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The truth behind charity canvassers

At one time or another, everyone has encountered a donation canvasser standing on the street corner asking for a moment of your time and, perhaps, some money.

Most people find a way to manoeuvre around canvassers, or they play with their phones and avoid eye contact.

Very few people actually donate and that’s why canvassing is such a difficult job.

Most canvassers are let go before the end of their first month.

“When I was hired, only two out of the five of us managed to get past our two-week evaluation,” said Kyle Heller-Bueckert, a graduate of SAIT’s Emergency Medical Responder certificate program who canvassed for charity prior to studying at SAIT.

“On average, for my team, we were letting go of two people per week.”

Personally, I have a lot of sympathy for canvassers. A small portion of my work for The Weal involves me standing on the sidewalk and trying to get strangers to talk to me.

Some people treat me like I have Ebola, and on more than one occasion, I’ve been yelled at by passers-by. 

Imagine how much harder my job would be if I were asking for money.

At the same time, though, Heller-Bueckert said that after a canvasser got past his or her probationary period, he or she would start earning $15 per hour.

It’s unfair to complain about somebody earning a half-decent wage. But, it does put a bitter taste in my mouth thinking about how much of each donation is going into their paycheques. 

Based on the numbers provided by Heller-Bueckert, a team of six canvassers costs their charity somewhere in the neighbourhood of $100,000 per year.

Suddenly, my $720 annual donations no longer seem like such a big deal.

At that rate, a charity needs each group of canvassers to bring in 139 people like me before they start to see a profit. That number jumps all the way up to 1,667 people if we measure from the minimum donation of $5 per month.

For many people, this administrative cost is the barrier that prevents them from donating.

Although Heller-Bueckert acknowledges how much money it costs for a charity to keep paid canvassers, he still believes in the importance of donating.

“I believe that the charity I donate to is a good cause and even if I can’t give much, I can make a small impact. These are massive charities. So a single donor may not make the biggest difference, but they all add up.”

And, obviously, these paid canvassers must be bringing in more money than they cost their organization. Otherwise, they wouldn’t exist.

That’s why it’s important to stop looking at administrative costs like they’re a bureaucratic black hole that sucks up money and crushes it into nothingness.

These paid canvassers are actually valuable components within a much larger machine. And, I recognize that not every dollar donated is going directly towards housing the homeless or feeding starving children.

But, I also understand that the rest of my donation isn’t being wasted either.

If every dollar that goes towards a paid canvasser returns two, then that’s an investment I’m happy they’ve made on my behalf.

And that’s why I still donate.

As broke as I am, I still believe in helping those in need, and I still give what I can.

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