General May 24, 2012 at 4:00 am

How to Spot and Identify Donation Gatherers in the Wild


'as a college student, but not as an adult'

Ugh, canvassers. One of the most effective ways I've found to deal with the ones that catch you from a block away with a OMG HI HOW ARE YOU? is to turn it back at them and then be like HOLY SHIT YOU ARE NOT MY FRIEND. FUCK. GOOD-BYE.

Also, I hate canvassers
I used to be a canvass supervisor for Grassroots Campaigns, Inc (GCI). I was also ground up and spit out after a short period of time for not raising enough money. As a "supervisor," I was a canvasser who got an extra $10/day for talking with my "team" about the day. It was by far one of the most degrading jobs I have ever had. I was a recent college grad who was new to Portland and DESPERATE for a job. The description of canvassing in this article is spot on.

When I lived back in Albuquerque, I had canvassed, but not for a fundraising cause. It was for a local environmental nonprofit, but our thing was just to go door to door and attempt to persuade people of the importance of the Mexican Grey Wolf in New Mexico. I actually enjoyed this because my "friendly" conversation with people didn't have an ulterior motive to get money out of them. I actually had more people ask if they could donate money from doing that than I did working for GCI.

Some of these canvass organizations are sketchy as hell. They are little more than pyramid schemes. Steer clear unless it is truly just a persuasion campaign. It seems odd that a for-profit corporation would be fundraising for a non-profit. Someone is making a hell of a lot of money off of idealistic young progressives.
^ Working for OSPIRG was fucking awful too. Besides some general weirdness, I made $90 for TWO WEEKS OF WORK. This was back in 1997 thouh
Wow. Yeah, we did get paid a little more than that, but not much. I got paid on commission based on how much I raised or minimum wage, whichever was higher. Thing is, I had to fight with them after I got fired because on the days where I only earned minimum wage, they tried to pay me at the federal minimum wage, not the Oregon state minimum wage. I ended up having to call their main office in Boston to get them to send another check with the correct wage.
I have no idea of what they were doing was legal in Oregon. I do know we were commission only. :/ To this day, I won't donate to a PIRG.

(There was a lawsuit against WashPIRG about the same time, we ended up getting a small settlement out of that one after we did some canvassing in Seattle.)

When i first moved here, my very first job was doing door-to-door for OSPIRG. I had NO idea what i was getting myself into! The job description was vague enough that i assumed it was some sort of in-house sales gig - which i've done before. Frankly, i've never even heard the word "canvassing" regarding what it's known for before moving to Portland. Back in GA, it always was just called "door-to-door". $80 - as of 2005, that was the minimum daily quota. MOST people will not sustain that - no matter how young, pretty, and disgustingly up-beat you are.

I lasted two weeks - which apparently is a week longer than the average hire. Very miserable, demoralizing work, it is. Left out there in some rich-fuck neighborhood for 4-6 hours at a time. If you HAVE to use the bathroom, your choices are:

1. Ask a potential giver if you could use theirs (after asking them for money - AWKWARD!).

2. Find some bushes.

3. Hold it as best you can.

If you're lucky you might end up near a school that's open, and you can go there. But don't count on it. Canvassing for OSPIRG will typically have you out in the West Hills or some other upper-middle class area where's you're literally miles away from the nearest store or bus stop.

And not that i'm bashing on OSPIRG, 'cause i'm really not. They ARE legit and theirs is a great cause. But damn, the job itself! I just wish there were a better way of doing it.
I wonder if the canvassers, or their supervisors, ever considered that less pushiness might, in some cases, equal more donations? That whole tactic where they lock eye contact with you from half a block away -- that pisses me off. That's an automatic no. If these kids with clipboards would tone down the zeal and be less smarmy, they might actually get me to stop and listen to them for a few moments. If not, my 5 dollars is going to the guy with the cardboard sign. And least then I'll know exactly where the money is going.
I thought you were going to tell us how much money went to the organization as opposed to the overhead including hiring these people to canvas. Also, if I give my credit card info to some tiny coed on the streets, is there any chance that that info might wind up somewhere it's not supposed to go? Either because somebody knocks her over and takes it, or the canvassers are themselves desperate for cash. Not that I would ever give money to these people, so it's a moot point.

Before I leave Portland, I want an opportunity to tell a Greenpeace canvasser to go fuck a polar bear.
@9. Good point. Especially considering the high turnover rate of these canvassers, just another reason to not give out credit card information on the street.

And I just want to point out, for my own liberal peace of mind, I fully support giving to non-profits and donating to charities, but on my own terms, on my own time, and in a way that I feel is both secure and legitimate.
@seanpdx I'm going to carry around a copy of the ACLU Amicus brief on how corporations are people to hand out to that particular group. Here you go dickbags! This is what you're actually canvassing for.

Also, Nazis.
I worked for Grassroots during the fall 2010 election cycle. We only went to the homes of registered voters with spotty voting records and reminded them to make sure to vote (for Kitzhaber in particular). No money, no guilt, just vote. The only turnoff for me in the six weeks I canvassed was when one of the higher-ups of the operation gave us a pep-talk one day and called Chris Dudley an "idiot meat-head jock." This guy was a Willamette University graduate while Dudley holds a degree from fucking Yale. Before leaving us to work he implored us to become Facebook friends with his Black Lab dog. Other than that I have fond memories plus I could make my own hours which was a plus seeing as how I took it on as a second job to pay off my Visa card.
I've always liked the British term "chuggers," which is short for "charity muggers."
@luckynumbercapricorn. As for the zeal and such, I understand your frustration. Thing is, the way they make the canvassers talk to people is through a script. Literally a word-for-word script. You are not to deviate from that script during the pitch at all. You can get in trouble for deviating at all. It is really annoying. Indeed, one of the canvassers I supervised basically ignored the script and she was able to raise a hell of a lot of money. However, my boss got upset with her because she didn't use the script. After she started following the script, her numbers dropped a lot.
I lasted approximately one week as a canvasser, being one of the many clueless people lured 20 minutes out of college by "SUMMER JOB TO PROTECT ____, $X-$Y/hr!"

If you want to meet a lot of really fun people, it's pretty good in my single experience - I'm still good friends with many of the people I worked (and drank) with, at what I assume was OSPIRG.

Essentially ask yourself: would I be cool with going door to door selling vaccuum cleaners, and maybe selling one in a full day of walking (a shocking amount of walking)? If the answer is yes and you like boozing + the environment, sign up today.

While I still don't give money on the street or doorway (we give monthly online to various causes/orgs), I'll often let these people practice their pitches. Because I'm a sap sometimes.
some of those chicks are hot!! can you trade donations for phone numbers??
The HRC is a sham, it exists for the advancement of bourgeois White gay men and lesbians.
The salient fact missing from this article is that canvassing companies take a percentage of the charitable donations. After the Do-Not-Call list went into effect several years ago, a lot of telemarketing companies transitioned to soliciting donations on behalf of charities.

If these canvassing companies work on the same percentages, the actual charities see only around 20% of the donation money. The other 80% goes towards ensuring that every goddamn street corner in Portland has a shill with a clipboard waiting to harass people.

TL;DR: Stop giving people money on the street. If you're feeling philanthropic, make a mental note and donate directly to the charity on their website.
well you can probably think of it two ways, hey you are making 9 dollars an hour and if you are a shameless a-hole, you can do that and work on your tan. if you have any bit of self worth working a canvassing job is probably really shitty. i still snicker at my $3.57 an hour dishwashing job in the college cafeteri but id rather do that then stand on a street corner saving the whales, babies, rocks, trees, whatever.....but yeah, how do we hook up with those hot looking hippy girls??
@Graham buzzer4life
I worked for one day fundraising door to door for an environmental group in Portland when I was 20 or so and I quit at the end of the shift even though broad hints were dropped that there were occasional orgies in the van. Not sure if that still goes on, this was THE EIGHTIES!!!
No orgies, just underpaid and either pranked or someone seriously tried to recruit me into monkey wrenching. Fucked. Up.
I gnaw at the heels of canvassers. Bunch of annoying Aholes.

Also, why has nobody reported on the rampant fox attacks in Newberg!? Our town is inundated with foxes and nobody seems to care. Where did they come from?

Also, follow @Squirrelchat if you like humor on the twitterz
Haha your twitter is hilarious, Squirrelbaby
Glad the Merc did this article. Well written too. I'm not keen on the "get in your face" canvasser technique, I've stopped for the "Could I talk to you about X?" approach twice, and ended up signing up for one. The "How are you today?" is a bad approach, because , let's face it, you don't care how I am need me to commit, so honesty is a worthy approach. The one canvasser who deserves the "Nice try but you're an asshat"award goes to some lady in Sellwood who's pitch was something like "So, can you sleep at night knowing that ____" to which I said "No, but thanks for the insomnia" and as I walked away started insulting me. So, by implication, she, who knows nothing about me, my income, my own charitable giving...she gets to be on the street and say what she wants? Yes, she does, cuz that's the first Ammendment. And because of that same law, I'm calling her an asshat. Thank you.
I don't want to talk to canvassers anymore than anyone else, but people who are verbally abusive to them are scum. I've seen the most casual non-in-your-face variety get screamed at by some sociopath. They don't get paid enough, by a humongous margin, to put up with that kind of abuse. They may be annoying to you, but they're doing their job, one they wouldn't be doing if they didn't need income.
As for the ACLU supporting free speech for neo-Nazis: of course. If you're not in favor of free speech for neo-Nazis, then you're not in favor of free speech, period. But I would personally never donate to the ACLU again because the way they've worked to expand corporate rights actually threatens human rights.
Reading comprehension
Complete sentences
I am a member of Greenpeace, Children International (have sponsored kids),WWF, nature Conservancy and Oxfam. If I am not in a huge hurry, I do stop and let them know this. I have had genuine "thank you's" and a hug (from a rather cute girl) last week. Sure, some of them are pushy but I also think some of these kids genuinely care and there is naught wrong with that. I know it can be annoying but they are not the Westboro Baptist Church. I see those clowns and it's asskicking time. And no, I am not signing your "medical hippie lettuce" initiative. @27, good point geyser.
@iceprez Watch your dirty whore mouth. Willamette University is the Harvard of the west.
Call WU what you want, it does not change the fact that this guy wanted us to be fb friends with his black lab dog
I thought it was a Dental College?
I like to keep it simple for folks like you geyser.
People like me think you don't have to try.
Sigh. I really wish that groups that I actually care about, like Planned Parenthood, wouldn't use canvassers - I would like to not have to make that exception to my policy of never giving money, even through other means, to groups that use them. My general feeling is that, if you can afford to pay a fleet of obnoxious college kids to harass people on the street, you can't possibly need my money that badly. Are the PP people volunteers?

Please wait...

Comments are closed.

Commenting on this item is available only to members of the site. You can sign in here or create an account here.

Add a comment

By posting this comment, you are agreeing to our Terms of Use.