Portland Canvassers Accuse Progressive Group of Union Busting

Comments

1
Oh yeah; and add in the fact that they often find ways to pay you below minimum wage. This is because you want to do this, because you're a good person and you want to make a difference. But what was the last thing a PIRG ever actually did, in your memory? When I was doing it, it always struck me as being a big old slush fund for something else.
2
C'mon Mirk, I know you're more politically savvy than this. I appreciate this high-hopes article, but spell it out like it truly is: There's not a chance in hell that these people are going to be paid more, or be given benefits.

At least 75% of canvassers fail to make enough money to even pay their own salary, the other 25% make up the slack. In the end, the actual charity or cause gets next to nothing compared to what’s taken in.

When people are standing on the street corner, they're asking for money for themselves, they're asking to get money so that it can go to the 501c, where it can turn around and come back as a paycheck. *Canvassing is more about raising awareness and elevating branding than it is actual fund raising.*

By raising the salary or benefits for canvassers, the net proceeds decrease. Any benefits do this: providing unemployment, HR, sick days - those are all expenses to the employer.

I looked at starting a canvassing business for veteran's issues 2 years ago in both Portland and San Francisco. I planned to hire one civilian to train veterans to become canvassers, but when I did the math it was clear that these guys would only be paying themselves, and they'd be paying themselves shit. I decided to not go forward because it was really unethical to be parading vets in front of folks asking for money for other veterans, when other vets wouldn’t get any money themselves. Now when I see canvassers – and working downtown I have to step over them to get a cup of coffee – I just feel sorry for them, especially the motivated ones. Canvassing is a dead-end job and it’s disingenuous to the donors.
3
By donating via canvassers, you're often -costing- the charities money; a LOT of money. For every sign-up delivered to a charity, the charity pays a flat fee of $200+.
The canvassing organizations (like Dialogue Direct) are for-profit solicitation firms that essentially sell their donors to the charity. If you don't know if a canvasser is working directly for the charity, or on behalf of a for-profit middleman, why take the risk?

Here's a bit about Dialogue Direct, who work with Children's International among others: http://www.charitywatch.org/articles/street_solicitations.html

People should definitely donate, but they need to use online resources like Charitywatch or Charity Navigator to determine which charities are worthwhile, and then donate -directly- to them. There are no negatives to this approach, and you get to support important causes directly.
4
Falsely accusing employees of cheating in order to fire them has been common practice at the FUND.
5
Also, Tom Chamberlain is the president of the Oregon AFL-CIO.
6
@fidelity_axiom and other folks who mention that canvassing is expensive, canvassers only cover their costs, etc are missing a crucial piece of the puzzle here. For any organization, finding new members is the most expensive and difficult part of fundraising. It's called 'prospecting', and it really is a bit like digging for gold. Many groups will buy lists of names from other organizations, send out direct mail letters, or table for hours to find names of folks who are interested. Canvassing is a way to prospect that, while difficult, covers its costs and results in thousands of new members. Some of these members will become lifelong donors that these organizations can come back to year after year to fund-raise from in more cost-effective ways - via email, phone, or mail typically. So while the canvass itself only covers its own costs or loses money, the long term benefit of gaining these members is huge. That's why organizations of all stripes will pay canvassing organizations like the Fund, Grassroots Campaigns Inc, Dialogue Direct and others to do this for them. Others create their own in house canvassing wings - Greenpeace, BARK and others have in house (not contracted out) canvasses.
7
THANK FUCK. The PIRGs are corrupt and exploitative as shit. Also, founded by Ralph Nader. LOL FOREVER
8
It's not just the PIRGS that are fucked up. I work for a progressive nonprofit and worked with my colleagues to attempt to form a union a couple of years ago. All the normal shit happened: threats, captive-audience meetings, and stonewalling on the part of management. We are routinely asked to work 50, 60, 70 hours a week and because we're salaried, we can't say no. I have worked as many as 17 days in a row without a day off, and the culture in nonprofits is often masochistic to the point of being brutal. Most people deal with it for a year or so and then find work ouside the nonprofit world....or become management and perpetuate the cycle.
9
@Dev Pro - "Canvassing is a way to prospect that, while difficult, covers its costs and results in thousands of new members"

I have never seen that in my 5 years of fund raising and non-profit work. I know you're offering the narrative that the Seirra Club (& et al) chokes down, but there are much more cost-effective strategies to find new members than utilizing canvassers.

And I raise the BS flag on the canvassing "covers its cost" - like I said, it's not a fund raising strategy, it's a branding and awareness strategy.

Here's the math: Canvasser paid $9/hour, or $360 a week, roughly $1440 a month. With overhead & management, you can probably figure $2,000 a month is the real cost per employee/canvasser. How many sustaining "monthly donors" or "members" are needed to recoup those costs? That depends on how many sustaining donors a REALLY GOOD canvasser is able to secure on a daily basis. Maybe 2, or 3. At best 5. So after a month of canvassing and finding sustaining donors (at $5 or $10 a month), then the project MIGHT break even. After a couple months the campaign might net a couple grand per canvasser. There’s more cost-effective strategies, short and long term, to develop lists and raise money.
10
Interesting dialogue, thank you