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Archive for Monday, June 6, 2011

Save the Children solicitors irk some downtown shoppers, business owners

Reporter Shaun Hittle discusses why some non-profit analysts say the street solicitation the organization Save the Children has been doing in Lawrence is inefficient.

June 6, 2011, 12:00 a.m. Updated June 6, 2011, 9:12 a.m.

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A Save the Children worker, center in red, speaks with a man on Massachusetts Street on  June 1. Save the Children workers have been spotted downtown for the last couple of months soliciting donations for their organization.

A Save the Children worker, center in red, speaks with a man on Massachusetts Street on June 1. Save the Children workers have been spotted downtown for the last couple of months soliciting donations for their organization.

Save the children, an admirable endeavor.

And if you’ve been to downtown Lawrence in the past couple of months, you may have been asked to help with that goal by red-vested or red-shirted workers soliciting donations for the international nonprofit, Save the Children.

But asking local shoppers downtown for money has irked some in the business community.

“They’re annoying,” said Peter Zacharias, owner of Goldmakers, 723 Mass.

Zacharias said he’s heard complaints from customers, and even sees shoppers cross to the other side of the street to avoid the group.

“They just stop everybody walking down the street,” said Zacharias, who brought up his concerns at a recent listening session with city commissioners.

Lawrence city commissioner Bob Schumm, who owns the downtown restaurants the Dynamite Saloon and Buffalo Bob’s Smokehouse, said he’s also heard complaints about the solicitors.

“It doesn’t help it,” said Schumm when asked about the effect on downtown business.

About Save the Children

According to Save the Children’s IRS forms, the group collected more than $400 million in donations and grants in 2009. The funds are used for programs all over the world, from education programs in Guatemala to disaster relief in tornado-ravaged Joplin, Mo.

Laurie Styron, an analyst for the American Institute of Philanthropy, said her organization has performed an analysis of Save the Children’s financial statements. They’ve found the group is very efficient with their money; 89 percent of funding they collect goes to services.

“They actually get an ‘A’ from us,” she said.

That’s not the whole story, said Styron, citing some concerns specifically about how the group is raising funds in Lawrence.

The workers are paid by an outside contract agency hired by Save the Children, according to the organization’s spokesman, Steven Fisher.

That type of fundraising isn’t very cost-effective, Styron said, because the money donated goes to cover the wages of the workers first, then to the contractor, then to Save the Children. If someone gave to the charity directly — online for instance — more money goes to the charity.

“Sometimes they even lose money,” Styron said. “This charity is breaking even. If they’re lucky.”

Fisher said Save the Children hadn’t heard complaints about the soliciting in Lawrence, but said the organization is sensitive to local concerns.

“We want to know” if there are problems, he said. “We want to make sure we’re working in the community in a way that everyone’s happy.”

City code issues

Nonprofits, or people in general, don’t need a specific license to solicit money in the city, said Toni Wheeler, attorney for the city of Lawrence. Legally, the practice is no different from panhandlers who ask citizens for money. And though the city has heard complaints about both, making any changes to the city code that would prohibit soliciting is an uphill First Amendment battle.

“It’s constitutionally protected conduct,” Wheeler said. City officials looked at requiring panhandlers to get soliciting licenses back in 2009, but legal research highlighted some of those constitutional issues. “It’s difficult to regulate First Amendment speech.”

Comments

FalseHopeNoChange 1 year, 11 months ago

Candle Light vigils and RV's with buckets are 'A OK" though. Throw in a couple OWS terrorists and Larryville has itself a 'wheatbender' folly loved by all complex intellectuals who venture from their 'hideouts'.

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winninteam 2 years, 10 months ago

You Lawrence people are sick and selfish! Listen to yourselves.

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sissezz 2 years, 10 months ago

oh jeez ... just say no and keep walking. its not that hard really...... or better yet dont even say anything just ..KEEP WALKING.

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50YearResident 2 years, 10 months ago

OK, this article is going to get a lot of attention. Where are the 131 previous posts? At this time, while I am reading the story they are missing. 7:55 AM, June 7, 2011

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Ron Holzwarth 2 years, 10 months ago

There's another method that works very well.

That's to point at your ear and look at them with a quizzical look. If that doesn't work, then use your backup plan - know how to use sign language well enough to sign "sign language," it's really very easy to sign that.

Then look at them for a moment, and walk away.

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Multidisciplinary 2 years, 10 months ago

Thought for those with time and legs to do this. When approached, tell the varmint you'll need to get the item/$ from your car. Then wander up and down Mass, trying to remember where you parked it as they follow along. Tell them, you need to make a brief stop you forgot about at a few shops along the way. Of course, be sure they don't end up following you to your real car.

And...can a person use pepper spray on these people? If they are aggressive and you are frightened, is using that legal? I would think a dose of that would make some give up the profession.

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Ron Holzwarth 2 years, 10 months ago

OK, bell ringer time here.

If you are serious about donating to a charity that is truly going to help those in need, not have any overhead or highly paid executives pocketing a huge percentage of the donations, and already has in place a system and volunteers that are going to directly help those in need without any compensation, go to the United Methodist Church, and make a dedicated contribution there.

You do not have to go there or attend services, all you have to do is call and make an appointment with the secretary. Or, you can mail a check.

You do not have to be a member of the church, you do not have to be a believer, all you need to be is someone that wants ALL your money to go to those in need.

And, I'm not a member of that church, so I'm not trying to proselytize.

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Ron Holzwarth 2 years, 10 months ago

That brings to mind another "legal" "scam" that people see all the time and an amazing number of people contribute, thinking that they are doing someone some good by sparing just a bit of pocket change.

I'm talking about those cardboard stands that you commonly see in restaurants and other businesses, asking for spare change, usually quarters, for maybe "The March of Dimes" or some other charity. You are to insert your quarters or dimes into the stands to make your contribution.

But if you look closely, you will notice that it appears that someone has been stealing from the charity!

Here's the way it works: Someone pays a flat fee for the "right" to place a solicitation card in a business, and then they get to keep all the money collected. I don't know how much the flat fee is, but I'm guessing that it's about $25 a month, but I really don't know how much it is.

So, every once in a while, the person who placed the collection card there goes and collects all the change collected, and then pockets the money. Of course, he counts every last dime for tax purposes, you can count on that.

If you seriously want to donate to that charity, note the name and phone number from the card, it's printed right on it, and then send your donation directly.

But of course, no one ever does that. They just put their quarters in, and "feel good" about themselves.

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Ron Holzwarth 2 years, 10 months ago

The_Big_B brought up an interesting point in a previous posting.

I was told by a former employee of an organization that solicited for 'The Kansas Association of Chiefs of Police' or some similar name, that they were paid a flat fee of $100,000 (at that time) for the right to make and collect telephone solicitations for them.

The flat fee was the same, regardless of how much money they actually collected. And, from what I was told, it was a very profitable business.

I could hardly believe him!

I had questions about how ethical that was, and I was told that $100,000 was more than 'The Kansas Association of Chiefs of Police' could collect any other way, and that by collecting money that way, they got more of an income than they could any other way.

Well of couse one day the phone rang, and guess who it was! I started to grill the person on the other end of the phone line - and he admitted all that was true!

Ethical man, I must admit!

But if anyone heard that call, he lost his job for sure.

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Ron Holzwarth 2 years, 10 months ago

Quite a few years ago, I had a very short stint as a magazine salesman. Our job was to make it appear that we were soliciting for some sort of youth group, although we were always instructed to be very vague about exactly what time of organization it was. It was a magazine sales agency, and nothing more.

We had sales pitch that we called a spiel, that is, a short speech that we gave to any adult that answered the door. Of course, we had to have it memorized, and deliver it well.

One of the difficulties of the job was that some people would start very long conversations with us, and then we were in trouble, because people who did that never bought any magazines anyway. They just wanted someone to talk to.

When that happened, we were instructed to quickly excuse ourselves, and move on to the next house as quickly as possible. So, if you really want to get rid of a solicitor that wants you to give money, begin a very long conversation about anything and everything under the sun.

I guarantee you, it won't be a very long conversation at all.

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verity 2 years, 10 months ago

I find it interesting how the percentage of money actually being used for the intended charity, rather than for overhead, can be manipulated by using an outside agency to collect money.

My charitable contributions always go directly the the organizations of my choice and I do my research first. How do you know the money you give to someone on the street doesn't go directly into their pocket?

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gudpoynt 2 years, 10 months ago

In other news:

"Local mountain makers complain of molehill shortage."

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gudpoynt 2 years, 10 months ago

In other news:

"On the Street: Which infringes more upon personal freedom: unwarrented solicitation by fundraisers or lack of access to clean water?"

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gudpoynt 2 years, 10 months ago

In other news:

"Annoyed Lawrence consumers vow to discredit Save The Children efforts, air grievances anonymously on the Internet."

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gudpoynt 2 years, 10 months ago

In other news:

"Downtown shoppers' gluttonous consumerism interrupted by grim reality of malnourished children"

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Paul R Getto 2 years, 10 months ago

http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=topten.detail&listid=12

Interesting site; here are the ones who are broke. STC seems to score pretty well with these folks.

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gudpoynt 2 years, 10 months ago

In other news:

"Young Haitian earthquake victims launch fundraiser to relieve irked downtown Lawrence shoppers, business owners."

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Richard Payton 2 years, 10 months ago

A concept for a new video on you tube could be Downtown solicitors verse's Walmart shoppers. The premier could be at Liberty Hall.

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LJ Whirled 2 years, 10 months ago

If I feel like donating money, I have no trouble getting on-line and finding a valid organization and making my donation securely and with knowledge of who is actually getting it. Being accosted on the street, or by telephone in my home, will NEVER lead to a donation from me for any purpose, no matter how worthy.

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countrygirl 2 years, 10 months ago

The guy that stopped me wanted an on-going contribution that they either charged to a credit card or your bank account. With no way of knowing if this was legit or not, the answer was no. Plus I really don't care to be confronted (and it felt like a confrontation) while running a quick errand. Someone really needs to check into the tactics and aggressive nature of this bunch.

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boxers_or_briefs 2 years, 10 months ago

All kidding aside....I've just gotten into the habit of asking them how much they've contributed and I'll match it. So far I haven't donated a penny.

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Paul R Getto 2 years, 10 months ago

"All solicitors annoy me. It annoys me when they ring my doorbell, because it's always at the most inconvenient of times ..." ===== I agree; I don't respond most of time. Ignore them and they go away. Another tactic: open the inner door and let them know you are going to let the dogs loose. The ultimate, if its some religious nuts......come to the door with bloody hands and tell they you just sacrificed a goat....."You folks want to help us eat the heart raw?" We all give in our own ways, but there are lots of ways to give money, compassion and time to those in need without coughing up money on the street.

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50YearResident 2 years, 10 months ago

How do we know if the money collected gets to Save the Children? Donations might be funding these unknown solicitors own agenda whatever it is. Why would a World Wide Organization have cash collections on the streets of Lawrence, Kansas? Someone please provide some answers.

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Amesmb 2 years, 10 months ago

Some further reading about the organization: http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=search.summary&orgid=4438

I respect what they're trying to do and know they probably catch a lot of flack from people, but when I was confronted by one not long ago he was a too bit aggressive. If you say, "No, thank you," and keep walking then they should just let you go.

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LJ Whirled 2 years, 10 months ago

The charity's "ranking" numbers look better when they contract with outside companies to do this kind of fundraising. The charity only has to report the "net" take from this activity, and the figures analyzed by Ms Styron and others will not reflect the true cost ... i.e., they don't show the cut taken by the for-profit fundraising company, which could be nearly all of it. Ms Styron seems to understand that there is a cost, but doesn't seem to understand that it skews the figures they use to grade the charity. Any accountants on staff?

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gudpoynt 2 years, 10 months ago

Another thought experiment. If you support the soon-to-be private non-profit structure of the Kansas Arts Commission, would you also support similar solicitation efforts by them in order to make up for lost state and federal funds?

The more that programs rely on private donations, the more those programs have to step up their solicitations. Directly doing so on the street is one tactic. Direct phone calls and bulk mail are two others.

Is an increase in these practices welcomed by those who favor changing the funding structure for social programs and charities to a more privatized model?

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dogsandcats 2 years, 10 months ago

I had the misfortune of parking my car in that block one time. Dude wouldn't leave me alone as I unlocked my car, put my stuff inside, and got in. Had to say no I wasn't interested several times, yet he even yelled after me as I pulled out of the parking space. Will check to see if they're out there first before parking there again. I don't know what he was trying to achieve, did he think I was going to say: "oh wait, since you're being such a jerk about it, I change my mind and will definitely give money to some dude on the street with a clipboard!"

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dogsandcats 2 years, 10 months ago

I had the misfortune of parking my car in that block one time. Dude wouldn't leave me alone as I unlocked my car, put my stuff inside, and got in. Had to say no I wasn't interested several times, yet he even yelled after me as I pulled out of the parking space. Will check to see if they're out there first before parking there again. I don't know what he was trying to achieve, did he think I was going to say: "oh wait, since you're being such a jerk about it, I change my mind and will definitely give money to some dude on the street with a clipboard!"

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equalaccessprivacy 2 years, 10 months ago

Street harassment is the offensive norm in this backwoods town! It gives Lawrence a bad quality of life when residents do not feel safe using the public space because the locals all seem to have been ignorantly raised to think they have the standing and competence to approach complete strangers and and in singular yahoo fashion offer "assistance". Civilized people have been raised to become suspicious of strangers who get too personal too quickly. If you have been raised to mindlessly approach strangers, consider that this aggressive soliciting and quite likely others would appreciate being spared your backwoods, presumptuous ignorance. Get a clue! Ignorance and aggression scares people. Get a lawyer. People who can't keep their hands to themselves deserve to arrested and thrown in the slammer--your reward for thinking you're God's gift and it's strangers' duty to show you appreciation. A completely fake drama I refuse to participate in--what kind of charming folks confuse the definitions of help and harassment?

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50YearResident 2 years, 10 months ago

Why would a National Chairty put people on the streets of Lawrence Kansas? These guys have to be scammers. Has any City Official checked to authenicate that they are even connected to Save The Children? My personal opinion is "Save the Children" is one of the biggest scam organizations ever thought up. Tell me this, what percentage of collections actually get to any kids? I bet it's under 2%. If anyone knows, post it here.

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gudpoynt 2 years, 10 months ago

Where has all the perspective gone?

Here's a thought experiment. If you are annoyed by the solicitors, what would you say to a family in Haiti to get them to understand your grievance, and how would you feel when making your argument?

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d_prowess 2 years, 10 months ago

I just feel bad for the handful of stores that operate right where these folks are standing. Often it seems like they are stationed at each mid-block crosswalk and you do get asked multiple times when strolling around Mass St. So I have seen people walk more quickly past them to try to avoid the conversation, which can hurt the business they stand in front of.
I don't think they shouldn't be collecting donations, but perhaps they should be asked to walk up and down the blocks so they at least don't have an impact on a particular store.

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missmagoo 2 years, 10 months ago

All solicitors annoy me. It annoys me when they ring my doorbell, because it's always at the most inconvenient of times -- kids sleeping, guests over, half naked, etc. And no one ever takes no for an answer, including these people. I was approached by one while on Mass last week and I said no thank you, and he said "but you have children of your own..." Wow, yes I do sir, which I have to feed as well, and I also just donated a very large sum of money to the United Way and I don't carry cash. I feel like it is ridiculous that I had to explain to him why I wasn't donating. Perhaps if people solicited the correct way, it wouldn't be so annoying.

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autie 2 years, 10 months ago

The brownbackers and tea partiers would probably just want these children to go get a job and stop mooching off of others. After all, hard work and perseverance is an American trait they all need to embrace.

By the way, if one should feel guilty about not donating a few pennies a day to charity how does one feel when the disability and mental health services in this state are bare bones and people are suffering? How does one feel when Johnny can't read well because the title teachers are all gone and the class rooms are understaffed and overburdened?

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monkfellow 2 years, 10 months ago

Actually, a lot of charitable organizations pay people to perform fund raising. The Salvation Army often pays people to be bell ringers.The United Way of Greater Kansas City (not involved with the Lawrence group, which answers to the United Way office in Topeka) uses employer-contributed dollars to hire people to assist in the yearly fund drives. Organizations who back or opposes petitions and referenda hire temp works to get people to sign voter registration forms. It's hardly new.

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LadyJ 2 years, 10 months ago

kusadgirl (anonymous) says… And I bet this charity has a CEO who makes millions a year just like the CEO of MADD.

Not near as much as the CEO of Planetaid, and very little of the money actually gets to the needy.

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ivalueamerica 2 years, 10 months ago

It sounds to me like a bunch of guilty whiners who would rather have a starbucks every day than fork over a few pennies, then feel guilty because they have to confront their own selfishness.

If I do not want to give to a charity, I simply say no thank you, case closed. It does not hurt if I am asked a couple times.

Much ado about nothing from whiny babies.

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locomotivebreath1901 2 years, 10 months ago

Private charity? How de classe.

"Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?"

How dare this private charity pester the uber-hip denizens of uber-liberal Lawrence, Kahn-sahs!

It breaks their concentration from bilking the tax payers out of federal gub'mint subsidies for their city, doanjahknow?

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irvan moore 2 years, 10 months ago

i'm concerned more by mr. schumm and his downtown lawrence cronies asking for handouts from the taxpayers

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geekin_topekan 2 years, 10 months ago

What an interesting experiment. I wonder if people are more inclined to give when a legit charity asks or when a downtrodden bum asks. On one hand, you get the satisfaction of seeing the beneficiary with the money in his hands though he may spend it on booze or cigs. On the other hand, you get the satisfaction of knowing that your money will be recorded and distributed by a professional whose job it is to ensure it reaches it predisposed destination, but this is taken only on assumption because you'll never see the result.

I would give to the bum. If a charity can gamble with a temp service that charges $13/hr to send out a worker who is paid <$8/hr, my thinking is that they can't be too hard-up.

When I was a panhandling wino, I made as much as $50 in a single hour and as little as $1 in a ten hour day. But, I certainly would not hire anyone to bum for me THe point being, if a wino had enough money to hire a surrogate, it would be preposterous to think that he needed your spare change.

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Bob Forer 2 years, 10 months ago

Regardless of the merits of a charity, I will never donate when solicited by an outside contracted agency, since (as pointed out in the article), most of the money contributed is swallowed up by the for-profit contracted agency. Therefore, whenever solicited, i always ask the solicitor if he or she is an employee of the charity, or a for-profit agency.

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The_Original_Bob 2 years, 10 months ago

"And I bet this charity has a CEO who makes millions a year just like the CEO of MADD.

http://www.drunkard.com/issues/08_02/..."

I heart kusadgirl. However, Don't be sad, girl. Life is too short.

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awelles 2 years, 10 months ago

Oh, for heavens sake, just say "No." Say "No" 10, 12 or 50 times. What's the big deal? "Save the Children" needs the donations, the people soliciting need the work, the company "Save the Children" hired has salaried employees who need the paychecks. Lighten up. You've got yours or you couldn't be shopping. Rich, me and the poor are all in this economy together. We need and depend on each other.

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kusadgirl 2 years, 10 months ago

And I bet this charity has a CEO who makes millions a year just like the CEO of MADD.

http://www.drunkard.com/issues/08_02/08_02_fighting_madd.htm

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trainpost 2 years, 10 months ago

"Charity’s solicitors irk some downtown shoppers..." Exactly what I thought while with my kids at the Library summer celebration. Four different people asked me a total of 7 times if I wanted a Give Back card. After the 7th solicitation, I put the one I did have in the garbage. No thanks.

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