Are chuggers an effective way of charitable fundraising?


SW Londoner reporter Toby Bakare looks at public opinion of paid street fundraisers and how efficient the method really is.


By Toby Bakare

Charity Fundraisers, charity muggers, chuggers, harassers, do-gooders, ne’er-do-wells. Whatever you call them they are now a regular site on the streets.

Come out of a station from Wimbledon to Kentish Town, or walk down a High Street from Wimbledon to Merton and you are certain to be have been accosted to by one.

Wearing brightly coloured cagoules and with clipboards in hand, their aim is to raise money, or rather to get you to give money.

But their antics have become the stuff of parody. Those trying to do their last minute Christmas shopping in peace seem to have had enough of them.

Indeed there has been a wider backlash. Manchester City Council recently restricted canvassing for charities to four areas in the town centre and to only three days a week.

In Wimbledon town centre there is no love lost for them.

“You feel accosted and as if you’re personal space is being encroached on. You are obliged to give them money, which isn’t the point really,” said Joanna, a working mother from North Cheam.  

“They harass me and I feel bad, but I don’t think they realise I am a student. I would sign up and give them money if I could,” said Reece, a student from Croydon.

Why is it that people raising money for charities as noble as RSPCA, ActionAid, British Red Cross and Unicef arouse such negative sentiment?

I went to the source; those who actually do the job. It’s no surprise that as a breed they can come on a bit strong.

“You get the job by talking about yourself in front of a group of strangers for a minute. If you can do that then you can sell charities,” said Derek Gordan.

He did the job for four weeks. A lifetime compared to some people. As a social young man you might expect him to have a passion for it. But he says he and all the colleagues that he worked with didn’t care at all about it.

In fact he takes on the rational of someone who is all very detached from the work that he does.

“ActionAid [the charity he raised money for] doesn’t see any money unless you sign up for more than two years.”

Few people do, as it is mostly the young that sign up and they are the most likely to cancel direct debits due to unstable incomes.

Wallace Spear is another canvasser. He has pounded the street of Wimbledon many times trying to get people to sign up in support of the NSPCC.

He got the job by having to exchange a paper clip with a member of the public, using his charm. He got earrings and perfume.

“You have targets, and if you don’t hit them then you are fired. Simple as that.”

Members of the public don’t like them, charities don’t get as much money as you would think from them and even the canvassers themselves hate the target orientated setup.

Its days could well be numbered. Earlier this year Helen Parry and Stuart Kench, both 22, and students at Kingston University won a Royal Society of the Arts Award for their Donate at the Gate idea. It involves the oyster card being used to raise money for charities by giving 1p every time you swipe through selected gates.

It is thought that if the scheme were to be brought in it could raise £1.2m a year. The dreaded chuggers may not be around for much longer.


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