This photo was taken a couple of weeks before Christmas; I was standing at a bus-stop across the road from this woman who was dressed in vivid colours, dancing and jingling her bucket in time to a boombox blasting boppy Christmas music at an intersection. I was immensely impressed by her success rate. She would score a donation from every second or third car each time the lights turned red.
Contrast this to an experience I had just the week before, where I was walking east on a main street for some 10 blocks to take care of an errand, and ran into —not two, not three—but six “foot soldiers” from the same non-profit organisation seeking donations. They were uniformed, polite, and obviously not having much luck. By the time I was accosted by the sixth foot soldier, I told her she probably really ought to have a word with her supervisor about how to observe the movement of people and spread the team north-south where they would have a higher chance of encountering new people. On this street, everyone walks east-west because it’s a major local shopping street, so spreading the team east-west only meant the whole team would likely encounter the same people, who would in turn get rather tired of them. (I guess no one had ever thought a bit of “end-user” observation would come helpful for fundraising, had they?)
There were probably several factors against them, despite how well presented and genuine they were. For one thing, the weather sucked. Everyone was walking fast to spend as little time outdoors as possible. Secondly, well-intentioned, polite foot soldiers always have this way of making you feel guilty. They would read you the earnest mission of the non-profit they are working for, and try to tell you why you should donate. They always seemed… too pure. And you’re not feeling very pure yourself today. You want to give to them, but you don’t know at this point (out there in the street when your mind is on something else) whether you could spare the cash, especially if they wanted regular donations. And you certainly don’t want to be receiving their campaign newsletters in the mail by surrendering your home or email address—all this, despite the fact that you actually want to give. Out on the street on a bad-weather day just wasn’t the time nor the place.
a street musician once told me people are more generous on sunny days. if you are a charity, don’t send your foot soldiers out in the rain.
Seriously, it was a waste of resources.
And yet, today, this brightly-dressed woman was having such a success on a day with substantial blowing snow. Her secret? I think she made everyone who stopped their cars at the lights want to be as happy as she was. She made you want to be dancing to bouncy, boppy Christmas music on a busy intersection on a cold, windy, snowy day—just like her. By scoring smiles, she scored donations. It was she who won the money, not the mission of the non-profit she was fundraising for.