Many years ago, before I was born, the Salvation Army established a tradition with their red-kettle giving campaign each Christmas season. Donors contribute their spare change and when you add it all up, the spare change comprises a measurable portion of the Salvation Army’s budget for serving those in need. It is an anonymous donor relationship. You generally donate cash and don’t get a receipt. But you have the strength of the Salvation Army to rely on – you know that your donation will be funneled toward meeting someone’s basic human services.
Some years later, fire departments borrowed from that campaign idea and made it their own. Fill the Boot. Fire fighters around the country participate in direct solicitation by hitting the streets and collecting spare change from passing motorists. Again, it is a cash donation, but we all trust that our local fire departments are handling our contributions with the utmost integrity. Every year these boot campaigns fund generous donations to the Muscular Dystrophy Association, and perhaps other worthy organizations.
OK, so what?
Getting to it.
On the drive home, I noticed a street-side fundraising effort aimed at collecting donations from passing motorists. I passed two such pairs of fundraisers within 30 minutes, at least 20 miles apart at busy intersections. Undoubtedly there was an organized city-wide solicitation effort. I could not determine what organization was asking for the funding or what the funds were intended to support. However, all of the fundraisers were dressed alike, in white suits that resembled marching band uniforms. I immediately thought of Harold Hill. Remember him? From the play The Music Man. Harold Hill was a con artist posing as a marching band leader. So naturally that tainted my impression of this overall fundraising effort.
That, and the fact that this organization lacks the basic credibility needed to successfully pull off a cash-based anonymous donor type campaign. This is an organization that is unknown to the general public. They do not have the recognition or the reputation of either the Salvation Army or our local fire departments.
Please, local band-uniform street-side solicitors, put on your thinking caps and develop a better fund raising approach. To the average passer-by, this is the equivalent of pan-handling. You are not doing your organization a service.