07/31/2014 05:20 pm ET Updated Sep 30, 2014

How to Deal With Clipboard-Carrying Charity Solicitors

If you live in New York City, at some point you've been approached by a suspiciously friendly person carrying a clipboard, asking if you "have a minute for [insert name of charity here]."

I used to take an "ignorance is bliss" approach to such solicitors, striding past them as if they weren't even there. Yet there was always a big part of me that felt uncomfortable telling them off in such a literally ignorant way.

Which isn't to say that I started ponying up money to any clipboard-toter who approached me. I still don't ever give money to any such person. What's changed is that I tell them off in a manner that removes all guilt on my part.

Step 1: "Yes" to Listening, "No" to Donating

When a clipboard-carrier asks if I have time for their organization, I tell them that I'm happy to listen to what they have to say ... just as long as they don't ask me for money.

For as long as I've been telling them this, one of two things tend to happen:

  1. Not wanting to bother with a non-potential donor, they smile and wish me a nice day.
  2. Happy that someone actually stops to hear them out, they get right to the point.

They're taught to be persistent, so very often after they complete their spiel they revisit the idea of a donation -- almost always worded as, "The best way to show your support is by becoming a member and making a monthly contribution."

Rather than walk away after their inability to adhere to the "don't ask me for money" request, what I do is...

Step 2: What's Your Website?

...state the fact that I have a policy of not donating to causes that I learn about for the first time from someone on the street.

Which isn't to say I think their cause is unworthy. A way of proving such is asking if there's a website where I can obtain more information about their cause, in order to make a more informed decision as to whether it's worth donating to.

After which the clipboard-carrier will provide you with a URL and send you on your way. The whole process usually takes no more than five minutes -- an amount of time that even the most on-the-go of New Yorkers can afford to spare.

Particularly because of how handy listening to one spiel by a representative of an organization can prove the next time you're cornered by one of their cohorts.

Step 3: Repeating the Dogma

There's something extremely satisfying about hearing a stump speech once, memorizing all the key talking points and reciting them back to another clipboard-carrier from the same charity if and when you're cornered by them.

It's not just satisfying for you, who gets to bypass said stump speech. It's also satisfying to the clipboard-carrier. By demonstrating a grasp of the facts that they're paid to proselytize, you're justifying their decision to be a spokesperson in the first place. You're giving them hope that the message they're trying to spread is spreading.

Of course, you could choose to stride right past them as if they're not even there. Consider this a more caring, guilt-free alternative.