Last week Auckland City Harbour News, and Central Leader, ran an item “Has appeal week fatigue set in?” talking about the number of appeal weeks, and the way people react to street collectors. (20 Jan 2012 – by, Rhiannon Horrell)

If you’re walking down Queen St and see a group of charity collectors, what do you do? 

Put your head down and look the other way? Rummage through your wallet in an effort to show you’ve tried but have no change?

Or pull out the money you were going to use for lunch and hand it over? 

This year Aucklanders will be faced with up to 66 awareness and appeal weeks. 

To be fair, some are awareness weeks only and do not seek financial donations. But what effect does the overload of dedicated weeks have on Aucklanders? 

New Zealand Federation of Family Budgeting Services chief executive Raewyn Fox says the clients that her organisation deals with are sometimes more likely to give to a local church than to an appeal week.

“Lots of our clients are family oriented – so they’ll pick a cause like sick kids or something like that.” 

She says because of the sheer number of causes, it’s a juggling act for people to decide what to do with their money. 

“It may depend on whether they have a couple of bucks in their pocket to spare. If they do, then those charities are the lucky ones. But a lot of the time, people don’t.” 

She says people may then feel guilty or inadequate about not being able to help. 

“The cost of living is greater in Auckland. We are very busy and a lot of families are under pressure.” 

Auckland University department of psychology associate professor Ian Lambie says it’s not that charities have lost their meaning but “people do have some level of threshhold and may find it a challenge to politely say no. We’re being asked to do more and more.” 

He says some people may have two to three favoured causes. 

“That is about it for many people. We are a generous nation and a generous society. But it does become too much when you get asked time and time again. You have to draw a line in the sand.”

Mr Lambie says most people will donate out of the generosity of their heart. 

He says for those that can only give $5 to $10 a year, that is okay.

“You can also dedicate time, distribute leaflets or bake a cake. Those things are just as good.” 

The Heart Foundation’s Appeal Week is one of the first for 2012, kicking off on February 13. 

Marketing development manager Alistair Kirk says it’s an extremely important aspect of the organisation’s work. 

“It’s a national event and it’s partly about the money but it’s also about community engagement. Last year we had 2000 volunteers working with us. It’s an opportunity for people to give back.” 

Mr Kirk says the week is a way to connect with people. 

According to the Charities Commission, 1359 new charities were registered in Auckland in the past three years. 

Commission communications manager Sandra Bennett says a further 5434 were registered in that time in other parts of New Zealand. 

In Auckland in 2009, 632 new charities were set up, with 495 in 2010 and 232 in 2011. 

But Ms Bennett says before concluding that there are far fewer charities being established, it is important to note that the charities register first opened in February 2007 and the commission received thousands of applications for registration in mid-2008 when tax laws changed. 

After late applications have been processed, close to 2000 new charities would have been registered across the country in 2011.

In response to this item I wrote in with my ‘view’ here’s my take, as published in Harbour News (Wed 25 Jan 2012)

The question you pose is a good one, and one that many people have been asking for quite sometime – charities also ask the same question. 

As someone who works with charities, I’ve been watching the number of organisations with appeal weeks, or random street days. Often you can walk along Queen St and see a number of organisations soliciting support, either by way of donation or simply for awareness. Who people stop and talk to will depend on the way people (you and me) feel about charity and what we can do to help make a difference, but with the number of organisations is making it harder for people to select who to support. 

One thing about appeal weeks that is confusing is the number of ‘like’ organisations – there’s a raft of organisations working in similar fields and unless the people on the street are distinctive people may be confused as to who they are giving to. 

People will naturally look busy, do the coin shuffle when they see collectors – it’s not too dissimilar to ‘avoidance syndrome’ when people look the other way when they see something happening but don’t want to get involved. 

The CBD is a large area, yet we always see the collectors in the same places – QEII Sq, Vulcan Lane, Event Cinemas, Mid-City, because people know that this is where they will be people avoid walking that route. For charities to make better use of their time on the streets they need to vary where they are located; sure they need to be in high pedestrian traffic areas – but there’s over 1km of Queen St that they could be using. 

The public should also take the opportunity to stop and talk to charities they see on the street and to ask them two important questions 1) how much of the money I give you will be specifically used for the ‘project’ 2) are you working for xyz or an agency? This is a good test to see that the people collecting and the charities are being upfront, that the right information is being given to potential supporters/donors. 

Back to ‘fatigue’ – yes people are tiring, if specific organisations were asked what their ‘take’ is – I’m sure you would find that they are collecting less than they were a few years ago – and not all of this can be put down to the economy, it’s because people are turning off. 

Charities and those representing them could be doing far better through targeted communication with their supporters, and non-supporters;  they also need to look at being ‘less visible’ – people turn off if they see the same charity all the time, if they are off the streets for a while and come back people will ‘notice’ them. 

We will never not see charity collectors or appeal weeks, they’re a fact of life – but we do need to see a change in their frequency and the locations used, will be better for all concerned. 

What’s your take on Appeal Weeks, are there too many, can their timing be better managed, what can we do differently to avoid Appeal Week Fatigue?

 

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