Politics, Sex, Religion, and all those impolite Human Conversations...

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Location: Oaksterdam, California

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Sleazy Solicitation

When I was teenager I pounded the pavement going door-to-door for several activities. There was the paper route to improve subscriptions, there was the church group to increase the fellowship, and then there was the fly-by-night operation that called itself the National Volley Ball Association (NVBA).

I was part of a cadre of canvassers, aged between 15 and 20 years old, that would pounce on neighborhoods all through our county. We usually made more than double the minimum wage of the time for our efforts. Our rallying point was an agency that was set up in a ramshackle office space and run by a sharp, professional woman not very much older than us. She drove a new, red Alfa Romeo - a sure sign of success and legitimacy…

I can still remember after all these years the spiel I gave (because I repeated it a few thousand times). I went like this.

Hello, my name is _____ and I represent the National Volley Ball Association. We are raising money to help the Women’s Volley Ball team qualify for the Olympics. Did you know they beat the Chinese team in qualifying rounds?

We are having a demonstration match at ____ High School on ____ with women’s team playing the City of ____ Sheriff’s team.

If you cannot attend we will send a handicapped child in your place. The donations are only $2 and your help would be very much appreciated. So how many tickets would like to buy?

There was a game were a women’s team crushed the local sheriff’s department at said High School, and there was a group of handicapped children prominently displayed in the center of the bleachers. The funny part is that they only numbered about 40, or so, and I knew that I had by myself collected at least 3 times that number in donated tickets.

Looking back I understand, in hindsight, that it was a business. How much money ever made it to the women’s volley ball team, I can only guess that it was small fraction of the dollar raised. This is what I would call for-profit fundraising.

Is that ethical? I’ll let you decide after you read the code of ethics put out by the Association of Fundraiser Professionals.

As one person I've interviewed recently put it, "Commercial fundraising seems to go against the idea of charity." My opinion, for what it’s worth, people that knowingly prey on peoples sympathies, or their fears, to fraud them should be consigned to a special circle in Dante’s hell for their transgressions.

To put it another way, I never got involved it something like that again…