We’ve all seen them: (mostly) young people stopping strangers on the street to solicit money for a relatively well known charity. I usually admire these people: they are going up to random people and asking them to join their cause in a short amount of time which is challenging.

However, like any other fundraising practice there are good and bad ways to do this. In NYC I have had far too many bad encounters with canvassers. If you are raising money for a well known organization or your local elementary school, keep in mind these dos and donts.


  • Do not interrupt me: If I am on the phone or seem otherwise engaged, interrupting me is rude not just to me but also to the person I am talking to. Even when raising money basic manners apply.
  • Do not use a pet name: Sweetie, baby, chocolate (as I was called a few days ago) are inappropriate and the intellectual in me wants to discuss the problematic sexist overtones in such language.
  • Do not give me attitude: In general I do not give money to organizations that solicit on the street. However, if I politely say “I’m sorry I am not interested” sucking your teeth or giving me a disgusted look will certainly not change my mind.
  • Do not follow me: If I have not stopped to engage you that, that does not give you the right to follow me down the street talking to me. Again, basic manners still matter.


  • Do have some sort of logo: A logo (whether on stationery, t-shirts, caps, etc) is important because it implies legitimacy and helps people remember and recognize your brand. Even if you are working for an organization that is fairly well known, the absence of some kind of brand image will look suspicious.
  • Do know what you are talking about: When you fumble over basic facts or cant answer essential questions (how many people does your organization serve and how?) it makes people not trust you. Know the facts and be able to tell people why they matter.
  • Do have a story to tell: While impressive stats are great, do you love this organization? Do you know anyone who has been touched by the organization’s work? Faces behind the numbers are always a good sell.
  • Do have something to give me: A pamphlet? Card? Anything to facilitate follow up or research on your organization at my own pace is helpful.