Great Leaps Forward

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21ST CENTURY PRESS GANG

In the 18th century, press gangs roamed the streets of English cities befriending hapless individuals who, before they knew it, had unwittingly enlisted themselves to fight for the cause of King and country. In modern day cities, press gangs can frequently be found on the prowl in the search for an easily influenced public. There are a few fundamental differences:

In contrast to the sea-faring gents of old, they tend to be dressed in colourful t-shirts. The causes they are trying to sign us up for are usually more worthy than territorial sea battles. Rather than giving us the ‘King’s shilling’, they wish to extract several from us on a monthly basis, ideally by direct debit.

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Although it’s no new phenomena, street fundraising appears to be on the up, indeed there are certain precincts and pedestrian bottlenecks where it’s practically impossible to make it from one end to the other without receiving the familiar, over familiar approach.

It’s easy to understand and empathise with the charities concerned, when times are tight, competition for donations and new donors intensifies. Traditional print based recruitment channels are drying up and the donor age profiles they provide are getting older. The attraction of a low risk, cost efficient source of revenue is no doubt a compelling one.

Whilst all these components are measurable, what is far more difficult to quantify in the short term is the potential negative effect that this obtrusive technique might be having, on both the individual charities and indeed the sector as a whole.

Even the most polite, ‘can you spare me 5 minutes……..have a nice day’, can grate after a while, whilst some of the more robust ‘stand and deliver’ approaches can verge on the intimidating.

Remember, any brand is only really as strong as it’s weakest representative and the damage that they do can be lasting.