Chuggers strike back

Face-to-face fundraisers on a busy shopping street
Face-to-face fundraisers on a busy shopping street

By Euan Black

Street fundraisers have reacted furiously to reports of “chuggers” being untrustworthy.

A mystery shopper survey of 50 fundraisers, by charity watchdog Intelligent Giving, found many of them were breaking the law and their own code of conduct by lying about their wages, pressuring uninterested shoppers and changing information on direct debit forms.

The survey has led to a war of words between the watchdog and various charity organisations, including the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association and Professional Fundraising magazine.

A “chugger” (a combination of charity and mugger) working in Edinburgh, who asked not to be named, was “shocked” when shown the information: “This will give us all a false reputation. We do a hard enough job as it is without this sort of stuff.

“You can’t group us [street fundraisers] all together.”

He explained the fact that he and his colleagues worked for Face 2 Face Fundraising and that their code of conduct was stricter than those surveyed by Intelligent Giving.

One of the main grievances of the survey was the refusal of some fundraisers to back off when asked to do so. 15 of the 50 mystery shopped continued to press for donations. The anonymous fundraiser claimed: “I’m not going to harass people. We follow the ‘three step rule’: we can only take three steps towards a person. To get any closer we have to wait to be invited. If someone asks me to ‘walk with them’ I have to tell them I’m not allowed to.

“Pressure tactics don’t work. I’m not going to chase someone up the street because all I’m going to get is a slap in the face.”

Only 8% of the fundraisers admitted to the mystery shoppers that they were paid for the work, and even more worryingly, some were found to change information on direct debit forms to meet their targets. The fundraiser said he was transparent about his wages: “I get paid and I have to meet targets, and I am paid to meet targets. This is to ensure the organisation isn’t spending too much money on us.”

Despite the negativity surrounding these findings, the fundraiser was still upbeat about his work: “I feel like I’m doing a good thing. I’m normal, I’m in five grand of debt, so of course I want to get paid. I’d rather be doing this than working somewhere like PC World, doing a monotous, 9-5 job”.