‘Hey, don’t you care about sick children?’
‘Hello mate, shake my hand.’
‘Hey, nice shirt you’re wearing. Let me have a closer look, and please just ignore the iPad in a coloured frame and the bundle of propaganda materials on saving the whales that I’m carrying. However, while we are on the subject, let me tell you how your ten dollars a month can help save these here whales, because only heartless people don’t love humpbacks.’
How many of us have been caught by charitable workers soliciting for donations in the street when we are out for our lunch break or, more likely, hurrying to get to a meeting or to catch a bus or train? It is always fun to see the lengths people will go to in order to avoid these charitable workers. The most experienced of us know to subtly use our body positioning to steer the person next to us into the path of these charity workers, so we can make our escape while our neighbour takes one for the team. Survival of the fittest and all that.
I am going to make a huge, but I feel justifiable, generalisation. These charitable workers are all in it for the money, and so are the companies they work for. I have interviewed a few of these charitable workers, and they all confirm that they are not actually employed by the charity they claim to support. Most of them don’t even really care what particular charity they are spruiking, so long as they get paid at the end of the working day. And the companies they contract with are not charitable at all. Rather, they are profit-making organisations that are, in turn, employed by the charities to raise donations by any legal means. I mean, one of the largest of these contracting companies is called ‘Cobra Corporation’, which tells you all you need to know about their business style, really.
So, is there any legal way to stop these charity workers from hassling you, so that you do not have to have your lunchtime walk bothered by them?
The answer is: not really.
There is nothing in the law that expressly says what face-to-face collection workers (the formal legal description for those people that hit you up on the street for donations) can and cannot do when soliciting for donations.
At the very least, I was hoping there would be something in the law that said these collectors cannot take advantage of the very young or very old, who might be easy to convince to sign up to ongoing monthly payments. I was also hoping there might be some legally enforceable rules that stop charitable workers from chasing people down the street, or from abusing a poor innocent person walking by if that person refuses to sign up to donate to the charity.
Nope, nothing in the law about any of this. In fact, to use New South Wales law as an example, there is only one legal requirement that these workers must follow.
Yes, face-to-face collectors in New South Wales have a legal obligation to wear a name badge, and even this requirement was seen as controversial when it was introduced. Charities tried to argue that a name badge requirement imposed an unfair financial burden on the charity, given all the printing and laminating costs.
I’m calling bullshit on that argument. How much does it cost to make a name badge?
Thankfully, charity workers are not above all of the laws. They are not gods, diplomats, or sporting heroes, after all. If they hit someone, they will be charged with assault. If they steal money, they will be charged with theft. I presume they could be charged with fraud if they act all fraud-ily (is that a word?) in soliciting donations.
Still, the lack of proper, specific legal protection for the victims of these charity workers is a pretty poor result. That there are no legal protections in place for those that might be easily influenced by these workers’ tactics, such as the old, lonely, and those that are just too kind to say ‘no’ is what I find the most upsetting about this area of the law.
What does this all mean? Is there any way you can use the law to get away from these charity workers? Not really, although don’t let that stop you yelling things like ‘get away from me, you’re assaulting me’ if they approach you (assuming you don’t have time to steer someone beside you into the charity worker’s line of sight first, of course). That should get them to back right off.