A sidewalk canvasser on how to win over strangers, and other unsolicited advice

A sidewalk canvasser on how to win over strangers, and other unsolicited advice

Canvassing uncaring passersby, washing high-rise windows and breaking up drunken fights could stress a person out, but these three Torontonians have found serenity, despite all that. Here’s how they do it.


“It’s all about your attitude and frame of mind. When I first started as a fundraiser, eight years ago, I was extremely shy. But this work really pushes you out of your comfort zone. The best way to be able to stop people and gain their trust is always to go in with the assumption that they want to talk to you. If you go in thinking, ‘It’s too cold, people don’t want to talk to me, people don’t like street fundraisers,’ you’re not going to have much success. People want to engage. We just have to make it easy for them.”

Jordana Illies, senior fundraising manager at Public Outreach, a company that does sidewalk solicitation for non-profits across Canada.


“I’ve been working in nightclub security for around 20 years. When it comes to intervening in fights, I’m big on being proactive. I think if you’re doing your job properly as security, you can see conflict brewing before it actually blows up. And if you’re on point, you should be able to go over there and neutralize it. Most of the time people don’t really want to fight, and if you give them a chance to walk away from any kind of argument, generally they’ll let it rest. They came in a certain way, and they just want to leave with their head held high. I always try to be empathetic to everybody. You don’t drink to get smarter.”

Aaron Grant, senior manager of guest safety and security at the Drake Hotel.


“Fifteen years ago, the first time I went over a skyscraper’s rooftop ledge, it was a really, really eerie feeling. Your body reacts the first few times. It’s not normal. You’re not supposed to be stepping over a ledge. When you go down the side of the building, though, you realize that everybody’s sitting inside at a computer, at a little cubicle. In an office building, there are so many windows—and how many people actually stop for a moment and look at the window and go, ‘Oh my God.’ That’s the only thing I could say to someone who worked in an office: don’t sit down and just have a coffee with your coworkers. Look outside, because you’re on top of the world, if you really think about it.”

Serge Alves, a veteran window cleaner who squeegees the glass at places like the TD Centre and Scotia Plaza for Solar Window Cleaning.

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