How does Greenpeace convince these amazing people to take up such awful jobs?

greenpeaceThe Bay Area (and, I assume, other fairly affluent parts of the United States) is plagued by these Greenpeace street canvassers who stand around in commercial districts and try to get you to donate money or something. I never ever talk to them.

But I can’t help but notice that they seem to be really good at what they do. They’re usually fairly attractive and really energetic and (for what is essentially a cold sales pitch) seem to use pretty good lines. And they do it for hour after hour. Today, the same guy pitched me three separate times, over the course of four hours, outside the Books Inc in Mountain View. That’s pretty amazing. I mean, come on, what are these guys making? Like $11 an hour? Maybe not even that? Are they getting commissions?

Even if they are, there’s no way that they can be earning enough for what they’re doing. Approaching people on the street and trying to get them to give you money has to be one of the hardest jobs in the world. The psyche just isn’t built for that kind of constant rejection. Like, your job is to bother people all day. And to do it while smiling. And you need to always be alert and able to catch that one person who seems receptive–to somehow pull someone out of their day and build rapport with them.

Like, if these Greenpeace people just applied the same verve and energy to begging for money on the street, they’d probably earn much more per hour than they do right now. If they went into the private sector and became salespeople, they’d probably earn more money and eventually rise up in the hierarchy.

I guess there must be an element of idealism in this. But I am shocked that idealism can make a person put so much energy into a job that is so awful and so unrewarding. Oh well, no one stays a Greenpeace canvasser forever, surely? Perhaps it’s good training for whatever they do next.

One thought on “How does Greenpeace convince these amazing people to take up such awful jobs?

  1. maddrunkgenius

    It’s certainly a meat grinder. And Greenpeace treats their employees now much better than in the past, which is nice. But it’s still more cost-effective as a form of advertising than a billboard, TV spot or bus ad. This one listens and communicates back to you, tho, and ultimately is less likely to let you excuse yourself out of doing something you say you believe in or support. (‘I really support the work you’re doing, but I can’t donate anything because I’m broke,’ I say, $4 coffee in hand. ‘But hey, you’re cute. You want to get a drink later?’)

    It’s also a job without much real supervision or control. You talk to people for a living, and if you’re good at it, a handful each day become part of doing something you care about. If you can be OK with letting assholes go by & not ruin your mood, all you interact with meaningfully are cool people down to conversate.

    Not all nonprofits are equally worthwhile, but getting more people involved in thinking about their work, donating monthly to support it, and hopefully being politically active to support the same things is a lot more rewarding & fulfilling than working retail or sales for a company you know is probably making profits at the expense of people far away, or even your co-workers.

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