When I first arrived in Melbourne, my absolute number one priority was finding a job. At first, I was only interested in hospitality or retail jobs – they seemed relatively easy and I had some experience. Many backpackers went for sales jobs – think selling electricity door to door. These poor travellers were earning a pittance, as many of these jobs were was 100% commission based! Or if they had a weekly rate it was very low.
Being a fundraiser for a charity was something that hadn’t occurred to me until Chris went for an interview at a fundraising company. He didn’t get along with fundraising, but I became instantly intrigued. As someone who is very interested in charity work, it aligned with those interests. It also surprised me to learn that while some companies do indeed only operate with commission based wages, it isn’t all like that. I found a company that would offer an hourly rate of nearly $21, as well as bonuses on top and incentives. It was 9-5, Monday-Friday. It was completely ethical and was filled with young people. The company was fun and friendly yet professional. I went for an interview there and was thrilled when I got the job. My job would be working with a charity called Cancer Council, who are one of the major cancer charities in Australia. I would be a street fundraiser, trying to get long term donors on board. I was excited but had no idea what to expect.
Now, it has been about five months since I began my work as a fundraiser, and over two months since I left that job. What started as a job for me to earn some money whilst I was in Melbourne became so much more than that. I never thought I would find a job I would become so invested in, or learn so much from, or make so many incredible friends. I never thought it was possible to get a job I enjoyed so much! But of course, there were pitfalls too. It was a job that could be hard and stressful at times.
We always walk past charity fundraisers on the street, but let me tell you what it’s real like to be one of those guys – the good and the bad – and why, if you have the right character for it and are up for it, charity fundraising is such a great job for travellers.
First off, no other job will provide you with so many lessons, about such a diverse amount of things, nor will it provide you with so many friends. Whilst fundraising, I learnt about the beauty in the kindness of strangers. In this job, you speak to so many people on a daily basis and get a unique lens into people’s lives and into the type of people there are in the world in a way you normally wouldn’t. People will come up to you and offer their thanks, tell you about their deepest secrets, or simply offer you a coffee or some chocolate. You learn a lot about people in general in this job. I’ve learnt so much about things like body language and the power of language and the effect of the way we speak on the human psyche. I can watch people unfold from being closed off to trusting, or vice versa, in a way I never would have noticed or understood before.
I’ve also watched myself grow and develop. I’ve grown in confidence and don’t feel shy starting up new conversations with people I’ve never met before. I’ve also learnt something so simple yet so valuable – if you act positive, even if it’s fake, It breeds yet more positivity. When I started this job, I would have to be happy and highly energetic all day. Instead of this wearing me out, it left me feeling ridiculously happy within myself. It was a total natural high. Even if you feel a bit shitty, acting positive will naturally make you feel more positive – as they say, fake it til you make it.
Like I said before, it’s also a fantastic way to make friends. Most other people in the industry are travellers, so you meet people from all over the world, who have done all sorts of fantastic and interesting things. Fundraising provided me with dear friends who I hope will stay in my life for a long time.
Of course though, it’s not always plain sailing. Fundraising can be tough and whilst some people take to it naturally, other people really find it’s not for them. Let’s face it, how many of us have got pissed off at fundraisers in the street, before we even really know them or why they are trying to get our attention in the first place? I even do it now, despite the fact I have done that job. But standing in the street all day, rain or shine, is tiring. And the rejection can make you feel shitty. There may be days where no one wants to donate, or even give you the time of day. This can make it really hard and make it feel very pointless. Plus, it sucks to do in the cold. The cold, rainy winter days are one of the main reasons I left Melbourne. It isn’t fun to work in that environment. Yet for me, when it’s sunny it’s a blast. Personally, I found it really invigorating to work outside with the fresh air.
I think one of the biggest pitfalls of the job is that for every person who will say hello and have a conversation, there is the person that is rude. Some people just completely ignore you, others swear and shout. It takes a special sort of person to put up with this shit. Most of the time, I let any insults go over my head. I knew people were not personally attacking me. They didn’t know me. They were just having a bad day, or were really bitter people, and I was the person they could take it out on. However, very occasionally, people make comments or commit actions which are so bad that we can’t help but get upset. One of my friends was spat on, another was aggressively and consistently groped, and I had someone tell me he ‘wished I didn’t exist’. These things are really hurtful, and kind of makes you question humanity. But I guess there will always be horrid people in the world, and when we work outdoors in a public manner, constantly preaching people, we are bound to come across these people and be a party to their actions. But thankfully I can say this doesn’t happen often, and despite these events, it was still the best job, which built my character and strength. It allowed me to build a harder skin and not take myself too seriously.
Fundraising is a great job to do as a backpacker because it’s an industry full of travellers, and an industry where working for a short amount of time can get you far. However, working there for a short time is for many all they can take. After a few months, this job can really take it out of you. Despite the fact you are working for a charity, it is still very target driven which can lead to a lot of pressure. You can be made to feel that you have to work outside of your contracted hours. Despite my pay being decent, I worked far too many hours for free. You have to be ‘on’ all the time. It can be exhausting.
If you go with the right company, you can get a decent wage, learn a lot, and make so many friends. It does require confidence, passion and strength of character, but not only can you make money quickly, it also allows you to work for charity and give back. My top tips for fundraising would be to not do it if the work is only commission based, to be energetic and put into it what you want to get back, and above all, have fun.