Today I participated in the red shield appeal. This is a program run by the Salvation Army, an Australian institution dedicated to using external donations to help improve the lives of impoverished Australians. We were asked to give up two hours of our time, during which we would be allocated an area of Sydney and tasked with asking all the residents for any cash donations they could give. To do this effectively our school asked us to split into groups of four and ensure we had one parent with us at all times to account for safety.
My group identified two main problems throughout the day. The first was, completing the task within the required time, which was paramount as the collectors from the Salvation Army, were to arrive at school after this to collect donations. Initially, we were scared and so took longer to address each house. This was because no one in our group had done this before and so our expectations, especially since we were technically disturbing people, were low. We all expected to be abused verbally at some point. After we engaged with the first few residences we, to our surprise, noticed that people were, on the whole friendly. However, due to the especially large area we had been assigned in addition to the initial time wasted being hesitant, we were behind schedule. As such we adopted a ‘leapfrog’ strategy whereby we would split up into two groups of two, each taking one side of the streets so when we reached the end we had completed double the amount of houses within the same time. This was an effective tool in accelerating the process. For reference, we saw the merit in dividing ourselves into groups of four to accelerate the process even more, however, the larger displacement between each person meant the supervising parent wouldn’t be able to aptly account for each member’s safety at any given time. The recognition and then solving of a problem recognize our achievement in fulfilling learning outcome four, and as our solution entailed a minimum of four people, also demonstrated the benefits to working collaboratively; learning outcome five.
Our second problem was the way to structure our responses to people who answered the door. Unfortunately, we were designated a particularly economically disadvantaged geographical region of Sydney. As such, we quickly realized people’s willingness to donate was largely curbed by their inability to do so. This in itself I found valuable as it helped provide me, a private schoolboy who comes from an upper-middle-class family, with a perspective on the severity of the monetary and financial impacts on people’s standard of living. We soon discovered that phrases like, would you be willing to donate to those less fortunate had woven into it, firstly, a sense of condensation and, secondly, an unappealing misunderstanding of people’s socioeconomic standard. For instance, several people, in frustration, remarked that they ‘would like to, but couldn’t’ donate. Therefore, modifications to such phrases allowed us to better engage with people. For instance, we changed our opening to go as follows
1. ‘Hello, how are you today?’ - as this seemed less imposing and humanizing.
2. ‘Are you currently free?’ - again recognizing their needs and allowing them to feel respected.
3.‘Are you able to make a small donation?’ - This change from ‘willing’ to ‘able’ recognizes others’ financial situation and respects their right to refuse with dignity. Furthermore, the addition of ‘small’ appeared to make our request seem less imposing, providing some discretion as to how one ought to donate.
After this, we found far more people were willing to donate and do so happily.