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Charities should make it clearer that chuggers are getting paid

The Newsnight programme about chugging last week found nothing whatsoever to surprise anyone in the charity sector.

All of it was pretty common knowledge, easy to turn up, much as we might expect. But it did raise a valid point: the general public don’t like chuggers much.

Mick Aldridge, chief executive of the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association, told the programme it was “extraordinary” that some donors didn’t realise some of their money was being spent paying face-to-face fundraisers.

To check how aware donors are, I carried out a totally unscientific survey of my friends and family – all regular donors, all well-educated professionals. None of them realised they’d been signed up by agency staff; none had guessed their signature might be worth more than £100 to these staff.

Most did understand that charities needed to spend money on fundraising staff, and thought 25p or 30p of each pound was a pretty reasonable ratio. But they also said that, for reasons that go beyond the cost, they deeply disliked chuggers.

One described them as “intrusive and annoying”, another as “unpleasant and aggressive”. A third said that Moorgate in London was so full of chuggers that being there was like running a gauntlet of gladiators.

For a long time now, charities have looked on as fundraising agencies engaged with the public on their behalf. But the sector is storing up trouble for tomorrow.

It’s undeniable that chuggers, in the medium-term, raise cash. But in the process they risk playing fast and loose not just with the reputation of the charities they represent but also with that of the whole sector. Getting chugged can be a deeply unpleasant experience and each time it happens it lowers the public’s liking for the whole sector a little.

In my view, it’s time to recognise that in some places, fundraising tactics have gone too far. They need to be reined in a little.

  • Charlie Smith

    Chuggers are so last decade.

    The programme made me almost want to sign up for every chugger I can find and then cancel the standing order just so that the charities have to pay out the £100 every time and would get nothing. That is the only way that this menace will be stopped.

    I remember back in 2000 when chuggers were shiny and new I was approached by a chugger for the charity for which I worked. I had a very interesting and superficial talk with her about the charity’s aims and raised with her some of the issues which we in the public affairs department dealt with. I was assured that the charity did all sorts of things that I knew we didnt but which were perceived to be more donor friendly. These ran almost totally contrary to the current campaigns we were running. So I judged that the chugger was actually detrimental to the charity undermining campaigns and bringing in supporters under false pretences.

  • Antony Webber

    I have personally experienced chuggers and repeatedly find them to be aggressive rude and no better than double glazing salesman. I personally would like to see them abolished, and let the charities retain their appropriate image of helping the public.

  • Mike Smith

    I’m interested in your first paragraph..

    ‘The Newsnight programme about chugging last week found nothing whatsoever to surprise anyone in the charity sector. ‘

    The Newsnight article also found that in Cardiff, chuggers tried to trick old people into entering their homes and three F2F managers expressed concern over bad practice and were ignored by the charity. Does that not surprise anyone in the charities sector?

    Chugging raises money in the short term and damages the reputation of all charities in the long term due to bad publicity. This is due to bad, unethical practices of press-ganging and bullying the public. Trust in all charities is being damaged because of this and I for one will not donate to any charity until they prove to me that they are trustworthy and maintain intetrity at all times.