Here’s a new low for Oxfam, or rather a different, sneakier low. Three times in recent months I’ve been telephoned by well-spoken young men claiming to be from Oxfam who all begin by saying: ‘I’m just calling to thank you for your past donations, and tell you exactly how much money all the books and clothes you’ve donated to Oxfam have raised for us. Would you like to know?’
Here I hang up. What utter cobblers. I can’t remember donating clothes to Oxfam shops and anyway how would they know about, let alone value and add up any one specific person’s donations? William Shawcross, head of the charity commission has, rightly, torn Oxfam (and others) off a strip for ‘hounding’ potential donors with endless unsolicited calls and harassing passers by.
Oxfam, which considers itself beyond reproach by definition, has responded with outrage:
‘Our fundraisers who go through extensive training to ensure they uphold our values and guard against any inappropriate practice.’
Well, I don’t think you can describe this new, ‘let me tell you how great you are’ approach as aggressive, but it’s nasty in its own way. It’s a cynical attempt to use vanity to solicit more cash. Oxfam, I’m sure, thinks ends justify means, but treating donors as if they’re stupid and fundamentally self-serving sends a very depressing message. It’s as if they think only they, Oxfam, can possibly be in it actually to help others.
UPDATE FROM FRASER: Oxfam, ever adept with the telephones, called me on my personal mobile last night to say that Mary signed a Gift Aid form when donating books two years ago. She had forgotten. But she had no idea (and neither did I) that signing a Gift Aid form doubled as a consent form for the phone bank crew, and could rebound on you years into the future. As Mary so rightly says: sneaky. I’ve no idea how Oxfam got hold of my personal mobile, either. Perhaps I once signed one of their Gift Aid forms too.