Today I was approached by a ‘chugger’ on the street. It was raining. I felt bad. I stopped and listened to his pitch.

To be polite I will not mention the charity he was representing. He told me that for less than an hour of my pay each month I could sponsor a child in an impoverished nation providing them with clean water, education and food. It sounded like a good thing. Then, he went further and said I could even choose what country they are from, what age I want them to be and even said that I could become pen pals with my sponsored child. I’d get to see their report cards from school, receive monthly photos and have regular updates sent to me about the child’s life. All a bit too much.

Humanising donations can work – and quite well. People like knowing where their money goes and an emotive pitch surely helps with the amount being given, understanding around the seriousness of the issue and it can increase brand awareness.

What I found most troubling today was that it felt like exploitation. When did giving money to an important cause have to be quantified down to such specific details? When did fundraising turn into something that required street collectors performing a sales pitch about which impoverished child you’d like to have? What about the ones that don’t get picked? Or worse yet- what if it’s all a well crafted agency style team of people copy writing , photo taking, story-making behind closed doors pumping out this stuff to dupe us into a moderately believable narrative?

Then there’s the issue of the person who is representing a charity, who usually is given a small amount of training to educate people on the cause and raise donations. These people are tasked to get bank details from people passing by and raise money on the street, in return for a commission on the number of sign ups they get. But what happens in a situation like today where they are actually doing more damage with their sales pitch than good?

There is such a need for some charities – especially the one I encountered today to re-evaluate their strategy and the value of street collectors.

Well designed communication pieces; behaviour targeted campaigns; creative stunts and appeals – there are so many ways to increase brand awareness and presence and raise much need funds without seemingly exploiting impoverished children in the name of a sale.

There has to be a better way. (Suggestions welcome).