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What is it like to be a chugger? I asked one, and this is what he told me

I never used to stop for chuggers. Before I became Third Sector‘s fundraising reporter, I was one of those annoyed members of the public who walked past quickly, avoided eye contact and mumbled “No, sorry” to any fundraiser who tried to stop me.

I still maintain that I will never sign up for a direct debit on the street, just like our blogger Felicity Donor. I’d much rather choose my charity and donate online. But unlike Felicity I now, instead of ignoring chuggers completely, stop to politely explain why there’s no point in them trying to persuade me.

And so, as I was walking down the high street in Hammersmith the other day, I stopped for the bearded hippy in an EveryChild jacket who waved enthusiastically to me.

He asked me what I did for a living, so I fessed up. “I’m a journalist,” I said. “I cover charity fundraising for Third Sector magazine.”

But instead of smiling and giving up, as chuggers usually do in response, he was intrigued. “It’s a real scandal, you know,” he said, “agencies pay chuggers loads of money. I used to earn £500 a week from an agency.”

I replied that people were often annoyed about chuggers getting paid, but it’s surely unreasonable to expect fundraisers to stand in the freezing cold all day for nothing.

“Yeah,” he said, “but there’s more…”

According to him, there’s a widespread belief among street fundraisers that if an agency decides it doesn’t want a particular chugger any more – perhaps because that chugger is becoming jaded – the agency will find an easy way to fire them.

“They’ll put you in a quiet area, with a rubbish team and a difficult charity, then set you high targets. Then they’ll get rid of you if you don’t meet them,” he said.

And becoming jaded was partly why he quit his agency job and started working for EveryChild, which employs its own team of chuggers.

“You never feel any connection to a charity when you’re working for an agency,” he said. “You just move from one to another every week. I never want to work for a profit-making business again.”

He also said he could never imagine himself doing anything other than chugging. “I’ve been doing it for four years,” he said. “I like fresh air, I like talking to people and I like raising money for a good cause.”

But what about the bad press, and the abuse from the public? That’s life, he told me, and you can’t let people grind you down.

And after all that, he let me wander off. He didn’t even ask me to sign up.

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  • dave neenhan

    I used to regularly rattle a tin myself for a small mental health charity and you quickly learn that a lot of lonely and vunerable people approach you for human contact . You give back, you get to know people who regularly donate their spare change , or tell you they’ll pop back when they have some, you don’t need to be in their faces, or to block their path , you dont need to have a perfect body ( take note Mind )or be a ‘professional fundraiser’ and children often enjoy the act of putting coins in the tin. The chugger gangs on the other hand aggressively target people in a cynical way , they have no time for the poor and lonely, to them, people are just punters , to be talked at , signed up and quickly forgotten . The corporate approach to street fundraising is intrusive and simply takes from the community and people are getting fed up with the whole corporate thing . It’s greed.

  • Volunteering England

    I agree public awareness of the European Year of Volunteering 2011 has not been very high but there have been some really positive projects and we should congratulate the European Year of Volunteering 2011 Regional Champions for promoting the Year as best they could.

    There has been some excellent work done in the UK as a result of the European Year of Volunteering 2011 and you rightly highlight the excellent work on Volunteer Management done by Volunteer Centre Warrington. I would also like to highlight the work on Employer Supported Volunteering led by Volunteering England and the work on Opening Doors led by Attend.

    The success of the year in the UK can be measured in part by the legacy provided by a number of projects including v and Catch22’s work on children and young people, Groundwork West Midlands Environmental work, the guide produced by Running Sports, the engagement between businesses and arts organisations led by Arts and Business and the work currently being done on Health and Social Care by Age UK.

    All of these organisations have produced guides, toolkits, case studies and robust evidence on the impact of volunteering which will provide a positive legacy from the Year. These will be available or linked up on Volunteering England’s European Year of Volunteering 2011 webpage in the New Year.

    Finally, two places in England used the European Year of Volunteering 2011 to get really stuck in. Leeds and Bradford both took it upon themselves to use the Year to publicly promote volunteering and volunteering-involving organisations in their local areas and to try and remove barriers, especially between the local authorities and volunteering-involving organisations.

    I believe that as with the European Year of Volunteering 2011, the success of the European Year of Active Aging and Solidarity between Generations 2012 will depend on individuals and organisations using the Year to promote themselves and develop partnerships locally, nationally and internationally.

    Sam Mars – EYV2011 Sharing Learning Coordinator

    • Rob Jackson

      Thanks for the additional info Sam.