It is February, Heart Month. Let the canvassing begin!
Last year, newly retired and with time to devote to Good Causes, I was sure that soliciting on a neighbouring street for Heart and Stroke would be a breeze. I have great success in April when I visit the people on my own street for the Canadian Cancer Society, so I blithely assumed that I would do modestly well one street over, even though its residents are strangers to me.
My 2012 assault for Heart and Stroke was a spectacular failure. Not at all what I had anticipated.
My biggest strength as a canvasser is my determination. No-one at home? No problem. I just keep coming back until I find someone willing to open the door. But I did not reckon on February and the unique challenges this month presents to the hapless canvasser. How can one calendar page be so uncooperative?
I can see why the Heart and Stroke Foundation picked February, what with Valentines' Day and all. But surely, the holiday tie-in is the only advantage. Otherwise, February is a winter month with all of winter's unpleasantness. It is snowy, icy, cold and dark. Really dark (and I don't just mean depressing.) The sun sets at 5:30 and if there are no porch lights it is impossible to see addresses, not to mention steps, doors and bells. And after dark, people do not want to answer their doors or put on their porch lights. Or perhaps they are simply on holidays (and not just crouching behind the curtains.) I
encountered so many apparently empty houses that I charitably concluded February was prime vacation time.
I discovered all this last year when, undeterred, I trudged up and down in pitch blackness, visiting 20 or so of the 30 houses on my route. By the time I had knocked on all those doors and talked to only 9 or 10 people, I realized that I would have to make call backs. But to which houses? I hadn't really been paying attention. I looked up and down the street with its vague, black house-shapes, and realized that I could only identify the 2 or 3 places where I had made out receipts. I had no idea how to distinguish the empty houses from the houses where I had been declined. In the dark I could not tell them apart.
As I re-traced my steps in a lame attempt to identify places I should re-visit, I encountered another women who was also out canvassing. She was coming down the sidewalk with her bundle of brochures for Doctors Without Borders. "I am having a bad night", I told her. She said she wasn't doing that well either. We did some mutual grumbling and eventually pitched our products to one another. (Not everyone can say that they went out canvassing for one cause and returned having made a donation to another!)
We both concluded we would need to return in daylight. There were still a few houses that I absolutely knew I had not canvassed. As for the others, the ones I couldn't identify, .....I just couldn't go back and have someone say, "You were just here! What part of NO don't you understand?" I'd try again in 2013.
So this year, I am planning my attack with much more care. I can't do much about folks on holidays, but if I go prepared with a flashlight and a list of addresses that I can check off, I'll have a better chance visiting everyone else.
And if I happen upon a canvasser from Doctors Without Borders, at least I can truthfully tell her that I have given already.