Charity Dilemma

Since leaving the army, my husband has worked for a veterans charity and both of us like to try to help charities we feel passionate about. We have a couple of charities that we donate to regularly, we will both also give to other charities if, for example there’s a street collector or we happen to see a cause that we like the sound of what they do.  I’d love to be able to do more, but I just don’t have the financial resources to do so. I also try to help out physically, before the girls were born we would help in a “soup kitchen” at Christmas and I also volunteer and help out with riding for the disabled.

However, for about 3 weeks now I’ve been inundated and when I say inundated I mean 3-5 sometimes more phone calls a day, that can last upwards of 30 minutes, from charities.  Well from the call centres working on the charities behalf.  I don’t have a huge problem with the number of phone calls, I appreciate in times of recession charities are getting it tough.  Some of them are struggling to get donations, so they need to up their fund-raising.  They need to get into “homes” to talk to people.

What does bother me though is the manner in which the fund-raising is conducted.  The first call I got was from a woman who spoke very quickly and half muttered the name of a charity at me and then launched into her demands for money and it truly did feel as though she were demanding money from me.  She started to tell me that they needed money to carry out all their good work and that they sent children with disabilities and their families on holiday, these were much-needed breaks etc, etc.  In order to continue doing that, she wanted – yes she used the word wanted, £30 per month as a minimum donation from me and I would have to do it there and then over the phone with her.

I questioned her straight away, asked her to explain just who the charity was and what areas of the country they helped.  I still couldn’t make out the name of the charity, so I asked her if they had a website.  She just talked over me and didn’t tell me.  I then asked her if she had any information that could be sent out to me.

She went into a huge rant about how charities were in financial difficulty and again that she would set up my direct debit there and then.  I told her that I would not be giving her £30 per month, as I no longer work and was not about to authorise a direct debit from our joint account (my husbands wages) to a stranger on the phone claiming to be from a charity that I had never heard of.  She was furious, she kept repeating that the direct debit wouldn’t start until January and surely I could spare £30 a month!

By now I had stopped feeling understanding and I was angry.  I told her I would under no circumstances give our bank details to someone over the phone who could not prove in any way who they were and who offered me no information.  I also questioned the sum of money.  She was adamant that it had to be £30, when I asked why, she couldn’t actually give me a valid reason.  I asked if I could donate online, again she talked over me.  I asked her could I give a one-off donation, she said no I want  – yes the word WANT again £30 a month.  Surely a charity would never turn down a one-off donation or a donation of any size.  I always believed giving to charity was a voluntary decision, including the amount you give.  I didn’t realise that they now have set minimum amounts!  I suspect this is totally untrue.

In the end, I cut this rude woman off.  I told her she was probably damaging the charity with her attitude and that I actually though she was a scammer.  I told her that I could do what she just did.  I could go through the phone book and ring a hundred people claiming to be from a charity and gleaning their bank details!  I then hung up on her, but it left me really angry.  Angry that she dragged me into an almost petty argument with her, angry that a charity could be suffering because of her “fund-raising” attempts and angry at the fact that I suspect she is paid commission from the call centre based on the number of direct debits she gets and how much they are for – hence the £30 minimum and the aggressive sell, rather than the compassionate charity sell.

A few hours later, I received another phone call, this time from a different charity who assist slum children in India.  It was a man this time and he was much more polite, but still on the hard sell, this time however, the minimum direct debit was £40!  When I told him I wasn’t working at the moment and our only income came via my husband, he then said he could do a “deal” for £10 per month!!!  Do a “deal”, do a “deal” – come on, it’s a donation to charity, not an eBay auction.  I was flabbergasted and so stunned I just told him to go away and put the phone down. Now I really did think I was being scammed.

I googled the telephone number  and yes, this is a call centre who deal with all sorts of clients, some charities amongst them.  So at least I knew it wasn’t scammers – I suppose that’s something.

Phone call number 3 was for yet another different charity and he wanted £30, number 4 wanted £30 and number 5 wanted £40!  So after just one day my monthly direct debit to these particular charities would be £170 times that by 5 days a week, because that is honestly how often this is happening.  That is £850 per month - on top of our existing regular donations!  I’m sorry, but we are NOT Bill and Melinda Gates. 

That was only one day of phone calls, as I said at the beginning, I’m getting between 3 and 5 of these calls every day now and all of them seem to be from another charity.  I’m at the point now of using BT call blocker and blocking the number and I hate the thought that I would do this to a charity.  I feel guilty that I am not setting up all these direct debits, that I am not helping more.  I’m being made to feel that I should be doing more, but I just do not have the finances to do that.  I still have a house and family to keep too.

What is really sad about it though is, that it isn’t the charities that are making me feel sad or guilty, it’s the stupid call centre and the persistent, aggressive selling staff.  I just think if they carry on then some charities will miss out on donations and that is the real tragedy in all of this.  If I am right and indeed these people are working for commission, then it has all become about numbers “sales” to them and they couldn’t care less about the charity that they are supposed to be helping.

My friend keeps telling me to just put the phone down on them, but I can’t do that.  I know it’s not the actual charity I’m talking to, but it just doesn’t sit well with me to put the phone down on someone who is talking to me about children with disabilities who need help.  I feel as though I would be putting the phone down on the child.  They are definitely using emotional blackmail to a degree and to be honest, on me it sort of works.  Even on the days when I am hard pushed for time, I will still sit through a 30 minute phone call, rather than cut the person off.

I think now that I will start to log the charities as the calls come and then I will contact them individually and tell them exactly what is happening, because presumably they are paying this call centre to outbound call for them and I don’t think they are getting value for money :(

So has this or is this happening to you?  How are you handling it? I don’t want to be unnecessarily rude to people – the call centre staff are only trying to make a living too and having watched enough episodes of Watchdog, a lot of them are pushed into this kind of behaviour by their supervisors. How do you think I should deal with this?  Because the only positive point seems to be that they don’t work weekends, so it’s safe to answer my phone on a Saturday and Sunday!

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9 thoughts on “Charity Dilemma

  1. That’s terrible! And highly unprofessional. Don’t worry about putting the phone down – you are putting it down on the aggressive sales person – you can always get info on the charity and make a voluntary donation via a website, and anyway that’s probably the safer way of doing it than a potentially bogus person on the phone!

    • It really was an awful phone call with her and some of the others aren’t much better. Even today I’ve had 3 from 3 different charities again! Clearly someone must have sold my details on, but it’s getting ridiculous

  2. I have come across a few of this phonecalls to and one when I told them I had a disabled child told me that it was moral right to support them.

    The constant hard sell isn’t doing the charities any favours at all and I’m also using caller I’d now.

    Do not let it get to you, the fact that you already support numerous charities is more than most

    • The hard sell is awful. I’ve now turned the ringer off on my phone and put the answering machine on. I’ve googled the number but can’t get the actual company details, I can only find write ups on nuisance call sites!

  3. Hi Nichola, yes this has happened to me, but only once. The denominations weren’t as large, but it gave me a bad feeling about the charity involved which is a shame. The girl was incredibly persistent (and her charity represents a touchy subject for me).

    • It’s really horrible isn’t it, I’ve had 3 more phone calls today. I’ve now turned the ringer off on my phone and left the answering machine on!

  4. gosh it sounds like you’ve been pestered a lot lately! thankfully we don’t get a lot of phonecalls like this but we do get a fair number of door to door salespeople and charities wanting to set up DD. i usually tell them that we have our chosen charities that we already support (which we do) and that I don’t sign up to anything on the doorstep. They have thankfully been understanding. It must be a really difficult balance for charities because it must be effective for them to do this (otherwie they wouldn’t do it) but the agencies they use don’t often hold the same values as the charities concerned. x

  5. I have had so much now that i point blank refuse to talk to them, which is a shame and makes me feel terribly guilty . Something has to change before charitable giving is wrecked forever

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