Friday, 11 September 2009


 Everyone has heard the phrase "charity begins at home"...except those major charities who employ street fundraisers, more commonly known as 'charity muggers'. If you live anywhere larger than a hamlet, you'll be more than familiar with the T-shirt clad clipboard clutching phenomenon that has swept British high streets in the past few years.

Someone somewhere decided the best way to encourage the 93% of Brits who don't regularly donate to charity was to harangue them, harrass them and trip them up as they try to go about their daily business. While I admire the attempt to make us more generous, I can't quite comprehend why anyone thought hiring a bunch of out of work drama students to beseech people en route to the Tube would be the answer.

Considering the average 'chugger' gets around £10 per hour and some get commission for signing someone up, I find it hard to believe that this idea was a money saving plan. I also can't imagine it really was a plan to piss the entire nation I can only imagine charities really thought this would help boost their donations. I wonder if donations have genuinely gone up since this style of campaigning became widespread?

What I have found (in my highly scientific research of asking several people I know and reading Wikipedia) is that most people, myself included, really don't like the policy of street fundraising. I have only met one person has ever signed up to a charity after meeting one...and they cancelled the direct debit within a week. I wonder how many of the 600,000 people who sign up each year after street or doorstep fundraising either cancel their pledge soon after or feel negatively towards their chosen charity once they continue to be asked for money by them almost daily? Strangely enough, I couldn't find that information anywhere...

However I have found that if you want to break the ice with strangers and have run out of weather to discuss, nothing gets people going faster than a conversation about 'chuggers'. Everyone has a horror story, everyone has an opinion, everyone wants their say.

This post was inspired by a particularly infuriating and invasive run-in with a fundraiser outside the Tube station today. She grabbed my arm to stop me then kissed her teeth at me when I told her to let go. Unsurprisingly I declined to learn more about Friends of the Earth on this occasion, but at least this one knew a bit about who she was representing. I've met a few who have almost needed to read the back of their T-shirt to know who they were selling that day. Hardly inspiring.

How secure would you feel giving your personal and bank details to someone like this? I certainly don't find it wise to dole out details like this to a total stranger, without being sure of the references required to get a job like this. I wonder if this fear is partly behind some councils' decisions to install 'cold calling zones' now that some charities are taking their 'chugging' door to door too.

Maybe this is a great way to pick up extra donations that will truly benefit charities, but I suspect it might be the straw that breaks the camel's back for most people. Personally my tipping point was reached some time ago after a male fundraiser physically blocked my path along Regent Street, hemming me in against a window and not letting me past until I began having a panic attack. I now refuse to donate to any charity who employs street or door to door fundraising, including using their charity shops.

I now prefer to make my donations to the smaller charities who are often less fashionable and overshadowed by large organisations. I think more about what charities are important to me and how my donations will be used. (Plus my local church charity shop has a cafe that serves excellent bacon sarnies...) 

In the meantime, I will be starting charity at home...and trying to dodge the clipboards better so I don't get made to feel like a bad person for not wanting to hear more about the poor animals/children/ozone layer etc. Maybe I should get a badge saying this?

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