In defense of clipboarders

I never thought I’d say this, but here it goes: The canvassers and clipboard activists on campus get a bad rap. I hate it just as much as the next person when people try to stop me when I’m already running late or pretend like they’re really interested in talking to me when I can see the Children’s International logo on their jackets. Still, most of the clipboarders don’t deserve the hate they get.

Being on the other side of the clipboard gives you some perspective. I’ve never had to do it on campus, but I’ve gone door to door for candidates before, and I’ve done fundraising for nonprofits for about two and a half years, whether in person, by phone or by email. It’s not fun. We know you don’t want to part with your hard-earned money. We know you don’t think you have time to talk to us.

Despite that, we’re just doing our job, and most of the time it’s legitimately a good cause. There’s definitely a right and wrong way to do that job, though. The faux-friendly voice or the holier-than-thou admonishment that children need help are definite turnoffs and will never get a dollar out of me. But the times I’ve let myself be stopped by someone who’s upfront about what they’re raising money for, I’ve found that they’re usually very nice, genuine people who are really excited that someone actually stopped. Cut them some slack; most of them are just as poor as you are. No one goes into canvassing for the money.

One of the most common complaints about people fundraising at PSU is, “I’m a college student, don’t they know I don’t have money?” There’s a reason why one of the go-to lines for a fundraiser is, “It’s just a few cups of coffee.” Almost everyone has more money than they think they do. Beyond that, clearly, college students do have money or people wouldn’t be trying to solicit money out of the people at Portland State. Most field teams have a quota. If they weren’t making that quota at PSU, they would either lose their jobs or find a new location to fundraise at.

Something’s got to be working or we wouldn’t have a new crop of people with clipboards standing in the Park Blocks every year. One of the reasons nonprofit fundraising works so well is because working-class people give more. Countless studies and analyses show that upper-class people give a smaller share of their income and are overall less likely to give. There are exceptions, like the Gates Foundation or other charities running off huge donations from the wealthy, but most philanthropy is run by the dollars and work of people like you or your parents.

PSU is a great place to fundraise for that reason. We’re a commuter school with a lot of working-class people of all age ranges. Even if you personally can’t afford to give, you might be able to next month, or someone walking behind you might. The fact that we’re constantly being asked for money isn’t fun, but it speaks well of us.