/ Money

New rules for chuggers – less hassle for us?

Unicef Fundraiser talking to people on street

Fines will soon be issued to pushy charity collectors who follow you or get in your way. But will this encourage them to be less pushy? And why aren’t they armed with information about the charities they’re fundraising for?

The charity sector gets around £5 billion in donations each year – proving that even in turbulent economic times such as these, Brits are willing to put their hands in their pockets to support a good cause. But how clear is it made to us where your money does?

There’s a lot to be said about charities, and not all of it’s good. This is probably why the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association, which regulates the ‘third sector’, has announced new rules that will come into force to ensure the public don’t get hassled by ‘chuggers’ – that’s charity canvassers, or charity muggers – take your pick.

If they follow you down the road, stand too close to an ATM or get in your way, they could be charged as much as £500 in England or £1,000 in Scotland. Sounds like a plan, but will it work?

Should ‘chugging’ be banned?

I think there’s a strong argument for banning chugging outright, unless they clean up their act. They are way too in-your-face. I hate it when they bound up to me, block my path and try to make me feel bad about not immediately handing over my account details and signing away a tenner a month for the rest of time.

And it’s not just me who has a problem with chuggers. When we last broached this subject in a Which? Conversation several people aired their views. Ben told us:

‘If I’m not confronted by at least two chuggers then it’s an exceptional evening. I no longer feel guilty when I reply ‘No’ to the question: ‘Do you want to save a starving child?’ but others are less desensitised and may end up pledging money that they can’t really afford to give up, which accounts to being bullied in my book.’

Sue wrote:

‘To me they are just the same as any cold caller trying to sell me double glazing or Sky TV. They invade my privacy and won’t get a penny out of me.’

David called it ‘face-to-face phishing’. Some commenters argued that chuggers fill a gap in the market, but they were fairly isolated.

Charities should be transparent

Aside from the hassle, there’s another problem with chuggers. I object to the lack of anything in writing about their charity that they can give me. If I’m going to be giving away £120 a year I think I’m entitled to see where the money goes. It seems they’re geared towards grabbing your card details, not explaining in detail where your cash goes.

Incidentally, have you noticed how the sums involved are invariably just shy of £10? I reckon this is because I’m unlikely to spot this cash going out of my account.

If charities want to continue to get support from an overstretched public, they should be totally transparent about where they spend our money. If, as I suspect, most of it goes to a great cause, then they should be shouting this from the rooftops. And this comes back to my main point, news about individual projects aside, why don’t they?

Alan Gosschalk says:
30 September 2011

As a Fundraising Director for Scope, the disability charity, and having been in the same role at two other major national charities, I can say that charities use face-to-face because – contrary to popular opinion – many people respond positively to it, particularly people in their twenties who have traditionally supported charities less.

Literally hundreds of thousands of new people sign up to charities in this way each year.

Generally over time charities would expect a return of around £2.50 for every £1 invested in face-to-face fundraising.

Banning face-to-face fundraising would significantly dent how much money would go to the cause. If we were not doing it, we could not replace this lost income – consequently we would be able to have less of an impact and would solve fewer issues.

Of course we understand that some people find face-to-face intrusive. I find that, when I am not interested, a simple ‘I’m not interested’ does the trick.

And yes, you are right; charities need to be better at explaining where your money goes – something we completely agree upon. At Scope we work hard to be as transparent as possible.

Peter Maple says:
30 September 2011

As an academic teaching fundraising to practitioners at LSBU and, Like Alan Gosschalk, previously a fundraising director at major charities I completely agree that charities find face to face fundraising very cost effective at reaching younger audiences. For me it is a simple question of choice. If you’ve chosen which charities you want to support (or not support) it is easy to say no thank you, with a smile, to street canvassors. Anyone who pursues you agressively is a crap fundraising and needs to be reported. They won’t last long because that sort of behaviour simply doesn’t work.

It’s good to hear some views from the charities themselves. Having worked as a ‘chugger’ in the past, I made some similar comments on our previous discussion on this subject. It was often the smaller, less well-known charities that needed this kind of fundraising and exposure the most.

On the topic of giving out information, I think the main reason they don’t is cost. Dan – you complain about what proportion of your money actually goes directly towards doing good. Well, imagine if chuggers were armed with booklets etc – every person who stops would feign interest to get a leaflet as a way to get away – and probably never look at it/chuck it away. The cost – both on the charity’s pocket and on the environment – would be enormous. That’s why they wait until you actually support them before sending literature – as a donor you’ll be more interested in really reading it.

Gerard says:
1 October 2011

Fundraising companies are for profit companies, paying their top brass 6 figure salaries. A luxurious life style paid for by charitable donations.
On top of that you have the running costs of these large charities. They quite rightly argue they don’t run on thin air, but their CEO’s also have a luxurious life style with salaries of £130k plus and some earning more than the prime minster. Where do you draw the line?

The public do not want their donations to fund corporate-style salaries. The fund raisers know this and so do the charities, hence the lack of transparency.

These are the reasons I decided to support a small local accountable charity directly, I have total confidence that my donation is being well spent!

Anne says:
2 October 2011

Hang on, is nobody going to point out the risk of fraud? I’m never, ever going to give out my bank details to someone in the street, end of!

I also had to complain about a chugger recently who thought it was okay to walk up behind me and tap me on the arm. Startled me and was completely out of order.

I’ve read enough about chuggers now, so I will not be donating to any street collectors in future. They will be treated like doorstep sales, unsolicited mail and unsolicited phone calls and politely rejected.

I will decide which charities I give to in future. Thanks to Martyn and Dan for setting up these Which? Conversations which have made me aware of how some charities operate.

It would be great if the Charities Commission could grade charities according to how they operate, but I realise that this could waste a lot of money.

Genna says:
24 November 2011

I find it a bit embarrassing when some (but not all) chuggers jump out at folk and block their path or stop them on their journey. I prefer to choose who I donate to, and I do it by means other than giving out my bank account details and sort code used to sign up a direct debit in the street. The problem is, I feel like I have to justify this everytime to chuggers. I don’t want them to make a stereotypical assumption just because I chose not to donate to their charity, that I was against all charities.

Anne highlights fraud. A few years ago, although not a chugger, I was stopped in town by an energy salesperson. In the end, she had written down some of my details on a form. She had made it out to be some kind of market survey. Eventually, she asked me to sign the bottom line on the form. I read the statement and it said that I was changing my energy to another energy supplier. I wouldn’t sign it and explained she had not explained what the purpose of the form was form. I asked her to scrap it. She agreed and she said nothing will happen without a signature. About a week or so later, I received a letter from that energy company thanking me for changing over. It caused some worries and time to sort it out.

So Anne is right to highlight their is a risk of fraud in the streets. But I assume that if some donation was set up without your knowledge, or under false pretences, you’d be covered and not liable to pay. But it would cause hassle. When people are out of their “comfort zone” (say away their own home or territory), they are more vulnerable and more likely to give out some free information. It’s probably relatively safer to donate by direct debit when you have literature and a form to complete yourself, in your own time, in your own comfort zone, free from distraction, and when you can make a decision as to whether you want to support this cause.

graham says:
26 November 2011

i would never give my bank details to any chugger,they have to be paid a comission,so pay direct to charity,they should be banned,

Mike Smith says:
3 January 2012

I agree that chuggers should be banned, they are nothing more than a public nuicence. Blocking a public highway and following people down the road is nothing short of harassment and I thought it would be illegal, so where are the police and local authorities when it comes to upholding the law.?

Secondly do not trust the PFRA as they are nothing more than a trade association pretending to be a regulator. They are pulling the wool over everyone’s eyes, including the local councils by telling them they are a regulator.

The new rules will soon come into effect: http://www.which.co.uk/news/2012/08/charities-face-new-street-fundraising-rules-293641/

Following a year long trial, The Public Fundraising Regulatory Association (PFRA) will enforce the new chugger rules, which impose a number of restrictions on how street-side charity workers can operate. The restrictions will prevent charity workers from:

Following a person for more than three steps
Standing within three metres of a shop doorway, cashpoints, pedestrian crossing or station entrance
Signing up anyone who is unable to give informed consent, due to illness, disability, drink or drug use
Approaching anyone who is working, such as newspaper vendors

Charities will be given a 1,000 penalty point limit, which is reset annually. Breaching any of the rules will result in up to 100 penalty points being levied on the charities. Once the 1,000 limit has been reached the charities will be charged on a £1 per point basis.

I hope the money collected in fines is distributed to charities, preferably those that do not employ any chuggers.

I avoided giving to a charity for years after I heard about its very high overheads. I certainly will not give to those which are fined for breaching the rules on chuggers, assuming that they are named and shamed.

Hi Wavechange, money raised through fines will be used to facilitate and improve compliance checks.

Thanks. I suppose someone has to pay for the checking.

If would just be nice if well behaved charities could teach the rogues a lesson.