Friday, June 26, 2009

What to learn from the Toronto garbage strike


I’m always fascinated by how people respond in a crisis. Or even when something unexpected happens.

So I’m particularly intrigued by people’s behavior in Toronto right now. To fill you in, there is a city workers strike at the moment which is affecting a range of services including childcare, but the most disturbing and obvious disruption is to garbage collection.

That’s right, garbage workers in the city have been on strike for 4 days. Not nice.

The picture above is a garbage can/bin at the subway near my house. It quite clearly says not to use it, but has that stopped people? No. All around the city this is a common sight, garbage stuffed into each and every part of these disposals.

So what?

Well, this and the way people in Toronto are trying to dispose of their waste (in some cases illegally) got me thinking about our behavior in unexpected situations. And in particular to the way some fundraisers have behaved in the wake of the global downturn.

Frankly, there are lots of parallels.

We panic.

We make rash decisions driven by emotion.

We don’t necessarily gather all the information we need before we act.

Like the resident who illegally dumps their trash in Lake Ontario, some fundraisers are acting like frightened turtles and pulling back on all acquisition. Crazy stuff. But it’s happening.

Why? Because we’re emotional creatures. Don’t get me wrong, fundraisers need emotion. We tell stories for a living, that’s our job.

BUT…

I just hope like hell (I think sometimes forlornly) that people, and I mean fundraisers, think rationally, as well as emotionally.

“We’re stopping all acquisition this year”.

I’ve heard this over the last few months and honestly it’s just stupid decision making driven by someone/a group of people behaving emotionally. If you look at the evidence out there in the sector, there are loads of examples all over the world showing you can still recruit new donors, in some cases as well and better than ever.

So, Torontonians, don’t do stupid things with your garbage. And fundraisers, act in an informed way, not emotionally.

Jonathon

1 comment:

jimfairthorne said...

It's really nice to read a perspective on this issue that doesn't vilify either the city or the strikers. As a resident of Toronto, I think you're spot-on in that residents of this city also need to be held accountable -- and need to hold one another accountable -- for our actions when situations arise over which we have no control. I have been making a concerted effort to cut down my waste production at home in the hopes of not contributing further to the dire situation in the city I love. Of course, it's only going to last for so long before this really gets out of hand. I only hope these people (both sides) can start acting like adults and come to some kind of consensus before it's too late.

Thanks for posting.

Alex James