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Chuggers: A Viewpoint

Islington Council set to outlaw street fundraising

Written by . Published on January 9th 2012.

Chuggers: A Viewpoint

ISLINGTON Council stepped into the mix last week with plans to outlaw the practice of street fundraising. The council said that it had received numerous complaints about fundraisers and that they wanted to encourage people to donate to local organisations rather than national ones.

A BBC investigation in 2010 found that some charities pay tens of millions of pounds to subcontracted firms who sign people up. It also found that on average people agree to pay around £90 a year but subcontractors often get £100 or more for your sign up.

Chugger zones
Turn the corner past Marks & Spencer, walk down Finsbury Square and you are officially entering the Chugger Zone. Garish cagoules and clipboards teamed with obligatory beaming smiles ready to pounce. Chuggers are what the media have dubbed street fundraisers who are overly aggressive in trying to grab your attention. In vicious wind and rain or hazy sunshine, the Finsbury Square mob are there.

Sometimes it is difficult to walk down the street and not be approached. Based on empirical evidence, the purpose of a chugger is that they typically want to convince you of a good cause, one that you really should begin setting up a nominal direct debit for.

Standing in front of you, walking besides you and occasionally trying to act as an escort down the road, it’s always, “have you got time?”, “come and have a chat”, “I like you trainers.” Particularly on weekdays, when most of us are busy having a real job, I most object to being hassled by chuggers. I just find them downright annoying.   

Where do the donations go?
I was once convinced to stop and chat with a chugger who promised that they only wanted two minutes of my time. I conceded, attempting to be civil and with the frame of mind that ‘OK it’s probably going to be longer than a couple of minutes but hey must be a dispiriting pursuit at times’.  Yet at the end of a mini heartfelt presentation, I only had one question, "how can I guarantee the amount of my contribution will go directly to the cause and not swallowed up by administrative costs?"

A BBC investigation in 2010 found that some charities pay tens of millions of pounds to subcontracted firms who sign people up. It also found that on average people agree to pay around £90 a year, but subcontractors often get £100 or more for your sign up. So effectively the first year or more is for contractors and not the charity. To make matters worse, research by the Professional Fundraising Regulatory Association (PFRA) shows that more than half of donators pull out before a year.   

In austere times in Britain, is there a case for charity begins at home? Poverty in the UK is rising and our government already gives out billions annually in aid out of our taxes.

The bigger picture
Given the situation in Islington and the general consensus of dislike towards London chuggers, maybe charities need to come up with more creative ways of fundraising.  

Last year the Royal Society of Arts ran a competition called Giving and Getting. As a result two Kingston University undergraduates, Stuart Kench and Helen Parry came up with idea of Donate at the Gate.

Essentially the Donate Gates would operate on the underground similar to the normal ticket turnstile gates. They would differ in that they would be colour coded and clearly marked. If commuters chose to use these gates using their Oyster cards, an additional penny would go to the charity. It’s estimated that if ten per cent of tube users went through the gates it could raise £1.2 million a year.

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AnonymousJanuary 9th 2012.

Some good points well made, but the underlying fact remains, 500,000 people a year on average sign up to charities on the streets. That's 500,000 more than if fundraisers hadn't been there at all. Latest figures show 10 in 75 sign-up but it varies. Surely better than nothing.

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