wouldn’t get thrown away. He also said he didn’t want people to think about it and went off on one about how a small amount of money to us can make a massive difference to them. Now, part of me was thinking ‘that’s just because most people would decide not to and they’d lose support’ but another part of me thought ‘you want people to make an ill-informed, rash decision?’

Basically, I’m just a girl who can’t say no. I’m a sucker for the guilt-trip. I signed up. I now donate the grand total of £7 a month to Care International. Do I feel proud? Like I’m doing a good thing? No. Actually I feel guilty – guilty for giving in to the guilt-trip. Guilty for spending money I don’t really have. OK, it’s not even £2 a week – or one overpriced coffee – but that’s not how it’s gonna feel when £7 extra leaves my account every month. Like I said before – it will be  just another bill to me.

Ah well.


3 thoughts on “Giving in to the Guilt

  1. Excellent piece of writing. The most interesting thing is how hollow you seem to feel after signing up.

    The manner in which charity muggers appeal to subjectivity and guilt is nothing short of a slur to the names of the charities they represent. Charities need donations, yes, but they also need strong representation and a positive image. That argument about giving up the luxuries you would normally buy with the money they’re asking for is deceptively cynical. With its appeal to guilt, it is designed not to assist, but to jar critical faculties – which, for me, is sufficient reason to tell charity muggers where to go.

    Three years ago, someone knocked on our door asking us to sign up to a charity. Leigh & I listened to him about why we ought to sign up. At the end, we asked him for the charity’s web address, so that we could donate directly, avoiding the commission that his agency (and therefore he) would have taken.

    ‘You can have the address’, he said to us, ‘but that doesn’t really help me out.’

    It isn’t just about the charities. Those lazy adjectives of theirs that you quoted – ‘amazing’ and ‘fantastic’ – seem to me as hollow as, well, the way you feel after signing up.


  2. Perfectly sums up an encounter with a chugger (charity mugger).
    Mind you the chuggers are only the beginning, soon you will probably receive a telephone call pleading for larger monthly donations.
    If it’s not a charity that you think deserves your money above other charities you can always cancel the standing order or whatever it was you set up.

    If the charity was “Y Care International” and not “Care International” their website says:
    Y Care International is not currently soliciting for donations on the streets by using face to face fundraisers (or ‘chuggers’). If you see somebody claiming to be collecting for Y Care International please call us on +44 (0)20 7549 3150, and let us know when and where you saw them.

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