/ Money

Chuggers – get off my doorstep

Shoes on a welcome mat

It’s one thing side-stepping charity muggers (sorry, chuggers) on the high street, but what do you do when you’re face-to-face with one trying to sign you up on your doorstep?

After a long day at work last week, I answered a knock at my door in my secure block of flats to a rather fatigued young woman.

She wasn’t selling anything, she promised – but actually she was selling a sob story, with a somewhat insincere script. And although her charity’s work sounded worthwhile, I wasn’t willing to sign up to a direct debit there and then on my doorstep.

There’s reportedly been a huge rise in doorstep chugging and complaints as a result – from misrepresenting charities to ignoring ‘no cold calling’ signs.

And now many of Britain’s charities are set to attend a summit about the future of face-to-face fundraising, as hosted by the Institute of Fundraising. The Institute’s chief exec has even said that the media coverage of chugging has ‘led to a wider debate about the value of face-to-face fundraising as a technique at all’.

The problem with chugging

Why can’t charities fundraise in more creative, less intrusive ways that don’t lock you in to direct debit payments?

We reported in January that some councils were moving to ban chuggers from our streets – but could that force yet even more of them on to our doorsteps?

The Public Fundraising Regulatory Association, which regulates face-to-face fundraising, stepped up its rules last October so that chuggers can only use main entrances, not campaign past 9pm and don’t ‘cause alarm or distress after dark’. But it’s the fact that they’re allowed on your doorstep at all that distresses me.

I’m pretty tough at saying no, but I still had to explain several times to my chugger that I don’t believe in giving by direct debit to charity. And I’d have felt more uneasy had there been a knock on my door on a dark winter’s evening.

The PFRA says that 72% of face-to-face fundraising now takes place on the doorstep – but what proportion of those householders feel embarrassed or even intimidated in to signing up?

Fresh thinking on fundraising

Having worked for a large charity in the past, I simply won’t give regularly to one cause. Every year, I pick one or two smaller projects that interest me, I’ll research them so I know how their money is spent and then contribute what I can.

My point is that charities should be more realistic about, and have more respect for, the people who may want to contribute to their causes.

For example, it doesn’t really feel as if enough charities properly embrace the potential of digital campaigning. From online auctions to organising micro-events via social media, innovation is out there, and it’s innovation that offers choice and the potential to truly participate. Not knocking on somebody’s door and compelling them to sign up there and then.

Should chuggers be banned from doorsteps?

Yes - chuggers should be banned altogether (doorsteps and high streets) (53%, 329 Votes)

Yes - chuggers should stay away from people's homes (34%, 212 Votes)

No - if the rules are tightened, chuggers can visit homes (11%, 70 Votes)

No - chuggers visiting homes is an essential way to raise money (2%, 11 Votes)

Total Voters: 634

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I had a young girl (maybe 17 or 18) knocking at my door yesterday she said she was making people aware of breast cancer but she seemed more interesting talking about a new drug that has been developed – I told her I was already aware as I have family members and friends that have suffered, I asked her what she wanted as I already give as much as I am able. She just kept on and on even though I told her I didn’t want to discuss it.

I am living with cancer I found this upsetting – I really don’t want people knocking on my door for donations – we seem to get them every week for one charity or another. I’ve decided I’m not going to answer the door anymore if they look like chuggers, they don’t respect your wishes.

I very much resent my personal space being encroached upon by cold callers at home. So much so that, I will not open my front door to anyone especially after dark.

Chuggers should be grateful to me, that I do not waste their time when they are at large in the High Street or in shopping centres. The key is to avoid all eye contact as they scour passing pedestrians for potential “victims”.

I simply will not entertain any notion of direct debits and the like. Given the excellent article in the November magazine on ID fraud and the like, who in their right mind is ever going to pass bank/card details to a complete stranger on your doorstep or in a shopping centre? It is tantamount to giving someone the keys to your bank account – and I urge everyone not to get inveigled into doing this.

Dragonrider Computing says:
28 February 2015

I fully agree with all the points raised in the above comment.

These chuggers have been ousted from the city centers, so then they went outside of the cities into the smaller town centers. Presumably they have also been ousted from the town centers so they turn up on your doorsteps, even in NO COLD CALL areas at all hours and demand you sign up for their charity. Last night a chugger from Oxfam (so she claimed) demanded I give them money because there’s a crisis somewhere in the world. There’s ALWAYS a crisis somewhere. Why don’t the overseas aid organisations offer to help when we in the UK are hit by severe flooding? Weekly begging bags for dubious charities as well, I should be grateful to give my clothes away on a weekly basis apparently! What a load of bull!

I’ve just submitted a complaint to Cancer Research, after cold-callers banged on my door at 7pm. I ignored them, so they banged harder and woke up my toddler. I answered the door, explained that they had woken my child and could they please leave, they must have been wearing ear-plugs as they launched straight into their spiel. They started with ‘We’re not asking for donations’ and finished with ‘So I’m sure you could spare £2 per month’, at this point I had continually asked them to leave so I shut the door. I really do try to be polite, but I felt bullied and very nearly resorted to being quite rude, still fuming now

Louise says:
4 May 2015

A chugger fron UNICEF banging on the door on bank holiday Monday saying ” you are indoors watching telly while people are dying”
I exploded. My mother and mother in law both died on different years on this bank holiday Monday.
What is with these vile people.
I told him to get off my property at once.
I was so angry I wanted to hit him.

Charities often send chuggers through agencies who train the chuggers in ‘objection handling’. This means if you say you are not interested, or have no money or support too many charities anyway, the chugger has to convince you that you are interested really, that even you can pay just a little money to their cause, and that one more charity won’t hurt. Only really firm emphatic not interested’ statements will deter most, as they are supposed to objection handle three times before giving up on you. I was told to ignore ‘no cold callers’ signs, tell people all their neighbors were giving really generously (never true) and if they said they had no money, I was to point out that they obviously have more than people starving in famines in war-zones – I was glad not to get enough sales in my probation period to be kept on at such an emotional blackmailing role.

You can tell by their way of knocking at your front door that they are chuggers.
They always attack the knocker and follow it up with frenetic rapping on the glass.
This type of behaviour will always be to your detriment. Just ignore it. I do.

Linda Lowerson. says:
15 January 2016

I’ve always been a mug finding it hard to say no. Till I read Ian Birrell’s article, (Daily Mail 30th Dec 2015.) ‘Spare us the toe-curling stunts of celebrities on foreign aid ego trips.’ For example, one huge charity gave a Downton actress £28G for her ‘album’ then spent another £5G to take her and teenage daughter plus 2 of their staff to Sierra Leone! (She is worth $245million!!) Do any of these big charities really need my £3 a month? I don’t think so. What other rich people do they ‘pay for’ out of our well intended donations? I’m still fuming and disgusted. I naively thought we should ‘give’ to charity, not take, especially if one is very rich.

We live in a “secure ” block of flats which is owned by the local council. This evening at around 5.45pm (it was dark) 2 guys wearing red coats apperared in the block and started knocking on flat doors. This is social housing and we have a lot of vulnerable residents living alone as well as some who ,how shall we say, are antisocial.
They were collecting for SHELTER (yes, I know, this is obviously a case in point of people collecting for charities and having little of no clue about what the charity is actually “about”) and when challenged regarding how they gained access to the block they told us that thye had pressed the “help” button on the intercom panel at the entrance and had been allowed access by the enquiry (security) centre and one of the residents had let them in via the intercom. After much discussion about the fact that they shouldn’t be collecting door to door in the block ,espcially after dark , emphasising that we have vulnerable residents ,and suggesting that they should ,in fact , stand at the main entrance and buzz each individual flat and ask if they could come in and speak to them (to which they replied ” we will be here for ever doing that”) my husband contacted the enquiry centre and was told that they had been denied acccess. Even when we told them that they’d lied they continued to argue until my husband told them he would call the security response team. Such arrogance. The whole point of our video intercom system is that we don’t get random people knocking on our doors.Not sure how to go about complaining to Shelter as the only email address I can find is a general info one.

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I once had a chugger from the MacMillan Trust knocking on my door saying he was collecting for terminal cancer sufferers. After explaining that I wouldn’t be donating because I had just donated lots of valuable items to my local cancer charity shop he then remarked sarcastically “well, I hope you never suffer from cancer but, if you do, feel free to call us”. I was livid.

I have just received in the last hour a chugger from The British Heart Foundation who I told from the off that, if he was collecting for charity, I wouldn’t be donating. He’d then said sarcastically that he wasn’t collecting but, when asked, said he was looking for people to sign up which is even worse. He then wished me to “have a nice day” in sarcastic tones. Why do we have to put up with these people?

Some Chuggers are better than others, I had one from McMillan Nurses who made me feel like I was the worst meanest person on this planet because being on Benefits we don’t have a lot of cash spare and already support two charities but then I had a visit by a lovely young man collecting for the RNIB who really made my day with his jokes and sunny personality.
I wish all Charity Collectors would realise not everybody has lots of disposable income and take a Sorry but No without offence

I feel I need to put my own 2-pence in as I am, as you guys would put it, a “chugger”.

I can’t speak for every Fundraiser, but I can speak for the organisation that I work for. Yes we are taught to objection handle people, that’s a fact, because sometimes people are just not knowledgeable enough about the charity or people end up in a mental block believing they don’t have the money when actually a minor adjustment to lifestyle eg one less cigarette a day could make the difference (I know some people genuinely don’t have the means at that moment in time and I make sure I always leave those people on a positive note because you don’t know when you’re next going to knock on someones door). But the way we are taught to handle the objection is by bringing everything back to the charity, because the more you know about a charity the more passionate you get about them because they do fantastic work. (Ok, maybe not all charities there are some that I personally do think are a bit ludicrous but that’s by the by). And we will try and overturn objections to get to the root of the objection, with some people it’s they don’t agree with the charity some people it’s bank details, some people they just don’t know enough about it.

For those that complain about the no cold calling sticker or area ignorance, sometimes we do genuinely not notice, and sometimes the person on the other end doesn’t point it out. I as a rule do not knock them because of vulnerable people – aside from the fact I don’t believe in taking advantage of people, it’s not worth my job to risk signing up a vulnerable person.

At the end of the day, the charities do appreciate the one off donations, the deliveries to shops, the events, the volunteer work etc etc. All of that does make a huge difference, it really does. Ultimately, the reason they are asking for direct debits is because it allows them to plan better for the future, for every aspect of the charities activities, as does wages for us ordinary people.

There are many charity fundraisers that go knocking door to door, and if you ever do happen to have me knock on your door, please, do not tarnish me with the same brush as you do every other fundraiser, because as Sylvia proved, we’re not all evil heartless people. I’m out there doing a job that I enjoy for a fantastic cause, be it Marie Curie (as it is at present),Cancer Research or any other charity campaign I end up on.

I’d just like to add that everything I have written is my own and I do not represent the company – I know I haven’t mentioned it and that was a deliberate choice. However my words are my own.

Jenmariew says:
27 December 2016

I don’t think you have any right to tell people how to manage their money so that they can give to your charity. What a cheek!!

T. Parish says:
25 June 2019

I love the way you try to justify your harassment of innocent people going about their business. What you do is not ok.

Ben, you say ” we are taught to objection handle people”. Well, if I decide I do not want to contribute at the first request, I do not want to be “objection handled” and have to discuss why I should or should not give. Giving is voluntary; persuasion is not required.

I agree with Malcolm. I do not think it is acceptable by any stretch of the imagination to argue with people [“objection handle”] over whether they could adjust their lifestyle in order to be able to support this or that charity that has been brought unsolicited to their doorstep and often at an inconvenient moment. I would have thought that was a hugely counter-productive technique.

I think ours must be one of the most charitable societies on earth and many people have long-established commitments to national and local charities that they do not wish to disturb. Indeed I suspect that the reputation of certain national charities has been brought to such a low ebb because of their unsavoury fundraising methods [junk mail, cold-calling, chugging, and door-to-door begging] that people are preferring to give their time and money to good causes in their district that they can identify with and can trust to use their funds properly.

If charities cannot survive by using acceptable means of raising funds then so be it – they will have to close. Charities do not have a divine right to survive just because they exist. There is enormous overlap between charities in almost every category and people will donate or contribute according to their own affinities, likes and dislikes. I dislike the fact that many charities, possibly facing a decline in income, are spending fortunes on advertising, promotion and fundraising. No charity is unique; if one folds another can take its place and might actually serve the purpose better. Every human and animal welfare charity can bombard us competitively with ever-more heart-rending case studies and graphic images but this is all overkill aimed at self-preservation. We support three large national charities that we think are honourable, respectable, respectful, and doing vital work to a high standard in an unflamboyant way. We also support some small local charities born out of tragic circumstances afflicting members of our own community. If anyone knocked on our door and suggested we should reduce our support to them in favour of some other cause, however worthy it might seem to the canvasser, they would be sent packing.


” The Information Commissioner’s Office uncovered major failings in the British Red Cross’s adherence to data protection regulations during an investigation into whether the charity breached Telephone Preference Service rules, according to correspondence obtained by Third Sector.
A letter to the Red Cross, dated 27 October 2015 and obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, shows that failings at the charity included not gaining specific consent for telephone calls to TPS subscribers; not having historically screened the charity’s call lists against the TPS; and not giving supporters a simple way of opting out of receiving marketing from the charity, which the ICO says is a “major failing on which we require you to take action”.”

Perhaps the most bemusing and distressing part, after the litany of BRCS’s failures is the reasons the ICO hide behind not to giving the public straight answers despite claiming transparency.


I regret I have a jaded view of national charities. According to third sector, the highest paid employees in general charities get:
1st £320k, down to the 10th £190k down to the 20th £160k, 30th £150k and the lowest paid in 47th place £130k
Some (many?) will get bonuses on top.
Nice work if you can get it?
I support local charities.

Yes, I agree, the remuneration of the chiefs of some of the big general charities is obscene. The three we support are in the £130-150K bracket which I regard as acceptable given the resources under their management. You forbore to mention, Malcolm, that CA tops the table in the general charities’ salaries league.

Not only do donors have to sustain these bloated emoluments but, because of their size, have to meet the high levels of taxation they incorporate, which is not the purpose of charitable giving.

I support charities online and via regular payments from my bank account but NOT at the door. I have a sign on the door that indicates that we don’t buy anything or give at the door but the charity collector today totally ignored that and persevered. Despite that the collector had branded jacket, I still think that it would not be easy to really confirm that she was genuinley collecting for the charity. So I will stay with online giving.

Had Centrepoint knock on the door this evening at 8.45pm. Latest I have ever had a charity cold call. Really no consideration whatsoever. I hate all these charities and some are not worthy to call themselves such. Regulators are totally useless and the law weak.

Bee says:
27 April 2018

It’s pure harassment, & leaves us with a negative view of the charity concerned, so counter productive in the long run, surely?

Just had a door to door chugger from a children’s heart charity, which is obviously an admirable cause.
However to come knocking at 9pm is not on regardless how admirable the charity.
I object to my personal space been violated, especially at this time of night, and instead of myself been
willing to take up their demand for my supporting their charity, their methods have actually worked in the
opposite direction, and I told them in no uncertain terms of my objection.
I should be interested to know what the head of these charities have to say, knowing that the methods employed by their collectors have actually the opposite outcome to what they are trying to achieve.

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Are they even genuine?

We regularly get sacks posted through the letterbox requesting clothes and bric-a-brac on behalf of some charity or another.

They are accompanied by notes of authenticity, which when googled show they are scammers just looking for stuff to make money from. I have never put anything in the bags. They ask for the unused bags to be left on the doorstep, which I used to do, but no longer bother since I checked them out and they never picked them up anyway.

Anyone can print an authentic looking card or badge these days, so best not to trust them, especially late at night.

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