It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. Winston Smith, his chin nuzzled into his breast in an effort to escape the vile wind, slipped quickly through the glass doors of Victory Mansions, though not quickly enough to prevent a swirl of gritty dust entering along with him. This was not the job that the advert had described.
“Entrepreneurs wanted for an exciting opportunity to enter the world of marketing and promotions” sung the ad that had caught his eye. Instead, Winston found himself trudging through the streets in the baking sun and the frigid cold. His knuckles raw from the incessant drumming of front doors and his half-mittened thumb blistered from plunging repetitively and cynically onto unanswered bells. What had he become? Where is he going? How did he get here?
Winston’s mind, cold and stunted, threw images behind his withered grey eyes that showed the answers to these questions. He saw the face of the cheerful and not unattractive receptionist who greeted him at his first interview. She was so warm and welcoming. She guided him to the waiting room where he sat with seven others. All of them disparate but desperate.
Posters adorned the walls. Images of eagles soaring over mountain tops and lions roaring in the savannah. “What is this place?” No time to wonder, Winston, and the others are called to the adjoining room to be wowed by the slick-haired, slick-talking, slickidy-tricky-dick sales champion, Stevo.
Stevo owns the company. Stevo is twenty years old. Stevo recently bought a Ford GT because Stevo believed in the company that raised him and the systems they taught him. He worked hard, just like Winston could. He stayed bold and unremorseful, just like Winston could. He focussed on his own thoughts and shut-out anyone who question him, just like Winston could.
Winston left the experience feeling oddly boosted and his ego tickled. He liked the idea of being his own boss, earning big money and finally showing all those who held him back that he is a winner. He hoped that they would call him back, but there was something niggling at the back of his mind. He could not put his finger on it, so he pushed it to one side and hurried to the bus stop.
The second interview was filled with the same seven faces as before, “it must have been a very strong group” he thought to himself. An afternoon filled with gong-banging and littered with stories of impossibly high paycheques and debortuous parties made Winston fizz with dizzy excitement. The world of marketing and promotions for blue chip organisations from around the globe is opening its door to him. “Which fortune 500 listed company would I represent? Which boardrooms will I be presenting in? Will I meet Bezos, Gates or even Musk?” Winston’s mind spun and spiralled out of control. “I MUST GET THIS JOB! but what is this job?”
“Yes, can I help you? Excuse me, can I help you?” The images faded away and were replaced by the confused house-wife, hair in tight curlers and a screaming baby in her arms. “You’ve just woken up my baby, what do you want?” she questioned firmly. “Hi, sorry, erm, my name is Winston and I’m here in your local neighbourhood to speak to you about..” attempted Winston. “Have you not read the sign?! No sales people!” she gestured angrily at the notice next to the bell. Winston apologised and set-forth for the next door.
Brain-washed and empty, broke and broken, Winston slumps to the next house to try his luck there, and then to the next and the next until the clock struck twenty. He stood at the end of the street and waited for the van to lurch towards him and take him back to the office to be berated and betrayed by his new owners. But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother.
For Winston, it did not have to be this way. I, like thousands of my fellow fundraisers have knocked countless doors, spoken with amazing, awful, exciting, boring and mildly insane people. I learned more about myself, the world we occupy and my fellow humans than in my four years at university. But to those less-forthcoming sales and marketing companies around the globe, please be honest.
We know that door-to-door is not for everyone, but do not hide it in the ads. Do not play games with the truth. Be honest and open. Be realistic about the expectations and please please please stop pretending that it is a marketing or promotions role, it is fundraising. It is a passionate, confidence-building, worthwhile, and tremendously rewarding job that doesn’t need to be hidden behind a veil of ‘earning big bucks and buy a Ferrari’ macho bullshit. True fundraisers do it for the good of the outcome that we enable and hope that we earn enough to carry on the fight and build a future that we want to live in.