Have you ever been walking down the street in New York City, Boston, DC, Chicago, or San Francisco and been stopped by a young person carrying a clipboard and wearing a charity t-shirt?  This strange phenomenon has a name – street canvassing.

Inside Scoop on Street Canvassing

I am going to give you the inside scoop on street canvassing, because I was a street canvasser for a year.  Street canvassing is actually one of the hardest jobs anyone could ever do.  Each canvasser has to stand out on a sidewalk for 8 hours a day, try to stop everyone who walks by them by smiling widely and saying something witty, pitch about 50-60 people per day, and ultimately get 3-5 people to sign-up to give $20/month to the charity they are fundraising for.  Oh, and I forgot to mention that signing up involves the person giving you their credit card information.

As a street canvasser, you get rejected hundreds of times every single day.  However, in order to be successful, you have to continually have the most positive attitude imaginable or else people will be able to sense that you are not being either genuine or happy about what you are doing.  In order to keep your job, you have to raise an average of $3,000/day.  A colleague of mine signed up the CFO of NASA, and he told us that we had the hardest job in the world.

I believe that street canvassing has the highest turnover of any job.  Only 50% of people make it past their first 3 days.  10% make it past their first 3 weeks.  2-3% make it past their first 3 months.  Can you imagine doing this for a year?  Over my one year of working there, I raised over $500,000, and in five months of managing a team, my team raised over $1 million.

How Much Do Street Canvassers Make?

You are probably wondering how much street canvassers make.  Most street canvassers are employed by for-profit fundraising companies, so they actually get paid well for their work because of generous performance pay.  Each canvasser, depending on how long they have been with the company, makes $10-12/hour of base pay.  For each person they get to sign-up for the charity, they get a certain performance bonus.

# of sign-ups

Performance Bonus Amount





















There was one day in which I signed-up 10 people (essentially raising $10,000), and on top of my hourly base pay, I made $700 of performance pay in ONE day!

Are for-profit fundraising companies legitimate? 

Now you may be thinking, I better not give to charities that use street canvassing to raise funds.  However, I would urge you to think differently.  From what I shared above, it sounds like I made a lot of money off of the charity through my fundraising, but that is not true.  I was only paid a fair wage.  I currently work for an educational non-profit as a manager in external relations, so I actually do a lot of fundraising and partnership building.  In my current job, I get paid almost exactly the same as I did when I worked for the for-profit fundraising company.  Also, my current organization spends 15% of its operating budget on administrative and fundraising costs.  The non-profit, that I fundraised for while street canvassing, only spent 12% of its operating budget to raise all of their funds.  This is completely comparable to non-profit fundraising.

Therefore, if you want to give to a charity and you see a street canvasser fundraising for this charity, please go and make their day!

Have you ever stopped to talk to a street canvasser?