Telefundraising: How to sell cancer

My first job was telemarketing for a cancer society. They always wanted you to call it telefundraising because “we’re not selling anything.” which is true I suppose we just want you to give money for nothing. Anyway I liked the job to begin with. It beats working at a fast food place. Very little occupational hazard there. I mean we weren’t even allowed to dial the numbers.

The place I worked for was efficient. Of course I worked for the oldest and one of the biggest cancer societies in America so its like working for a corporation only it’s nonprofit version 2.0. So you go in put on your headset. You don’t get your own headset, so you attempt sanitation with a small alcohol swap they give you. At least they try I suppose. So you get you headset ready and you log in to a computer and you start the day. Which is pretty much hours of non stop calls.

I had to quit after a while. I said it was stress. After all I was at the time a senior in high school taking 6 AP classes, doing a play, and working a time in between and to top it all off we find out my father has to go in for a by pass. It wasn’t all that though. It was how impersonal it was. I tell people 100 times a day with a cheery voice and a smile the 2 out of 3 people will get cancer in their lifetime. Plus you go through on the first day and you learn all of these scary cancer statistics and the highlight the ones that will make people give you more money. To be that just seems sick. It’s better then most telemarketing jobs because it’s for a good cause and people hate you a tiny bit less. Yet I come home every day with a new story about a person dying of cancer. People, usually elderly, will open up to you with all the hate, grief, joy, the feel about anything to do with cancer. Then I have to end that up with “can we send you a pledge card 25 dollars then?”

Then there is the computer there are buttons for everything. If they don’t speak English press ‘Y’. If they are dead press ‘D’. Which is really awkward when you call someone and they tell you he has passed on. Especially since we don’t update our numbers much so the woman with be like “My father died 10 years ago” and you say sorry and she tells you she’s already over it and just please take her off the list. Which is automatic if you press ‘D’. Most people just wanted to be taken off the list which can be done many different ways but usually by pressing ‘F12′. See what I mean. Everything in your life to me only ends in me pressing a number or letter. Think about that when your pouring out your heart to a telemarketer. You just press a button and move on even though that’s your life I just listened to.

There are some things I will never forget. This woman once told me on the phone “You are talking to cancer.” I’m in shock and she explains “I have cancer in my mouth, you are talking to cancer.” Pretty gross huh? My third call on the job was a man who said “Oh you’re from the cancer society, well I’ve got cancer I can share with you.” Then he laughed. That’s something that amazes me with some of the people who have cancer they have such a sense of humor about it. Which is another awkward situation because you don’t really want to laugh at the joke about cancer but you don’t want to seem rude and not laugh either.

Why did I title it well it’s simple. What I came to realize after working there is we take cancer and make it marketable so we can reap in the money. I know there I good things that come of it. Believe me I know, I’ve had to learn them. Yet it’s hard to be on the cold telemarketer who (if they do their job correctly) is only concerned (though we will never say that) with whether or not you are giving me the money. There was one man who tells me that the cancer society doesn’t want a cure because it would me there is no reason to exist anymore and everyone would loose their jobs. I’m not a conspiracy theorist. That’s not what I’m saying, I would happily loose my job for the cure. I think the cancer society I worked for does good work. I just can’t stand “telefundraising” for it.

As a closure and update I am going to college and I will be working in presidential library. Working for the cancer society hasn’t totally doused my giving spirit. I’m studying to work internationally for human rights and I still only work for nonprofits. So happy ending I suppose…