Carry a clipboard to keep "clipboard zombies" away

Andrew Hyde of Laughing Squid says:

Boulder based Mighty Fudge Studios created a set of clipboards for citizens to carry around to help fight “Clipboard Zombies” or those that are raising money for campaigns and charities with the line “do you have a minute for ______?”

To avoid being hassled by the vast army of clipboard zombies infesting the Pearl St. Mall (and surrounding areas) carry this decoy clipboard with you in a highly visible manner.  The Clipboarders will assume you are canvassing for a rival cause and leave you alone.  When you’re done enjoying a relaxing day downtown, simply leave this decoy clipboard in a visible location for the next user.

Fighting Clipboard Zombies with Clipboards


    1. I think I was in that Whole Foods parking lot.  The WORST parking lot ever!  You’d better be driving a Mini Pooper or maybe a clown car!  Has anyone been killed there yet over a parking space?

  1. I’ve often wondered at the legality/enforceability of wearing a “No Soliciting” sign or button to keep these people away.

  2. How about just saying, “Not interested”? No need to carry a object around, and no need to be rude or snarky. Are “clipboard people” in cities getting that aggressive nowadays?

    1. As someone who works in downtown Boulder, it’s fatiguing to have to be polite and say ‘not interested’ on a daily basis (or multiple times per day) to these people when we’re running out to grab a cup or coffee or lunch. They’re definitely more agressive than the panhandlers.

    2. Yes, Chas44, they are.  Here in Portland we are over run by clipboard zombies downtown.  They will often rove in pairs or quads, and stake out opposing corners of intersections in order to ensure you can’t just walk around them.  A frequent technique is for them to dart out from behind someone or something and stand directly in your path with their hand out, hoping to socially shame you into stopping.  I’ve taken to completely ignoring them, not even responding to a statement or questions, and pretty much walking forward until they get out of my way.  Of course our frequent business-led charges against the ‘agressive panhandlers’ in downtown that happens every XMas season never mentions the ‘legitimate’ solicitors, who are *far* more aggressive and annoying the the bums and street punks asking for change or cigarettes.

      1. LOL.  I live in CA and we’ve got that kick-ass referendum system which allows for a more… um, “APPLY-DIRECTLY-TO-THE-FOREHEAD” type of democratic action, for better or for worse.  So I’m no stranger to strangers with clipboards.  Annoying as they may be… I’ve decided that it’s a price I’m happy to pay for keeping that loaded gun on the CA legislature.  If they don’t take care of business then we the people will, again, for better or for worse.  We the people includes corporate funded referendum attempts… and that certainly has the possibility to be abused.

        Anyways, stay informed on ballot measures and vote.  Do it.

        1. For me, the problem is that I (a) am usually interested in some fashion in supporting many of the causes people are canvassing for and (b) don’t have a lot of money. I don’t want to give “just” $25 to each person I talk to, but I WOULD like to give someone my time, which I think is far more valuable to them (if not to me). However, this doesn’t seem to be the way that action gets done any more. Fundraising is the only measure of political action, and the only thing a volunteer would be useful for is raising more money. This is not the model of civic involvement I would like to support. I would much rather someone ask me for my actual labor on a real campaign of some sort, which I’ve done before, and which is awesome and fun and sometimes even effective. And you meet people, learn, build connections – i.e., you participate. Asking for dollars is a sign of civic death, not involvement.

          1. Yes, I suppose I am mainly being positive about signature-getters and people who want to sign you up to vote.  I honestly don’t encounter a lot of people soliciting for donations.  I totally agree with your comment.

          2. you are the type of person who is being failed utterly in the current non-profit model. I hope you find ways of participating.

        2. The people who accost you outside the grocery store in California are rather frequently discharged inmates who are bussed in from Arizona, etc. and paid per signature. There was a bit of a problem a few years back when they were paid by a pro-Republican group to register voters and then throw away all the forms from people who registered other than Republican.

          If someone asks you to sign a petition, ask them to explain it in their own words. If they start stammering, you’re dealing with a paid signature gatherer.

          1. “frequently”?   citation needed

            Paid signature gathering is problematic but doesn’t seem as bad as all that. Of course, like you I need to cite evidence of widespread problems like you allege

          2. DEL,

            Have you ever organized a petition drive or spoken with a company that provides paid gatherers? Because I’ve done both.

          3. So now that we both have experience, and you aren’t the only expert in the thread are you going to defend your points? or just delete my post again?

             ~25,000 people personally contacted, responsible for training people who have contacted a further 50,000ish. (these are very conservative numbers btw)

            This was a blend of political canvassing both paid and unpaid. I have also gathered a further 15-16000 public comments on a variety of local state and federal rule changes.

            You are wrong about the bigger picture. You are right about the problems within.

    1. Shirking civic involvement is awesome

      Of course, you’re welcome to speak to all the clipboard people to find out what’s what, but I think that you’ll discover that some of them have been hired by developers and corporations to get initiatives on the ballot that favor developments and corporatey-ness, not to get you involved in meaningful issues. The aggressive ones are aggressive because they get paid per signature, not because they give a shit about whatever they’re pimping. They need to show income to their parole officers.

        1. So people shouldn’t get involved because some signature gatherers are felons?

          If you can’t get people involved without hiring paid gatherers, you don’t have much of a cause. When I train volunteers to register voters or gather signatures, I tell them to identify themselves as local volunteers when they greet people. I’ve organized voter registration and signature gathering for several initiatives. If it’s a valid cause, you’ll get volunteers. The paid felons are usually working for Weyland-Yutani.

          1. Well, I have seen both paid and volunteer gathering work and fail. Paying for signatures doesn’t guarantee success and neither does an all-volunteer force.

            Prop 8 bigots had both and while WRONG were successful.

            Valid causes don’t always get the support they need for a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with their validity.

            By promoting the idea that all paid gathering is wrong you threaten to cut your nose off to spite your face.

  3. Look guys… this is no different that going to Vegas and having people on the street handing out “baseball cards” of naked women who are soliciting (legal) prostitution in Nevada.  They’re everywhere… they’re like locust.  Just walk by and and ignore them.  How hard is that?

  4. Clever!

    I’m curious as to how the ban on “aggressive panhandling” on Pearl Street Mall intersects with the financial goals of the clipboarders and their various orgs.

    Maybe we should just hand out clipboards to the panhandlers. At very least, it could make for some decent conceptual street art.

  5. Ideally they’d be using their creative expertise to suggest better strategies for ‘clipboard zombies’ to make them more engaging and less annoying.

    Much better than proverbially sticking your finger up to charity fundraising.

  6. As someone who worked as a “clipboard zombie” I am both amused and frustrated. I am  frustrated because the message cause-zombies are trying to raise is usually something of value, but unfortunately “do you have a moment” tactics seem more and more to resonate negatively. Human Rights Campaign, PIRG, Green Peace, Sierra Club, and others need to find better ways to do their fund-raising or they will more frequently become the target of jokes like these… for good reason.

  7. I handle those the same way I handle solicitors at my front door. I smile and in a pleasant tone say “No thank you.” If the solicitor responds with a question (in attempt to direct the conversation), I simply repeat “No thank you.” Two of those is the most they get. Then I keep walking / close the door. No trouble at all.  

  8. It’s raining and blowing a gale in Glasgow today, and on my way home someone from world vision tried to stop me.  As I continued diagonally up the street, I said something like “Oh come on, it’s horrible out” to which he responded “Oh yeah, well some people don’t even have rain”.

  9. I wouldn’t say zombies… I’d rather say raptors : they use the same tactic. While you’re trying to avoid the first one, the second one is already about to  pounce on its prey…

  10. I was accosted by one who pointed to my bottle of water and said how thirsty she was, so I offered her some but she said her company wouldn’t allow it, then she explained about her cause but I couldn’t in good faith donate to a company that didn’t prioritise the welfare of its staff, then I again offered her water and she again made an excuse and I thought maybe she was worried about rohypnol or germs, so I went back to the newsagent and bought a fresh bottle of water and told her I was leaving it in the shade by the theatre for when she was finished. I realised later that she was lying about being thirsty in order to establish rapport.

  11. One time I was walking by some clipboard zombies and I started to sneeze and they let me pass without approaching me.  Guess they didn’t want to risk getting sneezed on.  Now whenever I see some clipboard zombies I pretend I’m about to sneeze. Works like a charm, much easier than carrying a clipboard.  If we can get a plurality of people doing this the world will become a very surreal place for clipboard zombies.

  12. As a resident of Boulder, I can see the need. Walking down Pearl Street in the afternoon, you’re likely to get stopped 5 or 6 times by people with clipboards. While I’m sympathetic to their causes, they always, ALWAYS want money, and I don’t have money to give right now. Even if I did, I’d donate to an organization that I’ve researched thoroughly, not the first person who walks up to me on the street.

  13. Open with: “Soon you will have followed me for as long as you are persistent and by the end of this encounter you will have wasted your time and still have nothing from me.”
    The really hardcore variety will often ‘just so happen to be walking the same direction as you’ and ‘just be talking about their subject in general’ but you get to eventually nod goodbye to them and perhaps part with: “I refer you to my earlier comment.”
    This is only really for you troll-anti-trolls out there.
    I know I’m not alone.

  14. iPhone fits in your pocket more easily than a clipboard and is as effective as your “pretending to be on the phone” acting skills are.


  15. I call them “ambush activists” and I’ve also heard “charity muggers,” (or “chuggers”). When they say “Do you have time to support X?” I say, “not anymore.” Companies that have gotten on my shitlist for using chuggers include the Red Cross and Planned Parenthood. Great thinking, boards of directors, using aggressive annoyance to further your goals.

    Not only all this, but when you deny them your time, they invariably use a passive aggressive whiny toned “well have a nice dayyyyy.” Odious. These people make the world a worse place.

    1. passive-aggressive “have a nice day” is a defense mechanism to hearing “No” 80-90 times a day. Plus they feel they are helping to make a difference(they actually DO make a difference) and your shitting over the entire idea of civic involvement because someone gave you a bad tone of voice is unhelpful.

      If these great non-profits weren’t drowning financially they wouldn’t have to turn to these tactics, but people are too involved on the new Real Housewives drama.

  16. So, hating on non-profits is a good thing? Really simple folks, tell them you are not interested and keep walking.

    1. So, hating on non-profits is a good thing?

      Shouldn’t these non-profits be made aware of the fact that their guerrilla tactics actually turn off many potential supporters?In Portland, you can walk ten blocks and be hit up ten times.  I was once running to catch up with someone before they disappeared into a crowd, and a clipboarder leaped out in front of me.  I told her I didn’t have time because I was looking for someone, so she stepped back in front of me and said, “I know!  Here I am!”One has to wonder what sort of training these (mostly college age) “activists” get.

      1. they don’t get enough training, and there is a shortage of people who could give them good training.

        but at least they are DOING SOMETHING

  17. Note to clipboard zombies: Get a website/blog/podcast and get out da way.
    My old adage: Never trust anyone with a clipboard.

  18. When you can, it’s worthwhile to use the chance to inform the money-seekers of just where it is their collected money actually goes.

    Student: “Would you like to donate to [medical charity]?”
    Me: “I’m sorry, I don’t support organizations that fund vivisection.”
    Student: *stunned look as she realizes her efforts are actually going to fund the torture of animals*

  19. Y’know, I see these people often enough, but I can’t recall the last time one of them actually stopped me.  Maybe it’s because they’re busy talking to someone else when I walk past?  Maybe I just walk too quickly?  Or maybe I have an utterly pissed-off look on my face all the time and don’t know it.  How unsettling.

  20. HaHa.  Clipboards are useful.  CSB:  When I was in the Navy and first onboard a ship, I found that if I carried a clipboard and walked with a purpose, nobody ever suspected I was lost most of the time (I was medical and temporary so I never really got a proper orientation). 

    I put on a lot of miles looking for the laundry/mess/ship’s store etc…. 

  21. What an awesome PR campaign by Mighty Fudge Studios!  Kudos to them for coming up with this brilliant attention getter that in real life probably isn’t that effective.  

    Not to mention everyone who sees you walking around with that clipboard assumes you are just one of “them”.

  22. It’s irresponsible to give to these folks. As this article points out, it’s not all that hard to acquire a clipboard, and thus there’s no reason to believe these people represent the group they claim to.

  23. I’m constantly bombarded with people asking for money/signatures on my walk home from work in San Francisco. Usually I just say “not today” and they target someone else. I have run into some very aggressive clipboard zombies though which require… special handling.A couple years ago, I had a girl from Children International follow me for two and a half blocks. Now I tell Children International people that I hate children.Greenpeace is also quite aggressive. I tell them I don’t support terrorist organizations.

  24. Outside my front door I have a prominent “No Soliciting” sign. One day a candidate for state senate came to my door.

    “I don’t vote for solicitors”, says I, pointing at the sign.
    “I’m not a solicitor”, claims he.
    “I don’t vote for illiterates, either”, responds I, as I shut the door in his shocked face.

    On the Pearl Street Mall they usually back off when I flash my canister of pepper spray at them.

  25. One of the perks of being on the spectrum: I have absolutely NO problem looking people right in the eyes, looking through them, walking past them without so much as uttering a word, a grunt, a huff, changing my stride or even upsetting my natural breathing rhythm.  

    They don’t exist in a lizard’s brain until the lizard lets them in.

  26. As a born and raised Portlander, I guess the hipsterfication also caused an increase in whining, too.

    Anybody who gets stopped by a signature or donation gatherer has no one to blame but themselves for, you know, stopping.

  27. Non-profits need money from actual people. Not from corporations. And they need members to wield any actual power over elected officials in the face of massive special intrest lobbies. Since most people don’t just spontaneously decide to join non-profits, some sort of outreach is necessary for non-profits to be effective, and face to face outreach is the best kind.

    If you want to volunteer, visit their websites. But fund-raising isn’t civic death. It’s exactly the opposite.

    1. I agree with you Isaac.

      You do have to see their point though. You hire a metric fuckton of canvassers, give them the best 3-4 day training we can(woefully inadequate) and send them out. Most can’t fundraise or communicate effectively and are fired. Is it any wonder that the majority of the experiences people have with canvassers is of the “not positive” variety?

      To battle the rapacious corporate hegemony with money ONLY is like like trying to start an armed battle with the army, it is a sure way to lose.

      The PIRGish organizing/fundraising model is fucking broken, and is leaving a wake of mistrust that is losing both the battle and the war.

      You just participated in direct action and know the difference. Keep fighting.

  28. You best be trollin.

    I can’t remember the last time I was confronted with a campaign that was offensive to my morality. What’s the problem? People campaigning, seeking donations in your private headspace really shouldn’t be any of your concern. Just keep on walking if you don’t like Greenpeace or Planned Parenthood or, you know, humanity. Keep on truckin on to Wal-mart. Coming up to my door or ringing my phone, that’s a problem but I don’t have the type of guilt I must need to be angry at clipboarders. They’re always polite, know what they’re talking about, and appreciative of your time, what do you want from them?

    Seriously, this is Boing Boing though, right?

    1.  I don’t have the type of guilt I must need to be angry at clipboarders.

      Oh, please do explain this non-sequitur. Ex-Catholic, areya?

    2. “I can’t remember the last time I was confronted with a campaign that was offensive to my morality. What’s the problem?”

      The last time a fellow with a clipboard came up to me he had a poster of Obama with a Hitler mustache

      What’s it like being the president of the Solipsists’ Club?

  29. I’ve had the opposite kind of experience – I used to have an engineering job at a grocery store chain, so I’d frequently be carrying a clipboard in a store for whatever kind of data I was collecting.   In a retail environment, that makes everybody assume you work there and will know where the (whatever) is.  If it was a store I went to a lot I’d usually know, but otherwise I’d have to tell people I didn’t know a lot.

  30. “The last time a fellow with a clipboard came up to me he had a poster of Obama with a Hitler mustache.”

    No, I’ve never had the LaRoucheies approach me. Then again I don’t put off a strong douchey vibe. Too bad you didn’t have one of those handy “No!” clipboards with you to show them how you felt about their fcked up politics.

  31. I don’t get out much.  I can’t remember the last time I was solicited for anything on the street other than, say, Girl Scout Cookies outside of Ralph’s.  I get the occasional doorknocker on my porch, and unless I’m super-busy with the kids, I don’t mind lending an ear.  Last night it was some Democrat, wondering if my wife and I wanted to register for absentee voting.  We like to vote down at the polls a few doors down at a neighbor’s house, so I told him so.  Oddly, it took a couple tries to convince him.  Usually our doorknockers are local churchfolk, but they’re just as nice as can be, so I’ll waste a few minutes of their time on pleasantries, listen to their spiel, then send them on their way with a heathen smile and a stubbornly godless wave.  I imagine I’d be slightly more brusque if I were busier at home.

    On Saturday I was involved in an Orange County wedding, and after the ceremony we in the wedding party limoed our way to the center of the City of Orange for photography purposes.  Some kids were holding some impromptu wave-your-Ron-Paul-signs-at-the-cars-until-someone-honks rally, and another older dude across the street bore a sign that read, incredibly enough, “Thank you, VP Cheney, for your service to this country.”

    Even in my ill-fitting tuxedo, had I not been required to stand still for pictures, I’d have loved to wander over and listen to that dude explain his gratitude for twenty minutes or so.  Seriously, I’m lacking for streetcorner theatre in my life.

    More to the point, if I’m not interested, I’ll avoid eye contact and keep walking.  I don’t find it remotely difficult, either physically or psychically.

    1. …so I’ll waste a few minutes of their time on pleasantries, listen to their spiel, then send them on their way with a heathen smile and a stubbornly godless wave.

      Ha! I do the same thing. If I’m not terribly busy, it’s no skin off my nose to let them practice on me. They do look rather crest-fallen, however, when it slowly dawns on them that I’m just humoring them and their pleas are falling on deaf, heretical ears. Sometimes I even feel a tiny twinge of guilt, but that only lasts as long as it takes the door to close.

  32. Maybe eventually one of those information-overlaid-on-reality goggles could solve this problem. If all the employees who are just trying to walk to and from their office or, heaven forbid, have a lunch break without being accosted would wear a transmitter identifying themselves as non-tourists, then the professional beggars would not be a daily problem. The beggars would accost the tourists, who are their main prey, and would leave the employees alone.

    And if you wonder why the professional beggars don’t just *remember* the faces they see every day as being the people who work along Pearl Street, the rasta hair most of them have could be a clue about where their memories have gone.

  33. I was a door to door canvasser and phone fundraiser for over four years for a nonprofit anti-nuclear, anti-war organization. Though “the clipboard people” may annoy you, they’re absolutely essential for grassroots fundraising and organization building. Some of them can be annoying, but they have a really tough (and necessary) job. So, sure, it’s fine to say you’re not interested or to pretend you’re on a cellphone call, but rude and snarky crap like this is really disheartening. Of all the things to single out for ridicule, idealistic young people working for Greenpeace seems like a low priority. Or do the clipboard people really bother you more than the problems they’re working against?

    1. Matt, this isn’t door to door canvasing, it is the tourist center of downtown Boulder, a pedestrian mall (a bricked-over street, a few blocks long). Boulder supports a lot of causes, and I don’t think you’d find anyone annoyed by the door to door folks. But downtown, there are rules against panhandling, but those rules are not applied to the nonprofit groups, so they’ve become quite a problem.

      1. WIlliam, I’m surprised you “don’t think you’d find anyone annoyed by the door to door folks.” In my experience, plenty of people are annoyed! Door to door canvassers have been assaulted, harassed by police, and in some cases, arrested. Some cities have passed laws to prevent door to door canvassing.

        The clipboard model (“street canvassing”) is largely a response to the logistical, legal and economic obstacles posted by expensive door to door organizing. Raising money for political causes is protected by the 1st Amendment. So, while it may be annoying, I can’t see why it bothers the good people of Boulder more than, say a $671 billion military budget, or 1/3 American children living in poverty. Those are the kinds of issues these groups raise money for. Maybe don’t make their job harder?

  34. You can’t please anyone on this issue, I guess. It used to be that shopping center owners could ban canvassers from their property (and most did), and people were upset that their right to free speech was being infringed as shopping centers had become the defacto public spaces after the decline of downtowns. Then the laws changed and people are annoyed because canvassers are annoying.

  35. You know who really loses when we allow clipboard zombies to roam free? People who want to know what time it is or need directions. Good luck getting anyone to pay attention to you when you need it when everyone has learned to be suspicious of friendly faces on the street.

    1. I think the aggressive panhandlers who try to get you to listen to their sob story (and who then ask for considerably more than spare change) have already trained people to be wary of the phrase “do you have a second?” when uttered by strangers. That battle is long lost.

  36. I work in downtown SF and frequently encounter the “zombies” that you mention on a semi-daily basis, except that they’re not zombies, they’re actually human beings with jobs to do.

    One might feel a sense of compassion or at least acknowledge that other people have shit jobs and that these non-profits need increased visibility and donations. I interact with canvassers pretty regularly, and you know smiling, being nice, and politely declining takes about 3 seconds and it might actually be a respectful way to treat other people you meet in the street.

  37. What I can’t stand is the fact that as the chuggers multiply like rabbits, in Seattle we’re blaming panhandlers and homeless people for “clogging up” the downtown business core and being too aggressive. It’s a bunch of crap.

  38. My favorite experience was with my thre year old daughter in my arms.  Two young men who I had previously avoided caught me at a walk light.  The dominant dude really wanted me to sign a petition about banning pan handling.  I asked him if he was paid a wage for this work.  He pretended not to understand my question.  I then said that if any of the people I saw asking for change could afford to dress like him, buy haircuts, find a safe place to sleep they could do his job.  He refused to get it but his buddy looked so ashamed.  Perhaps better trainig?

Comments are closed.