For Scouts, for church, for school, for the poor starving children in Ethiopia (so they can finally get a break from Mom harping on about cleaning their plates).
And, if you’re anything like me, you buy it all. Because you . . . just . . . can’t . . . say . . . no. But there’s a set of columnists over at Slate who say you can say no to charitable giving without feeling like a total tool (OK, I added that), and they’re willing to tell you how.
Written in part by a former staffer at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, who had to say “uh uh” thousands of times over to worthy charities who were lining up for grants, the piece advocates pumping up the asker . . . and then saying no. Basically their suggestions are to validate the person fundraising by telling them how important their work is, and how much you value what they’re doing.
OK, that might work for adults, if you can figure out how NOT to sound like a patronizing SOB. But with kids . . . it just ain’t gonna work. Why?
For starters, there’s that cute factor. As my colleague Brett says, if you want to sell something to him, send a little girl knocking on his door. That’s why schools and churches use kids to sell. They KNOW we don’t want to disappoint kids.
And that’s the second part. Kids don’t want to hear that they’re doing a great job. They want results. It could be seen as an unfortunate result of our instant gratification society, but a part of me is happy to know kids want to succeed and they are learning to stand up for themselves. The words “you’re doing a great job,” ring hollow for a child who has been told that they need to sell 10,000 boxes of sugary treats in order to get their school a new set of swings. If you’re not buying, they’re that much farther from their goal.
And kids like goals. They like the big picture. They’re not quite as good at the smaller one, like the size of your paycheck this week or the comparatively huge number on your mortgage bill.
My advice? Honesty. Not brutal honesty, but honesty all the same. Like, “I’m sorry, I just bought from Timmy down the hall.” or “I’m sorry, I am full up on wrapping paper this week.” Sometimes cutting them off at the pass works, setting a limit like “I’ll buy if you have something under $5.” If they do, great. If not, well, at least you set a limit that priced you out of that $50 raffle ticket. You were honest.
The important thing is the follow through. Don’t say no to one kid then buy from the next one – word always gets around. Don’t say, I have only $5 to give and then rack up a $50 tab – they’ll know you’re a soft touch.
Not that there’s anything wrong with being a soft touch. I can’t say I’ve ever passed a kid and said an outright “no.” But I have skimped out on my purchases, picking the $7 box of candy and NO MORE before.
As long as it’s the kid asking and not their parents, I’ll probably say yes. But I don’t have to like it. As I told my babysitter’s granddaughter, “Don’t ask if I WANT to buy some Easter candy for your trip to sleepaway camp. Ask if I WILL buy some Easter candy for your trip.”
Image: Childrens Dayton