Jun 09, 2008

When Fundraising Looks Like Begging

istock_000004693240xsmall.jpgHere's an interesting blog post by Christopher Campbell on Cinematical, talking about the practice of enlisting movie theatre ushers in efforts to collect donations for nonprofits.

At first glance, it sounds like a reasonably creative idea: The ushers will be walking the aisles anyway, among theatre-goers in a presumably good mood. Why not have these ushers carry a can to collect some coins for a cause?

But as Cristopher's blog points out, the results have made some patrons feel they were being hassled -- especially when ushers were given incentives to "do whatever they could to get as much money as they could." He describes some ushers' aggressive tactics, including name-calling behind the non-givers' backs, and other ushers who may have skimmed money from the donation jar, referring to it as the "cigarette fund."

If ever there was a reminder that every volunteer needs proper training, this is it. I'm guessing those ushers didn't feel they had much choice in their charity collection activities. Did they receive an in-depth orientation from actual members of the charity, to inspire them about the cause and make sure they were committed to helping out? The blog doesn't say.

Before your organization says, "Wow, free volunteer help!" in any similar way, make sure to do the training first, to avoid the need for damage control and retraining later. And if it's going to be an ongoing effort like this one, follow up to see how it's going.