Friday, April 9, 2010

Door-to-Door Solicitors

I am hardly unsympathetic to the woes of my fellow humans. I donate to many organizations, from my church and alma mater, to my children’s school, the museums and non-profits in my town, as well as the Nature Conservancy, the World Wildlife Fund, the Sierra Club, Channel 13, National Public Radio…I could go on.

It’s dinnertime and the doorbell just rang. I didn’t answer it because I knew who it was: a young woman from Environment New Jersey, one of the two or three door-to-door solicitors that visit me every week. (Not counting the Jehovah’s Witnesses, but that’s another story.) I’ve given in the past and I’m sure she just wanted to thank me for my past support. Before she asks me for more money. In fact, she tried to do that two days ago at about 7:45 pm, as I was taking my distressed kitten from the carrier after picking her up from the low-cost neutering clinic (also in need of funding). I explained why I couldn’t talk, and she tried to hand me her clipboard anyway. Grrr! “Some other time,” I said testily. I really meant: “Go away and don’t come back.”

I hate to be so mean. Just last week I wrote a check for another New Jersey environmental organization when the earnest young man appeared on my peeling front porch as I was helping my 1st grade daughter and 4th grade son with spelling and math homework. I support environmental causes. I’m a big fan of not destroying our planet. But the proliferation of non-profits asking for help can get downright confusing, and annoying. I respond well to guilt, but I have my limits.

There are also so many Veterans organizations lauding my past help when they call during inconvenient times that I’ve just started saying no to them all. Again, nothing against all you veterans. I appreciate the sacrifices you’ve made for our country, I am appalled by the state of services for the men and women who have served, but I believe you were all fighting for my freedom to be left in peace in my own home.

Last summer, a woman in her 30’s appeared on my door. She was selling magazines. She was so impassioned about her sale—she believed that the company she worked for was helping her exit a life of dead-end jobs at fast food restaurants—that I bought a subscription to Yoga Journal. It cost probably 5 times more than it should have. I wasn’t sure if I had been swindled, or if I had done a good deed, or both.


  1. In Sydney, many non-profits employ companies who in turn employee young people (often backpackers) to stand at train stations and other busy public spaces soliciting donations for their cause. Thing is, the way they make money is by taking a cut of the takings. So not only is it a general annoyance but its also an inefficient way to donate to the charity. But they are no match for me, I just IGNORE them.

  2. I almost bought a magazine from two teens at my door last year. Something about the whole thing gave me a weird feeling and I backed out before writing them a check. Afterwards, I researched it, and these door-to-door magazine sales are really, really icky. There could be some legit ones, I don't know, but the whole thing was really disturbing.

  3. You are far more gracious than I am. Anyone who disturbs my writing time learns quickly to NEVER do it again. I can't stand either phone or door-to-door solicitors, and I especially hate it when I go down on gigs to Philly and they approach me on the street.

    My phone's off most of the time anyway. I check messages twice a day and return calls as needed, but I loathe the phone.

    I support causes about which I am passionate, and they have my ongoing support. I choose them because I found and researched them carefully.

    Someone gets in my face about a cause and that is a guarantee that organization won't get anything from me. Period. I don't like people pushing me into "giving". I give anonymously, without strings, and where I choose, not where I'm bulled into it.

  4. you know anyone who canvasses to raise money for charity works on commission, right?

    i have friends that canvassed for various national environmental groups in college. the canvasser takes like 20% off the top.

    the amount of overhead and administrative costs is astronomical and much less goes to the cause than you might think. also it's a terrible job.

    don't support canvassing.