Last week I was waiting for a friend outside Liverpool Street Station. It was about 6.30 in the evening and the street was teeming with commuters rushing frantically in all directions. I was a bit early and tucked myself in a corner out of the mania and was using the spare ten minutes to catch up with some email correspondence on my phone.
He did ask me if I had a minute, but before I could answer he launched into his ‘script’. Had I heard of the Red Cross? Did I know that the Red Cross were often first to respond to emergency situations. In Japan – as he pointed towards the direction of Moorgate, after the recent earthquake, the Red Cross apparently responded 8 minutes before other emergency services. He also told me a story of a woman in India who had been given a loan of £9.40 so she could set up a business and be self-sufficient and send her kids to school and she paid the money back and she was empowered and it was much better than a donation, etc, etc, etc…..
At this point he paused for breath – but not long enough to give me a word in edgeways and then he launched into ‘script part 2’ about how ‘no way’ did he want money, but could he call me in about six weeks after I had some time to reflect on this information.
Finally I had a chance to respond. I said that I wouldn’t be interested in a chat in six weeks. He looked a bit dejected. I explained that I already give to my preferred charities and that I worked for a charity so understood exactly what a good job he, and the Red Cross were doing – and that he told a good story.
On this news he looked even more dejected. He quickly regrouped, thanked me for my time and practically skipped off into the crowds of commuters, presumably to repeat his script again.
I was left feeling uneasy about this interaction and have been mulling over what it was that just didn’t work for me. I think it was a combination of factors.
- From the outset he got my back up because he interrupted me
- I couldn’t get a word in until he had recalled his script
- When I told him I didn’t want a call and that I worked for a charity I felt like I had deceived him and that’s why I felt uncomfortable. I would have liked the opportunity to be open from the outset
- Six weeks is a long time to reflect. Even for me. After being so pushy, to then be asked if I could be called in 6 weeks didn’t feel consistent. Do you need my money now or not? (I know its’ all about an engagement strategy, and I like this different approach to face to face engagement, but, for me it just didn’t feel right – the message didn’t match his approach)
- I felt that he told a great scripted story, but it lacked authenticity. I didn’t believe he really knew about the Red Cross. I don’t think we could have had a two-way conversation.
- It was all about him and his script, he didn’t listen or take me into account. (Shouldn’t fundraising be all about the donor?)
- I acknowledge that I have the potential to be the fundraising Grinch; I mystery shop a lot of charities and companies, with a view to commenting on my experience, so I’m perhaps not your average person on the street.
I think that face-to-face fundraisers have a really tough job and they raise significant income for charities. I don’t want this to read as a pop at face-to-face. I don’t like being interrupted so I acknowledge that my unease is perhaps about me and my preferences – but how many other people are like me? For me, a shift in tone or approach that involved an off script two-way conversation would have engaged me more and left me feeling very differently about the experience.
What do you think? I’d be interested to know your views – or if your organisation has tried this approach and what the results were.