Chugger off!

Figures suggest that on any given weekday around 500 face-to-face charity fundraisers can be found on UK high streets. Affectionately known as chuggers, a word derived from combining ‘charity’ with ‘mugger’, my local high street seems have more than its fair share of the pesky buggers.

I have no issue with the chuggers themselves of course – they’re only trying to earn an honest crust after all. What bothers me more is the charities who employ them.

Research indicates that two-thirds of the Great British public would cross the road to avoid a chugger and that 25 per cent of people actually hate being approached by one.

Assuming that there is some substance to this research, the stark reality is that deploying chuggers cannot be good for a charity’s reputation. Can you imagine any kind of successful commercial entity operating in a way that knowingly alienates more potential customers than it pleases?

The Public Fundraising Regulatory Association (PFRA) takes a very interesting stance on this very issue. In answer to the FAQ do people have a right to walk down the street without being asked to give to charity they state:

“Sorry if we sound a bit blunt, but, do they, actually? We frequently hear versions of this argument… we don’t want to come across as being flippant and dismissive, but we really think the basis of this whole argument requires closer examination. Where does this ‘right’ come from?”

Well yes, this does sound a touch dismissive and pretty complacent actually. Perhaps they should take heed and do something about it rather than pretend it is not a real problem which is affecting the reputations of their members on a daily basis.

The return on investment for charities that chug is around 3 to 1, which I guess to them must seem pretty attractive. But do supporters really want to see a third of their donations lining the pockets of the chuggers rather than go directly to the charity? I know I don’t and personally I think it lacks imagination and is lazy fundraising.

I have a soft spot for charities who choose to communicate and engage with potential supporters directly and in a way that creates a positive and sustainable relationship, especially those who use volunteers and ambassadors to spread the word.

I know it isn’t easy, but I’d like to see a lot more hugging and a lot less chugging.

3 thoughts on “Chugger off!

  1. Far from crossing the street, whenever I see a chugger I head straight for them in the hope they will engage me, so that I can then refine my skills in making them feel as worthless as possible.

    Does that make me a bad person?!

  2. That makes you a very bad person indeed and next time you knock on my door canvassing for the Scottish Nationalist Party remind me not to open it 🙂

    I have huge respect for the boys and girls who chug. It’s a thankless task and their paymasters should know better. I managed to avoid the Friends of the Earth chuggers in King Street today. Made me wonder whether political/campaigning charities fare better than proper charities in the chug stakes and I suspect they do as there will always be a few kindred spirits who will be happy to show their affiliations. On the flip side I guess they also take a bit more abuse from those who sit on the other side of the politcal spectrum…

  3. Interesting letter in today’s London Evening Standard. I reproduce it here because I have every sympathy with Gary from NW2.

    “I was asked to donate to charity 12 times within the space of three minutes yesterday morning. I was only one of many to stumble from the fundraising gauntlet feeling agitated. The days of bake sales, sausage sizzles and volunteering have been superceded by paid individuals force feeding the masses with a pathetic concoction of guilt and shame. They do so with a self-assumed sense of moral superiority, and follow orders from their office seniors to take tenacity beyond reasonable limits. The mentality is that “No” doesn’t actually mean “No”. This is not fundraising it is harassment…”

    When will charities wake up to the stark reality that deploying chuggers may provide short term financial benefit, but in the long term it creates reputational damage that could well threaten the future sustainibility of the organisation. Listen to the public and stop it now!

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