Posts Tagged: face-to-face fundraising

Will street fundraising fines makes chuggers less pushy – and less effective?

Chuggers.

I’d say you either love ‘em or loathe ‘em,
but most people I talk to tend to fall into the second category.

It’s probably one of the most contentious
topics I come across when talking to friends or family about the charity
sector.

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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.

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The Right to Ask campaign misses the point

The question of whether charities have a “right to ask” the public for donations has been stirring up controversy lately.

The Institute of Fundraising wants to remind the public that fundraisers – whether they stop you on the street, knock on your door while you are in the middle of dinner or phone you at home – have the right to do so because their beneficiaries need funds.

The aim of its campaign would be to reduce bad feeling among the public towards charity fundraisers, and to give fundraisers a more positive attitude to their work.

The institute is right to address the issue, but I think it is missing the point. Plenty of charity fundraisers know that they have a “right to ask”. The trouble is, most of the general public do not feel confident about their own right to say no.

I used to get annoyed and even embarrassed when I was stopped by face-to-face fundraisers. I felt guilty about not signing up. My new approach – of explaining that I do my charitable giving online and will not sign up in any other way – seems to be working well. But the trouble is, I am in a minority.

If people felt able to politely say no without feeling guilty about it, they wouldn’t have such a problem with fundraisers. If they wanted to support the charity’s work, they’d sign up. And if not, they’d let the charities spend their time talking to other people who might.

But I suspect this is a message the sector is less keen to promote. People do sign up because they feel guilty, and this is probably more common with face-to-face and door-to-door than with other types of fundraising. If these folk started saying no, charities could be sacrificing cash to appease public opinion.

Is it a price the sector is willing to pay?

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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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