I Want To Support Your Cause…But Not Your Catcall

I have a hard time saying “no” when people ask me to donate money for things. When I had a steady income, it was easy for me to say – “I made x amount of dollars this week, I can totally give $10 to _________. That’s like two and a half lattes! I probably would have bought like three lattes this week if I lived closer to Starbucks. Done.”

Now that the paycheck is not coming at any particular time, I’ve had to tone it back a lot. Those lattes mean a lot more to me. I still want to help my friend Sophie raise money for the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center- I’m even in her fundraising picture (please donate if you can!), and I want to help all of my friends raise money for their Abortion Bowl-A-Thons (DC page here, Eastern Massachusetts page here– again- please donate if you can!), but until I’m employed, I have to say “no”- for now. It’s a skill I’ve had to learn quickly in this time of less financial flexibility.

One thing is making this task easier for me. The ways people ask for donations  in DC is frankly abhorrent.

Some try to appease my (presumably) feminist sensitivities:

“You look like someone who ummmm…. really cares about the education of young girls!”

Was this because I have a pixie cut or because I look like a decent human?

But most of the time? They use the same tactics of street harassers.

“Hey girl, you’re looking fine today. Dammmn. Can I talk to you about ____________?”

Sometimes calling out my distinct features:

“Hey! Love your red hair! And the flower you put in it? You’re so gorgeous!”

And the most creepy I’ve gotten so far:

“Hey! You! In the pink pants! Oooh, I love your style. I have a question! What’s the least racist animal! The panda! It’s black, white, *and* it’s Asian!” and before I could ask, “what about the plights of Native Americans? or Hispanic Americans?” he jumped in with,  “you have really pretty eyes! And hair!”


And most of these are causes that would usually have my ear, they just can’t if I feel like my body or the way I dress is a topic of discussion. I’m not looking for the reminder, as a woman, that my body is always on display, always being judged, and the first thing people talk about when they engage with me. I am not your commodity, and you don’t want me thinking I am. Trust me- I don’t want to be thinking about my body when I’m thinking about giving you a $25 monthly recurring donation. Besides,  if you’re fundraising for a nonprofit, my body isn’t what you’re looking for. You’re really trying to go after my wallet.

If you wanted to lead with, “Did you know that *statistic about cause*? Want to hear what we’re doing about it?” I’d have a lot more trouble saying no. Or “Do you have a minute for *organization*?” if you have a big enough name. Though I don’t have the money to be donating right now (and I usually check things on Charity Navigator before I actually give them more than a few dollars), I’d be happy to listen to your pitch and maybe when I have money, be tempted to donate and not cross your org off my donation list.

I’m not going to listen to your pitch if you’re not making me feel safe.

I know a lot of times, these are tactics to get us engaged in conversation with you before the big pitch. They seem like easy tricks to get the ball rolling. But here’s the thing. Canvassers don’t exactly have the OPSEC of undercover cops. If you’re holding a clipboard and the same shirt as the person standing with a clipboard across from you, we know you’re asking for either money or signatures. We know you’re talking to us about some cause that our heart will undoubtedly bleed for, and if we’re ready to hear it, we’ll engage with you, and if not, we aren’t interested. Maybe we’re late for an appointment and were going to look your cause up later. Do you want your one sentence to be, “you are so pretty!  Love those eyes!” or “*Cool fact*! Can you help *organization* today?”

You must either care enough to volunteer or be paid enough that you are willing to stand in the cold for hours on end. Don’t end up hurting more than you help.


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