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Before I begin, I would just like to make it clear that I respect and hold in high regard all of the work that the various charities and in particular Amnesty International do. However, there appears to be a familiar trait occurring on every high street in Britain, something I like to call the "Clipboard Sharks".
My most recent run in with the clipboard sharks came this weekend and whilst usually the Red Cross bare the brunt of my mutterings, this time it was Amnesty International........A charity I have supported many times in the past.
Just as a quick synopsis, Amnesty International are a charity based around the protection of peoples humans rights. To quote their website,
"We stand up for humans wherever justice, freedom and truth are denied."
As a charity they're work is exceptional, dealing with human rights issues all over the globe from issues such as violence to women, through to the abolishment of the death penalty. They deal with real issues that can otherwise remain hidden by the cloak of corrupt governments the world over.
This is a fantastic charity to support as is the red cross and the many other admirable charities out there. However I find myself writing a negative review regarding the above mentioned charity why?
I'm sure some of you out there will be familiar with the story I'm about to tell you. It's Thursday Afternoon and I've nipped into town to pick up a few bits and meet my girlfriend. Problem is I've only got about 15 minutes so I've got to be quick.
So I'm walking down the high street, when I notice the "clipboard sharks" in front of me. Now at this point I don't even know who this person is representing but what I do know is I haven't got time to engage in a long winded conversation, no matter how good the cause. I just don't have the time.
So operation "Don't make eye contact" begins. The problem is, this never seems to work. Infact it seems to have the opposite effect and draws the clipboard shark towards me like a moth to a flame. Only one thing for it, operation "deviate away". I find myself joining the school of other nervous individuals who are cutting a path either side of the clipboard Nazi's in a huddled avoidance technique. It reminds me of watching planet earth and seeing the tuna fish swimming closely together to avoid being eaten by its larger more deadly predator. The clipboard shark has successfully cut a swathe through the high street, however nature has taught them a few tricks......
Namely, they can move! Infact once locked onto they're prey, they adopt some extremely arrogant manoeuvres. Now having been in sales for a good few years, I will break down they're cunning for you. Here's how it works..........
1) They stand right in front of you blocking your path. incredibly rude in my opinion but I guess it has the desired effect of slowing you down.
2) They will say Hi, introduce themselves and hold out they're hand to shake yours. Now this is clever, I natural human response when seeing an extended hand is to shake it back....if you don't your deemed as being rude. It forces you to stop and engage conversation.
3) They will start with a couple of closed questions to get you engaged e.g "have you heard of Amnesty International". This is designed to give a yes or no answer. The reason for this is it engages you into the conversation, but also ensures that the person asking the question (The charity) stay's in control of the conversation. That way they can move the conversation forward in the direction they wish, giving you no "get out"
4) They will then begin to ask leading questions, I.e "its terrible that this issue isn't being dealt with isn't it". You obviously will say "Yes" and that's the plan. Keep you saying yes so when at the end you are asked to make a contribution, you will also say "Yes". They will even mirror the way that you stand and nod for you in all the right places to give you subconscious ques to agree with what they are saying.
Now some of you may say well if it makes them more money for they're charity then fair enough, and I would totally agree. But my worry is this.........
This method is based on a "sales model" for creating leads. This is not an awareness campaign, its lead generation. Now where ever you have lead generation, you have targets to hit and wherever you have targets to hit, you create a culture of doing "what ever it takes" to get the leads". Now in this case, this is beautifully reconstructed by the "clipboard sharks". The charities have created sales people, not philanthropic individuals who speak with real passion and emotion regarding they're cause. They have all quite clearly been taught off of que cards ands scripts and apply a little bit of crude salesmanship into the deal.
Now this may well mean that in the short term, they will gain more leads and therefore more contributions. However what is the long term damage to their charities reputation? For me this could do greater harm to them than good. I watch in amusement as people literally turn 90 degree's to avoid the on rushing clipboards and as I mentioned before this is even before you know what charity it is. This is not good. Already you have a negative impression of the person approaching you and I guarantee most people will barely wait long enough to even hear what they are going to say.........................people hate being "sold too" and despite the fact a charity is taking contributions, they are using the same sales model, hence the reaction by the public!!!!!
If they do manage to catch you, then you can never seem to get away from them which actually starts to annoy me more than anything else. I've even been told I'm being rude because I wouldn't stop to talk to them. I think you'll find its my prerogative to make a responsible choice when giving to charity, NOT to be bullied into it. Infact in this first 10 seconds, the damage is already done and the charities reputation has been put into jeopardy. How very sad.
Now I really don't know why charities persist on employing this crude technique, they should leave this to the countless gym and window companies that have actually probably created this adverse public affection to clipboards in the first place. There are many more positive solutions to creating awareness and increasing contributions. Baring in mind charities get free access to nearly everywhere on the high street as well as having huge scope when running a campaign (e.g playing music, handing out leaflets etc etc) they're opportunities are only as limited as the person coming up with the ideas!
I continue to give to charities and always will. I will, even on the rare occasions I meet a nice one of the clipboard sharks, also give to them. However I would implore that charities try a different method of gaining contributions as I fear this technique could tarnish the amazing work that they do on a daily basis.
I would be interested to hear other peoples thoughts on this.
i disagree with amnesty international .
they say sudam had an unfair trial.
he Killed hundreds and tortured them too.
you sa the death penalty is inhumane to me the death penalty is humane its a quick death.
Even if it was inhumane sudam was inhumane to all his victims how can amnesty international defend a man who killed many they say they defen human rights by letting this man live they are putting human's in danger.
while he lives there will be disturbance in arak.
I don't agree with the death penalty 100% but sadam deserves to die or rot in alkatraz.
he dosen't deserve the rights of other humans his soul is destroyed .
It is said the death penalty was abolished because it was to save human lifes.where was amnesty international when sudam was killing the innocent or went all these riots in arak are taking place.
how can you say u defend humans when you let this man live he could be set free and then what gather more supporters and begin again.
not allowing the death penalty on a murder i understand but on a masacre i don't understand.
If u were looking out for humans give all those killed justice.
Amnesty International was set up by a man called Peter
Benenson in the early 1960s. In order to protest against the
treatment of certain prisoners in Portugal. Since then the
organisation has expanded worldwide, and now has sections in
the United States, Australia, Mexico and other countries of
the world. Campaigns the organisation are dealing with at the
moment include Stop Violence Against Women, Control Arms and
the Death Penalty as well as campaigning for individuals at
risk and opposing house demolition in Israel.
The Stop Violence Against Women campaign aims to put an end
to gender based violence around the world. For example, rape,
honour crimes or genital mutilation. One recent action.
Concerned a woman living in the Democratic Republic of Congo
who was raped by a group of soldiers, and then refused
treatment, because she could not afford it. When a French
medical organisation heard of her plight. They arranged for
her to be taken to one of their hospitals in the Democratic
Republic of Congo. Unfortunately she died during the journey.
Amnesty International members where encouraged to write
letters to their local M.Ps asking them to contact the
Minister for the Department For International Development
asking what support the UK government was providing to health
services in the DRC, and whether the UK government was urging
the DRC to arrest and bring to trial soldiers who commit
these horrible crimes.
The Control Arms campaign aims to bring about the creation of
an Arms treaty controlling the supply of Arms. Currently 15
UK based companies are involved in Arms supply to conflict
zones. In Africa the price of a landmine can be as little as
£0.50, whilst the price of a hand grenade can be as little as
£0.75. Amnesty International currently has more members than
the labour party here in the UK. And those members are
encouraged to speak out against horrible human rights abuses
committed in the world today.
At group level you find such positions as Chairperson,
Secretary, Treasurer, Press Officer, Trading Officer.
Campaign Co-Ordinators. Actions and campaign materials are
either sent to the secretary and the person responsible for
that particular campaign in the group from Head Office. The
Death Penalty campaign has featured in the past Kenny Richey
a Scot on Death Row in Ohio, U.S.A, executions in China, and
the execution of child offenders. Jaoquin Phoenix's character
in the film Hotel Rwanda states that people once they have
seen horrific massacres on the news will go oh my god, go and
eat their dinners and do nothing. However, Amnesty
International members are not like that. These people sign
letters, have stalls in shopping centres, write to local M.Ps
and the local media. Helping to give the victims of these
horrendous crimes a voice.
I joined AIUK because I did not want to be one of the people
who watched attrocities on the television and went oh my god
and did nothing. That is absolutely disgusting. I also did a
twenty thousand word dissertation on the Kurdish Problem in
the Middle East whilst I was at University. Which highlighted
all the human rights abuses committed by the Turkish
government. Joining AI at local group level becoming the Stop
Violence Against Women Campaign Co-Ordinator has made me feel
that my degree is worth something to someone. Even through it
is only a small amount of time each month. I would ideally
like to have paid employment in human rights. And I do not
turn an ignorant blind eye to business human rights abuses
even when it means I get cheap consumer paid goods. Joining
Amnesty International means that I cannot ignore human rights
abuses committed by companies such as Coca-Cola and murders of
Trade Unions in Columbia, working conditions in China, and
child workers in Bangladesh who work for pittance making
plastic bags for British Supermarkets. Sometimes, I feel
ashamed when I sell people cheap clothes and Coca-Cola at
my checkout. I also feel ashamed that many people choose to
ignore Human Rights abuses, because it means they get cheaper
goods and can go on holiday to places like Turkey with a
clearer conscience. If I see a review or topic I am interested
in I will read it. I also have not copied any texts from the
Amnesty Magazine and regard such accusations as an insult.
Every now and then a news article will come along that has the power to make most people in this country angry - around the world there are all kinds of injustices, and many of them do make you want to stand up and do something. As an ordinary person, there doesn't seem to be much scope for this. Whatever you might think, you can help to make a difference. Amnesty International is an organisation that challenges injustice and campaigns for human rights around the globe. It highlights the plight of people imprisonned, tortured and executed because they have said things their government didn't like, of those at the mercy of barbaric laws, of those 'dissapeared' by regeims that don't even bother to enshrine their violence in law. The Amnesty website gives you full information on who Amnesty is and what it is doing at the moment - news from around the world occupies the front page, and at the end of each news bite are the words 'take action'(click on them to go to a page where you are told what you can do and who you can petition). There are always things that you can do - on the website you will find peitions to sign, email addresses and snail mail addresses for people who can be lobbied. If there is someone specific you can approach in your country or the country where the problem is, its all there. Lobbying is powerful, and it does get results. If you approach your own politicians and try to get them to take interest in worldwide injustice, you can get things done.You can campaign for change. Amnesty has been going for 40 years now, it gets results and you can contribute to that. The website itself is ok in terms of design and navigation, but not massively easy to get round. Everything you need is there, but not always well labled. You may need to be patient, but its well worth it. There is information in other languages as well (but if you are reading this in English I guess that's of limited interest.)
You may have heard in the news about Aminal Lawal, the woman in Nigeria condemned to be stoned for adultry. If you want to help her and others like her, visit the website now. Just drop by now and then when you have some spare time and see if there is anything you can help with. Your time could save lives.
When I had settled down in my job and the town I had been sent to (I didn’t know of its existence before I was, Germany is a large country, you know!) and didn’t have to think about myself all the time any longer, I thought it would be a good idea to do something for other people. There are many possibilities even in a small town, clubs, organisations and the like; the reasons why I chose to become a member of amnesty international (ai) were two sides of the same medal: I didn’t want to be in too close contact with the locals as I couldn’t understand their dialect very well at that time - I can now - and that the internationality of ai appealed to me. I knew that I would be able to use my knowledge of English, I liked the idea of being in contact with the big world outside the boundaries of the dump I had landed in. What IS ai? I’m quoting the official definition: "Amnesty International is a worldwide campaigning movement that works to promote all the human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international standards. In particular, Amnesty International campaigns to free all prisoners of conscience; ensure fair and prompt trials for political prisoners; abolish the death penalty, torture and other cruel treatment of prisoners; end political killings and "disappearances"; and oppose human rights abuses by opposition groups. Amnesty International has around a million members and supporters in 162 countries and territories. Activities range from public demonstrations to letter-writing, from human rights education to fundraising concerts, from individual appeals on a particular case to global campaigns on a particular issue. Amnesty International is impartial and independent of any government, political persuasion or religious creed. Amnesty International is financed largely by subscriptions and donations from its worldwide membership. ai was founde
d in1961 by Peter Benenson, a lawyer, who had read about two Portuguese students sentenced to seven years in prison for raising their glasses in a toast to freedom. Since then Amnesty International has campaigned on behalf of 47,000 individuals all over the world - those that have been tortured, convicted in an unfair trial or sent to prison for voicing a peacefully held opinion. More than 45,000 of these have been closed." Enough of official speak. What can a group of mainly young people in a small town in Germany do to further the great cause? The headquarters in London sends the name of a prisoner of conscience to each group which then 'adopts' him or her. While I was an active member, our group had a prisoner from (then) Rhodesia who was imprisoned because of political reasons and later one from the (then) Soviet Union, a Baptist, who was imprisoned because of religious reasons. We contacted the families and asked them what they needed, how we could help them. The man from Rhodesia had a large family, three wives and 13 children, of course they needed a lot! We couldn‘t send them money, but we sent several parcels with clothes. I remember that I blocked the post office for nearly an hour to get these parcels on the way, the man behind the counter had never had of a country named Rhodesia and certainly never sent parcels to that part of the world! The family of the Russian Baptist informed us about the work camp the man was in, and we sent him lots of warm clothes for the winter. Surprise, surprise, all our parcels arrived! Besides that, we wrote letters to the families and the prisoners assuring them that we were thinking of them and doing everything possible to help them, meaning we were also bombarding the respective governments with letters asking to reconsider the case of the prisoner and to act according to the above mentioned Declaration of Human Rights. Parallel to this the group went pu
blic. We put our stall in the pedestrian precinct, we went to Church groups (only the Protestants responded when we asked them if we could come, never the Catholics, don't ask me why!), to old peoples' homes, to schools, to physicians and psychologists, we wrote articles for the local newspaper. We informed whoever wanted to be informed about ai in general and the work of our group in particular, collected signatures when there were campaigns for special countries or against the death penalty and collected money for our group and for the headquarters in London, from where researchers are sent to all corners of the world. And we wrote letters. Not only for 'our' prisoners, but also for the prisoners about whom we learnt in the so-called Urgent Actions. These Urgent Actions come from London, are then sent to the head offices in the respective countries where they are translated and from where they reach the groups. It was my job to send them to the people who wrote for us. I 'exploited' my position as a teacher, I had an underground network of postboys and -girls from my school who got the letters from me and put them into letterboxes. Each saved stamp meant money for the group! When a new sympathizer came to us, I used to ask them, "Do you know a boy or a girl in your neighbourhood who attends my school and who could bring you the letters?" Only people with strong nerves and who aren‘t frustrated easily can work for ai. Firstly, you must always, always write the most polite letters, even if you know that the addressee is the most horrible torturer. Secondly, you must persist with your work even if you never get a response. What‘s the meaning of all this then? Well, it‘s odd, when it comes to diplomacy, governments are sensitive and care for their reputation and it‘s *not a good thing* to be accused of violating human rights. Urgent Actions can result in up to 7 000 letters for one prisoner fr
om all over the world and even if they aren‘t all read (but some are and because of that all letters must be perfectly worded), the sheer number is (mostly) effective. And it must not be forgotten how important it is for the prisoners to know that the outside world cares for them. I‘m one of the very few ai members who‘s had a feed back. Once when I was in London a friend of mine who‘s from South Africa introduced me to a friend who had just arrived from SA and who‘d been a prisoner of conscience. He had been in solitary confinement for one year and he told me that a group from Germany had written to him, to his family and to the SA government on his behalf, all that had helped him to keep sane. He didn‘t know where that group was located, but I got his name and contacted the group via ai Germany. That was a happy day for all ai members concerned! Why did I leave? Maybe you‘re expecting to hear that I was disappointed about something, discovered that the organization was dishonest or rotten, no, nothing of the kind, I‘m still fully behind ai and wish them well; I wish them to be so successful in their work that they can stop doing it. No more torture, no more people disappearing - wishful thinking, I know. The reason why I left is that I couldn‘t stand the horrors I read and heard about any more. I was a member for 15 years which is an enormously long time, only very few members can top that. The fluctuation is great, people come and go, partly because they move away - pupils to uni, students to a job - partly because what they deal with gets to them too much. When I distributed the Urgent Actions I used to read the cases described there in the beginning, later I only glanced at them superficially before I sent them to the people who wanted to write for them. I was active in the high time of terror in South America, nearly all cases dealt with people who had disappeared. I di
dn‘t dare to ponder about what I read, I began to erect a mental block. I left, because I couldn‘t stay. xxxx This is my 50th op, let‘s have a little party! You‘re all invited, but don‘t buy any presents, I have everything I need. But you could make me happy with something immaterial: click on ai‘s official website! Helping is SO easy! You don‘t have to become a member of a group, you can subscribe to the action 'Prisoners of the Month', then you are sent three cases each month from different parts of the world for which you write letters to the authorities. You are told the addresses, the cases are described in a way that you can use the description to formulate the letter, it‘s all very easy. Now that we live in the age of the computer and the internet, it‘s even ridiculously easy. Torturers aren‘t very inventive or original, that means that the cases resemble each other, you can write one letter, store it and use it again and again, just change the important dates. In my time no member of our group had a computer, it was mechanical (or is it manual?) typewriter and carbon paper then! We had to take the letters to the post office and buy stamps for countries we had hardly ever heard of; I can tell you we learnt a lot about geography. Talk of coincidence! I wrote most of the op yesterday, today I only wanted to write the end. This afternoon a woman asked me if I was still a member of ai! I don‘t remember when exactly I stopped being one, I think it was about 15 years ago! I have to live with the fact that many people in this town associate me with ai, have done so and will go on doing so. But it‘s not the worst thing I can be associated with, isn‘t it?