Charities, cold-calling and the nature of giving: just how charitable is it?

Charities Cold Calling UK

Dr Eunice MinfordBy Eunice Minford ~ MA FRCS Ed Consultant Surgeon with an interest in current affairs, transparency, responsibility and accountability in all spheres of life.

Last year in the UK we saw how a number of large charities, including Oxfam, Save the Children and Cancer Research amongst others, think it is appropriate to ‘cold-call’ people to raise money for their charities.

They employ external companies to do the dirty work – and dirty work it is indeed. The undercover videos 1 2 accompanying the recent media article (“VICTORY! After Mail exposé reveals shame of charity cold call sharks, PM pledges tough new laws to tackle ‘boiler room’ tactics targeting the elderly and vulnerable”) published by the Daily Mail UK 3, show the tactics that are used to get people to part with their cash. No one is spared from being given this ‘opportunity’ to donate including elderly pensioners and those with dementia.

How distorted is the thinking that converts the imposing technique of cold-calling elderly people with dementia, pressuring them to donate money to the charity, and calls it “…giving them the opportunity to donate”? How far removed have people become from what are ethically and morally acceptable practices?

To me, cold-calling people and effectively coercing them to donate is the absolute antithesis of charity. Whilst they may argue that no force is used, I would have to disagree. It takes a force devoid of true love and care to cold-call and persuade and talk people – including vulnerable people – around to get them to donate to a charity, particularly when we consider what charity truly means.

The word charity comes from the Latin caritas, translated variably as meaning eternal love, unconditional love, God’s love, love of all mankind, generous love, Christian love. The latter refers to the love that is the Christ that lives within every human being – not just those who profess to be Christian or who align to the Christian religion: the Christ being the energy of the soul (of love) in embodiment, something that every human being has the potential to live.

What is consistent is that it is a love that is freely given, with no attachments, expectations, investments, needs or demands.

And so it follows that true charity consists of acts done, money given, time and space offered, with no investment of self of any kind – where there is absolutely nothing in it for us: we do what we do and give what we give with, from and for love.

It sounds simple – but perhaps is not so easy to live given our human predilection for ‘What’s in it for me, me, me, me?’ to take hold. There are the obvious and not so obvious investments, attachments and other emotional hooks than can catch us out, for example:

  • Do we feel better about ourselves for having given to a charity?
  • Have we given just because everyone else is giving?
  • Have we given out of guilt – the ‘haves’ versus the ‘have-nots’? Are we guilty that others are less well off than ourselves?
  • Have we given because it is expected, but it’s not really something we want to do?
  • Have we given to not be shown up in some way, to be considered uncharitable, a miser – or thought to be hard of heart?
  • Do we give out of pity or sympathy for those deemed less well off?
  • Have we given and then resented the fact that we gave our hard-earned cash away? Or our time to a project, a charity, cause, a friend in need, when we really would have preferred to have been doing something else, something better, something for me and my family?

And so the list goes on…

If any of the above resonate, then we know we have not given in true charity but have had some investment or need for self.

And so perhaps there are not too many people or charities out there who are truly giving of their time and money with ZERO investment of self. Certainly the charities that were exposed for cold-calling and haranguing people for money using ‘boiler-room tactics’ are far, far removed from true charity.

Of course it’s always easy to point the finger at others when the real work lies in looking at ourselves and removing our own attachments and investments, which requires a radical self-honesty to clock when we are doing something for self, when the ‘what’s in it for me?’ rises up – and when it is purely and simply for the love of all.

I can recognise both within myself: times when I have done something but there was an undercurrent of resentment about it, and times when I have freely given with zero need for anything in return. The two feel quite different in my body. The first is heavy and sticky, the second is open, expansive and free-flowing.

There is absolutely nothing charitable about cold-calling and persuading people to part with their money. If it is not freely given with love, without force, coercion, persuasion, guilt, sympathy, resentment, need, attachment, expectation or investment, then it is not true charity and it is certainly far removed from caritas.


  1. Video 1: Undercover Footage Reveals GoGen Training Techniques
  2. Video 2: Undercover Footage in the Call Centre at GoGen
  3. Daily Mail UK, 11 July 2015, VICTORY! After Mail expose reveals shame of charity cold call sharks, PM pledges tough new laws to tackle ‘boiler room’ tactics targeting the elderly and vulnerable.

All three references can be found at:

3 Comments on “Charities, cold-calling and the nature of giving: just how charitable is it?

  1. This sums up cold calling so well! I worked in a role like this in Australia for about 3 weeks, and I felt sick going to work each day I attended. Working during the day, most of the people buying raffle tickets for the ‘charities’ I represented were elderly people who felt lonely, and they seemed to feel a sense of duty to fight for the cause I was calling about. They dutifully purchased tickets or made a donation, while I went home feeling ashamed, as though I’d had to deceive and coerce people into donating.
    There is certainly no unconditional or eternal love in this method of raising funds, for either party.

    • Thanks Monica for adding to the conversation. It’s great to have the perspective of someone who has actually been a part of the charity call centre scene – and has felt how far from truly charitable it is to pressure vulnerable people to donate.

  2. I haven’t worked in a call centre but I have been called by personnel employed in them. While I’m not vulnerable to their approaches, I have to say I do not enjoy or appreciate their calls, and they feel no different from anyone else trying to sell me something. I get the same feeling from the employees of charities seeking donations in shopping centres and on the streets. Always, there is the pressure to buy, usually with an emotional hook to elicit sympathy. The only difference between this and other forms of high-pressure selling is the item being sold – a cause, rather than a tangible item.

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