Many of the charity collectors you see on the streets don’t work directly for the charity and get commission for every person they sign up. Is this really a cost-effective method of fundraising for charities? I don’t think so.
Walking home last week, an exuberant woman jumped out in front of me waving her arms. Yes, the dreaded ‘chugger’.
You know the ones, those in-your-face young things (I’m 37 and feeling old this week) clutching a clipboard and trying to get us to sign up to a monthly direct debit for the charity of their choice.
I’m not particularly proud of the words that crossed my lips in response, but I equally don’t feel guilty that I refused her advances. I already donate each month to a charity that I believe in. I don’t want to be accosted in the street by a charity collector who is being paid to sign up as many people as possible.
Show your support independently
Often, the chugger doesn’t work for the charity, but rather for a private contractor. This company earns a fee for every person signed up. In many cases the chugger is on commission too. Which means the charity in question may see not a penny of your donations for at least the first few months, if not longer.
Even signing up online yourself is not without hurdles. When I set up the direct debit for my monthly donation I made it clear that I didn’t want any further day-to-day interaction.
I told the charity: just take my money and spend it wisely. Don’t waste half my donation on sending me begging letters, fridge magnets and mass-produced ‘personal’ notes from ‘beneficiaries’.
It didn’t stop them sending me junk mail though, and I had to contact them twice more to stop it. I support the cause, but if I think a charity is wasting my money on unnecessary marketing, I won’t donate at all.
Does the benefit justify the cost?
I realise that all this must be an effective money-raiser for many charities – that’s why they do it. But which of the following is better?
(a) A charity earns £1m a year from voluntary donations and traditional fundraising
(b) Chugging and direct mailing brings in an increased total of £3m a year, but £1.5m of this goes in commission and advertising.
For the charity’s coffers, option (b) is obviously better. For the donating public, it’s much less clear-cut and will leave many people feeling ripped off.
Making me feel bad for rejecting a chugger in the street or for not buying an orphan-and-maltreated-donkey calendar just damages a charity’s brand. And if a charity loses public trust, it might as well pack up and go home.
PS. A note to chuggers: I admire your enthusiasm, but zany jumping about went out with Timmy Mallett in the 80s.