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Friday, March 11, 2011

"Hello, How Are You Today?"


I had a most interesting phone conversation today, but for the life of me, I can't remember most of it.  It's not that the guy on the other end didn't try;  in fact, he tried too hard really.  He went on for 20 minutes, almost straight through, making points for his cause.  He was from a charitable organization, one that I used to send regular monthly contributions to.  I won't say what the organization is, because that's not the point.

For a number of years I supported this organization until I gradually began to feel less comfortable with it;  maybe I changed, maybe they did.  For the last two years that I supported it, I was rather resentful of the money I was giving them every month.  Now it's not that I sent a whole lot; it was minimal, really.  But I began to feel that I was wasting my money supporting something I was not 100% behind.  Finally, when I had to close a bank account for another reason, I used that opportunity to stop sending them cheques.  And of course, at first they did their utmost to convince me to continue.

And that became a problem.

I understand that charities and organizations who depend on the general public's generosity struggle a great deal with the financial aspect.  I recognize that it's not an easy job finding ways to convince people to send more money, or to send money at all.  A lot of them are proud of the fact when they have no government or corporate funding (as this fellow pronounced to me today), and do it all themselves.  And it's not easy.

But when they continue to call, or send emails or monthly newsletters as if I had a subscription...but ESPECIALLY when they continue to call...they are driving me even further away.  Not only that, but they are spending an awful lot of time and paper, and therefore that money that is so precious to them, on somebody who really is not interested.  Maybe there should be a "best before" date beside the names on their lists.  If the person they're calling doesn't change their mind within, say, three or four calls, give it a rest.  And stop sending newsletters that only get immediately thrown in the recycling box.

For the last 3 years, I have had continuous newsletters and phone calls from them.  And what struck me interesting about this conversation today was that this fellow really knew his stuff.  He could discuss issues here where I live (he was calling from across the country), and around the world in many areas of interest.  He knew histories of all kinds of problems, and, according to his monologue, he had actually been to many of these countries himself and witnessed all that he was speaking about.  He was a smart, intelligent man, well spoken and not the least bit provocative in a negative way.  And when he finally took a breath, I had a chance to say that I was no longer interested and had not been interested since I had stopped my payments several years ago, and could he kindly take my name off his list?

He said of course that could be done, and then he did the obvious thing;  he asked me why I had stopped my support in the first place.  So I told him why.  Whereupon he began again to tell me why I shouldn't feel that way.  And the conversation (or should I say monologue) picked up fervor again as he began to list all of the accomplishments, behind the scenes virtues and triumphs of said organization.  I felt myself "um-hmm"ing all over again for another ten minutes.  At one point he was speaking so much and so quickly, that he choked and coughed.

Finally, I was able to get a question in.  "How old are you?"  I asked him.  I knew I'd thrown him and that's what I needed to do.  "Um...I'm forty." he said.  "Oh, you sound younger." I took my opportunity to continue.

"You're obviously a very intelligent and well spoken person and (insert name of organization) is lucky to have you.  But I'm finished listening, so I'm going to have to hang up now."  And with that, we ended the conversation.  By this time I was actually feeling a bit of a headache coming on.  I swear that as much as he told me in that 20-25 minutes, much of it I didn't hear because I was spending a lot of the time trying to figure out how I was going to stop him without being rude.  That's something a lot of these callers depend on;  your politeness.  So everything he told me, was in fact, falling on deaf ears.  Was it worth the effort?

I'd guess they'll tell you that it is worth it, because if they can convince one person to part with their money...well, you know the rest.  Sometimes these people treat their causes like religion;  they believe in it so much that they spend all of their time and energy trying to convert everyone else around them, like religious fanatics.  And I don't know what the answer is when it comes to how they can solicit funds without turning people off.

But it'll be interesting to see if they ever call again.  And if they do, THEN what do I do??

IJ