Etiquette School is in session! > "I'm afraid that won't be possible."

Charity Guilt Trip

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This is something that happened quite some time ago, before I came across this wonderful website. I look back on it now, knowing that perhaps I could have handled the situation better. Your views are more than welcome :)

BG - I had recently left my previous job due to depression. Thinking back now, impulsively quitting my job was a careless thing to do but my illness prevented me from seeing clearly. The depression isn't relevent to the story at hand but I was unemployed for quite some time and at the time this event occurred, I was collecting Jobseekers allowance (UK version of collecting 'unemployment benefit' in the US). I hadn't recovered from my depression but I was ready to get back out there and start looking for work so I could feel *human* again. In order to do that, I needed some kind of income to assist with my job search. I needed money to get to and from interviews on public transport since I do not drive and I needed money to buy food. Of course, Money was tight and I was struggling to make ends meet. It got to the point where I was praying for someone, somewhere to give me a job because I had bills due that I was not able to pay and could barely afford to eat. It was a dark time.  END BG.

On this particular day, I was walking through town, on my way to do more job searching. As I was walking through, there were some employees from a children's charity stopping people in the street and asking for donations. A young man who was working for them, stopped me. The conversation was as follows:

Charity Man:  Hi there! You look like you have a friendly and caring face so I thought you'd be the person to stop and ask! Did you know *add statistic* children are in danger each day etc etc?

Me: Yes, I am aware of that :(

Charity Man: Well, YOU could change at least one child's life today by donating 8.50 to us every month. Would you be interested in that?

(At this point, I was stuck. I didn't want to say no because I didn't want to look heartless. I really DO admire the work done for any children's charity and always help out where possible, but my financial circumstances just wouldn't allow that to happen this time round. I was scraping pennies together to make ends meet and still wasn't succeeding. It just wasn't going to be possible).

Me: I'm sorry but I am unable to donate at this time. This is a charity I hold really close to my heart but it just isn't possible at this time. I will defiantly put my name down at a later date.

Charity Man: Well, why aren't you able to now?

Me: *Feeling 'put on the spot'* I'm not settled financially, I'm afraid I simply can't afford it at this time.

(I know that it was completely unnecessary to give details but like I said, I just didn't know what to do. It was very uncomfortable)

Charity Man: Well can't you cut back in other aspects of your life for this cause? For example, instead of buying bread when you go shopping, DON'T buy bread. Cut back on the amount of electricity you use and food you eat. Its totally worth it to save a child's life, wouldn't you agree? I approached you and suggested the lowest rate to pay. If you were some business man in a suit, I would have suggested 20.00 a month instead. It's definitely a fair price!

(At this point, I had inadvertently been made to feel as though I LOOK cheap. I just wanted to get away).

Me: *sigh* Where do i sign?

I ended up putting my bank details in to his hand held computer right there on the street and walking away feeling terrified at what I simply COULD NOT afford. As soon as I was out of the area, I phoned the charity and asked to please be taken off the list as I felt bullied in to joining. They took me off the list and apologised.

How else could i have handled that?

You could have said, No.

Seriously.  A smile, a headshake, and walk on by, is the first way to deal with this.  I already donate to my own charities, and I resent being accosted in the street and asked for money.  So I don't stop.

If you can't escape, just say No.  Don't explain.  Don't participate in a conversation.  You're under no obligation to explain - in fact, it is none of the charity pusher's business whether you have the money to donate, or are a misanthrope who hates children.  None of their business.

Actually, it's probably more polite to say, No, sorry.  And walk on.

Pod to Nestholder. It doesn't matter how worthwhile the charity is, if you don't have the money, you don't have the money. We all have to pick and chose where to spend our limited resources.

You could also come up with a standard line that you always use to avoid having to fork over money right then and there.

"I need to think about this. Do you have anything in writing that I can take home and look over?"
"My charitable contributions are already budgeted for this year. I wish you luck in meeting your goal."

I agree with Nestholder.

I would be sorely tempted to contact the charity in question and tell them that their street intercept approach and guilt-tripping tactics are not going to work in their favor.  There are some charities who do this in my city and I always tell them "No; this is not possible at this time."

Having been unemployed for two years and currently living on my savings I avoid these people like the plague.  Caller ID is also one of my best friends.

Thankyou so much for all your advice. I know that I will more prepared for a situation like this, should it happen again. I am now in a great job and have the depression under control therefore I am finacially able to donate to charities again. I will think twice about donating to organisations in a public place as I feel uncomfortable handing out my bank details anywhere that isn't private. I was 19 at the time, so I guess a few years worth of confidence building can also help me stay firm whilst remaining polite. I watch people being approached by these charities and the majority walk on by without even acknowledging the person speaking to them - which I find rude. I think its about getting the balance of declining without looking ignorant, uncaring and rude.

Whilst on the phone with this particular charity, I stressed how upset I was about the situation. The lady on the phone told me "we don't like our staff to pressure people, we will deal with him". I don't want him in any trouble as he is working for a fantastic cause, but feel you need to be careful how you go about requesting money from people.


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