How do you feel about saying ‘no’ when someone asks you for something? When they go for the hard sell? Does it affect you?
Where we live we are frequently visited by people representing charities, knocking on doors and asking for commitment to give them money.
Maybe this happens where you live too.
At least once a week someone arrives at the doorstep to tell their emotive story before telling me what I can do to help. Obviously ‘help’ in this context is restricted to money. And many times it feels like you I am backed into a corner and unable to find the space to escape the situation with integrity.
Saying ‘no’, telling them to ‘go away’, or simply declaring that ‘I’m not interested’ is hard. Because I care. Responding negatively to something that you emotionally connect with is horrible, and I hate to be in a position where it feels or appears like I don’t connect or care.
It’s fine if you can catch them before they make their pitch, but that intentionally requires you to be brave or comfortable enough to i interrupt them. I find that hard.
‘Excuse me, can I just stop you there? I’m not going to sign up to anything or give you any money today. You can leave me a leaflet with information so that I can give it some consideration.’
I used this line once and the ‘seller’ told me that they don’t give out literature because it makes people less likely to sign up.
Whilst I appreciated her honesty (I’m not sure she meant to feed me that official secret truth), it told me something interesting…
Either their literature needed some serious re-thinking, or they had absolutely no interest in the long game – building trusting relationships. And to be fair, many of these workers are being paid commission and are in fact working through companies on behalf of the charities, not directly for the charities themselves.
What unsettles me is the impact it has on my own view of these organisations. To me the ethic and purpose behind many charities is based on a care and concern for humanity.
I am on board. I buy into this.
Yet at the front line, in the process of building the basic structure (funding it), there is often an ironic disregard for people. We don’t have faces. We simply have wallets. And it always starts with the money. With a conversation that is heading in one direction – the quick and hard sell.
There is something unattractive and unsettling when you know that someone is only talking to you because they want something.
A few months ago I opened the door to a parliamentary candidate, and to be honest it was a breath of fresh air. She didn’t want me to sign up to anything, she didn’t want to give me a load of political spiel to try and win me over to her point of view.
She was simply making contact to ask me about my own concerns, my own passions, and the things that matter to me in our local community. She was brief, she gave me her card and said that if I wanted to talk in anymore depth to call and she would meet up with me.
This is the difference-maker. She started a relationship and made me feel valued. What she said through our conversation was ‘you’re worth listening to and I want to hear what you have to say’. That is how you sell an idea, a product, or a service. You care about people and you show them that they are much more than walking dollar signs.
Hassle is Easier than Saying No
About five years ago I did something that sounds ridiculous…
I gave in and signed up to give to a charity door knocker. Not because I wanted to, but rather because it seemed easier than encouraging him to leave. He had a clever response to all of my attempts to gently move him on. Eventually I reasoned in my mind that it would be easier to sign up now and then inform my bank to cancel the direct debit once he had left. So that’s what I did. And it worked.
This is a fundraising method that gets results. The return on investment seems to add up, it’s difficult to purely argue with the numbers. It’s increasingly hard for charities to raise funds and I can see exactly why it’s so tempting to do.
My concern is the long game. For the sake of all non-profits. The trust that is being eroded every time someone feels harangued into giving, or made to feel guilty for not doing so…in their own home, by organisations that were founded on good values, on transcending the bottom line and fundamentally placing the value of humanity before profit.
Is there another, more creative way to do this that honours these values without making people give from a place of guilt and intrusion?
Over to You
Question: How does it make you feel when you know all someone wants is money? When you say ‘no’, how do you feel afterwards? (Please leave your answer in the comments)
Photo Credit: Let Me In by Manu Magalhães (via Compfight)