Why won’t charities defend street fundraising?
Street fundraising has been having a bit of a moment in the mainstream media.
A Sunday Telegraph journalist went undercover and exposed evidence of potential breaches of chugging rules by a fundraising agency.
More recently, Lord Hodgson’s review of the Charity Act and recommendations on fundraising led to more headlines screaming for a ‘crackdown on chuggers’.
At Third Sector we’ve been keen to give the sector’s response to this furore over a fundraising technique that is said to make £130m a year for charities.
The lack of charities willing to be quoted led one reader to question our neutrality in reporting face-to-face issues.
Research by the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association found that street fundraisers have to approach an average of 180 people just to get one sign-up.
It feels like I’m clocking up a similar number of ‘asks’ trying to find a head of fundraising to talk about street fundraising.
Surely contributing to an open and informed debate about this type of fundraising and its future is an important cause?
Hodgson says “the problem with ‘chugging’ is that it is seen as, and can be, aggressive”. He goes on to say there is anecdotal evidence that it can discourage people from going into nearby shops or even going to high streets at all.
His report recommends giving councils greater power to control and therefore potentially reducing street fundraising. But he also favours maintaining self-regulation through the PFRA’s site management agreements.
I’m not a fundraiser, but all these things seem to pose some interesting questions about the technique and its future.
Maybe charities are afraid of being attacked by an angry pack of Telegraph and Mail readers. Or maybe I haven’t asked the right people.
It just seems like now is the time to speak out and confront concerns about its use, discuss how the technique is evolving and how it can be improved. Street fundraising has long had detractors, but at the moment they’re drowning out proponents and making balanced coverage a disheartening uphill struggle.