The Business of Charity.
We’ve all seen them on the street, in brightly coloured t-shirts, we’ve all had them knock on the door right on dinner time or the kids bath time, but what do we actually think of the ladies and gents who are there to raise our ‘awareness ‘ of charities?
‘Excuse me sir I’ll just take 30 seconds of your time, I just want to tell you little about…..’ does this sound familiar? It certainly does to me! For the past few weeks I’ve been working as a charity fund raiser knocking on doors in the area surrounding the city of Bristol and it’s not been as easy as I thought! Not the knocking on doors approaching people, on a whole that’s been quite pleasant, quick chat, thanks very much for your time, then on to the next door. I’m actually talking about these supposed caring organisations and how they take care of their own staff.
I started working for a charity fund raising organisation that was set up by another charity to raise money for themselves by charging yet other charities to raise money, a set target would achieve a fee that would go to the mother charity, target reached, next campaign was started. From my initial indoctrination, sorry induction, I was confused, how did this all actually make money for the customer? I’m paid 7 pounds an hour (yes at time of writing I do still work for them but not for much longer!) and as I work part time for every person after the first 1 that I sign up on a day I get paid an extra 15, doesn’t sound too bad eh? Give it a go! But the theory is that if I sign 5 people at 8 pounds a head I’ll actually earn 117 quid for gaining a charity 40 even though we claim that 90% of the money goes to the person the charity is helping, I talked to quite a few of my own diverse circle of friends -even a trainee accountant! None could quite grasp the maths, but that’s to come.
Firstly, those caring young people (generally) who stop you or knock. We all know nowadays that most’ve these guys are doing a job and not genuinely working for the people they tell you they represent. But what of the job? The company I work for give you 2 days initial training, helping you to write your pitch, explaining all the pitfalls you’ll come across and their favourite thing ‘objection handling’ which is basically not taking no for an answer (I once waited while one guy spent 45 minutes arguing with someone until they said yes ). You’re encouraged to not go away til the doors actually shut, but at the same time you’ve got to cover as many doors as possible, again confusion, how did this work?
Not that easily. Then you had to learn what made people likely to give, council estate? Slag off social services and tell how we help get extra benefits, new build estate? Talk about the work ‘we’ do with kids, typical sales heartstrings stuff, not especially nice but not a surprise, but the other thing taught was to flirt big time, which I later discovered really was the most annoying thing for most people to deal with, one friend even describing it as a mild form of prostitution in his eyes!
It took a little while for me to learn a bit more about this, on my second night working we got a message from our team leader on the way home at about 9.30 that there was a training day at 12.30 the next day and it was mandatory, and unpaid. I wasn’t impressed but new job and all that lets not rock the boat and I had no plans. It was basically a re-utterance of induction and no real help but hey lets be honest I wasn’t really worried bout that. And the manager did say that we were going to start getting paid for these things Then the next Sunday another text, all in for “evaluations” tomorrow at 12.30, now hold on, I have my son every weekend and never get back to Bristol till about 1.30 on a Monday cos that’s still my time with him and we don’t ever rush!
Text to manager, sorry mate isn’t possible ‘get there as soon as you can but you did know about this’ well no I didn’t , else I would’ve explained already. Then ongoing situations like this, last minute workshops 3 hours early all unpaid, every week something, I’m not the only parent working there one woman explained she had no one to look after her 2 boys for a couple of days in school holidays and was told she had to get the sign ups in advance or she could not have the time off! The manager even wanted every one in 3 hours early during half term on Valentines Day, and got really pissed that hardly anyone turned up. Now on that particular one, I actually said no I had plans, to which the boss responded to me with a veiled threat ‘well if you’re sure you can hit target by end of the week or we’ll have to rethink you’re position here’ (I already knew I was gone so it didn’t cut much ice with me).
This was on top of travelling, my work hour s were 3 till 9 but we had to leave Bristol at around 2 getting back around 10, this was before our own travel time came into it, for some they wouldn’t get home till midnight, having left at midday, for a 6 hour shift we would work a minimum of 8. When I raised this with my line manager he assured me that a vote had been taken with the initial team and they’d said that they would rather have their travel paid than get paid travel time- this didn’t ring quite right, average travel expense for the day is about 3-4 quid but the staff member would’ve been paid for 2 extra hours (14 pounds) and not even original staff members remembered this vote taking place, odd that, and nothing on paper anywhere either, all a bit strange.
After about four weeks of working for this charity I was finally let go, but not before my team leader on my final night got a text message from the area manager saying figures really low so use any tactics to get sign ups which we had translated to us as tell people they can cancel the direct debit almost immediately which is normally strictly forbidden, hmm strange? How would the charity benefit from that? Or was it just cynical manipulation of figures?
I handed back my kit and went to sign on for joyous job seekers but as I walked in to sign on I was stopped by someone with a clipboard asking if I was looking for work? This was a recruiter for the originator in the UK of this form of business, and I pointed out that I had just been let go by one of their upstart rivals. I was told this wasn’t an issue and could I make an interview next week, no alarm bells rang for them apparently! But for me there was a brief thought of “well little bit longer before signing on and bit more research for this little piece so ok” went into the job centre to cancel my appointment telling them I had a job interview to which for the 2nd time when speaking to JC staff about this sort of employment I got far from encouraging feed back “well we’ll see you soon anyway,” kind of telling eh?
So then, round 2- this lot really did annoy and made my previous employers look like angels! A lot of the same practices, my previous manager had come from this company and carried some ideals over, but in I trotted learnt my pitch and away I went again. But what of these rumours I’m hearing? During our induction nobody mentioned that out of our first 2 pay packets we would be docked £20 a week deposit for our equipment! Consisting of a cheap folder and a t-shirt, nobody mentioned that the 2 days you sat being trained were not paid til you had completed 30 shifts, apparently if you were working within the city boundaries you had to pay for your own transport even though you had to go into the office to be told where you were working that day which lead to me one day travelling into the office getting a £4 day rider bus ticket only to be told we were working starting on the street I had just left! £4 and 2.5 hours pissing about just to go back home! I took to asking the team leader then every day was it worth me coming in first or what! Give him his due he would tell me where to meet but he got to bollocking for that!
Then the practice of lying about numbers teams had signed to create a rivalry. I was out with a lad who wanted to become a team leader and there was another prospective candidate out too, our leader got to text saying come on you lot have signed no one yet, so and so has signed 2, I happened to have the other leaders number so called, surprise, he had been told the exact same thing, 2 young lads panicking they were not doing well enough just for the amusement of one of the office staff! When I pulled her about it she laughed and said I should toughen up! Not be so sensitive!
Then the manager had a brain wave, he was kindly going to let us start work a t 10 in the morning and work thru til 9 at night but we would still only get paid from 3.30 but it was ok cos you could make it up with your bonus! A 10 hour day plus travel for £35! It was not compulsory though, problem was your team leader would already be out so how would you find your team? You know what? I really could not care less! This was one step too far so I quit! Along with several others.
And you know what? I still do not know how the charities get any of the money! Apparently the theory is after people set these things up; first year pays the wages 2nd pays the admin 3rd finally goes to the charity. They rely on people forgetting they ever set it up. Oh, and apparently every one can afford £2 a week, even families on benefit and pensions! You know what? When I get £60 a week JSA I really bloody cant! What did I discover then? The majority of the staff on the streets are genuinely compassionate naive kids who really do think they help, the managers and above however seemed to be conniving soulless and greedy, paid handsomely to lead these gullible kids along making a lot of corporate cash on the way; isn’t charity wonderful, my advice is give to the little old dear shaking a tin but apparently that costs more in admin, just like using on line donations! Still not sure how though…..