/ Money

Why I won’t stop to donate to charity collectors

Pebbles with letters spelling out the word 'charity'

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.


Fiona and Mikey, I think it’s time for a mod to step in and remind you of our commenting guidelines and the importance of remaining courteous to one another. Of course this is a divided topic, but let’s not get too personal in our responses as we all have different backgrounds and experiences.

Fiona says:
3 February 2012

Mikey – we’re really going to have to agree to differ on this one! It isn’t begging when a volunteer asks for money for people in desperate need – it’s humanity helping humanity. It really is begging when the first year or so of a direct debit goes on the chugger’s salary. Also – it’s insulting, and ridiculous, and kind of racist, to say white people don’t give to overseas aid. The numbers give you the lie on that one.

If chugging was done differently, there would be a different reaction. If, say, charity workers went out, paid by the charity directly, as a tiny part-time job, and stood, one per street, at the side of the street, once a week, maybe, per charity, with the usual clipboard and tabard, raising awareness, etc, POLITELY, it would be different. Their salary – maybe a bit above the minimum wage – would never be dependent on commission – that’s an accident waiting to happen. They would say, upfront, they’re being paid by the charity. Awareness and funds would still be raised, and nobody would complain about being harrassed. THAT’S fundraising, not chugging. Most people would also be a lot more polite to somebody being polite to them.

What we have now, though, is about four to six people standing in the middle of the street, physically stopping people, harrassing them, guilt-tripping them, intimidating them – turning an otherwise pleasant afternoon into a bit of a nightmare. Day after day, when people are under enough stress as it is. Given all this, it may only be a matter of time before violence is involved – ie a chugger gets punched.

The fact you ‘laughed’ at the idea that people have real problems in this country beggars belief. Yes, everyone has problems – you don’t use that as an excuse to add to them! People don’t want to have to cannonball down their high street, avoiding insults and intimidation. The fact that a lot/most of the money raised will go on the salary of the person insulting them, or on the salaries of the marketing agency fatcats, just adds insult to injury/poisons the whole thing to the nth degree.

What’s happening now is: you’ve got somebody struggling for money, getting harrassed in order to pay the large (sometimes £200,00.00 plus, it seems) salary of the marketing agency ‘top’ people. Who take advantage of a lot of young/vulnerable people who apply for work with them (given some of the comments made by previous chuggers on other websites.) Charities should never have gone to these agencies, imo. Take a look at what’s happened since they have. People harrassed, charity pr gone into free fall, etc.

Islington is now considering banning chugging altogether, and other town centres will prob. follow suit. This wouldn’t have happened if the chuggers had behaved with decency.

As for ‘the end justifies the means’ idea of money being raised – as somebody else pointed out on another site – you could raise more money still by literally mugging everyone on the street. Physically blocking the pathway, harrassing, guilt-tripping, intimidating – these are all tactics of aggressive begging, and shouldn’t be excused by the ‘it raises money and awareness’ excuse.

Everyone these days is ‘aware’. Most people contribute to charity. Nobody really wants to contribute to a rich man’s salary/to aggressive begging tactics, etc etc.

Anyway. I wish everybody here love and joy in their lives (including Mikey! Esp. now he’s stopped chugging …!) Thanks, GGDad, for the support! We should all be able to walk down our high streets without being harrassed and intimidated. And charities should, of course, be able to advertise and gain funds/support. It seem the rot really set in when the advertising agencies got involved? But – however the present chugging situation came about – something’s got to change.

I can only tick the Thumbs Up once, so I say “Thanks Again”, Fiona, for articulating so well what so many peole think on this subject.

Brian Andrews says:
3 February 2012

Here endeth the Fiona and Mikey show… Perhaps we should have sold tickets and given the proceeds to charity?

‘Fraid not, Brian – some people just don’t know when to stop it seems . . .

mikey says:
3 February 2012


mikey says:
3 February 2012

Btw its the ‘Mikey and Fiona show’. I won’t tell you again lol

mikey says:
14 February 2012

Not being funny, we can argue this that and the other, we can kiss and make up, we can laugh, we can cry, we can call each other every name under the sun.

But the 3 people that down voted post above, must just ooze patheticness and moan about everyone and everything, and have a dismally negative outlook on life. When that post is clearly just a lift hearted, innocent comment, posted after bygons were well and truely declared bygons, and differences were agreed.

I truely hope you’ve had a cold and miserable winter.

mikey says:
3 February 2012

Clearly we see things differently (obvious quote of the week)

You call it aggressive begging, fair enough, I call it normal sales techniques.
I walk past them every day, they sometimes try to stop me, depending on my mood I either just ignore them or give a quick excuse. Personally my opinion is, I’m just a regular guy with regular problems, if I can walk past quite easily, everyone else can too.

I disagree that its racist (i am white by the way) that I would pitch about English problems to white English people, its just a sales technique, if for example I was working for the RSPCA and I knew the person I was pitching to had dogs, why would I talk about cats? If I worked in an electronic goods store and a customer was interested in buying a tv I wouldn’t try selling him a washing machine. If I wanted to spark up a conversation which my girlfriend, I wouldn’t start talking about football, she wouldn’t wanna talk to me.
The principle is the same, yes a huge amount of white people donate money all over the world, which is amazing, but if I’m pitching in a low demographic, council estate, and time is against me because to hit my target I’ve got to speak to a large number of people, my best weapon is to talk about how that charity works in relation to benefiting their community, not somewhere they’ve never heard of. I learned that very quickly, ie how the charity helps old people in the local area, how it teaches first aid at local schools, what its doing to prevent animal cruelty in the local area. and when I became good at it my results shot up.
In a perfect world I would spend hours with that person, telling them all the great things the charity do, but unfortunately I have to know what to say and how to say it, keeping it short and snappy so they don’t get bored and my time is used efficiently so I can maximise the number of people I speak to that day.
If they already donate abroad then great, that’s an added bonus for me in which I can relate with and adapt my pitch.
It’s just general sales techniques, and the people who can do that will sign more people up.

I’ll also disagree with singling out this specific mode of fundraising as guilt tripping, like I’ve said before, look at any piece of marketing material which 99% of the charities publish and its just a guilt tripping and patronising as what the people in the streets say. If you look (or listen) it all goes by exactly the same format. First it gives a short intro about the charity, then it explains the problem/problems, it will then explain the solution or what the charity aim to do about it and finally it will ask you for money. The tv ads, mail shots, websites and the chuggers all follow this system. So I think its a bit harsh to single out this one form of fundraising as guilt tripping when its the same as the rest.

As for the charities using this mode, the way I look at it, if they are making a good return on the money they invest into these companies, then I say keep doing it, yes its a good idea about doing it once a week like you said but if 6 days a week makes a lot more money then why would they do it. I don’t know the net profit these charities make in terms of donations from the chuggers, but some charities have been involved with chuggers for almost a decade, including the biggest and most respected charities with long and prestigious histories to whom many people owe their lives. I don’t think its too outrageous to suggest that they do it because it works, and if it didn’t they wouldn’t.

Finally, not being funny, but starting off telling you that you are a paid fundraiser isn’t really the best way to start a pitch. Volunteers don’t greet someone with ‘hello I’m a volunteer’.
At the end of the day anybody that doesn’t know these guys are paid needs to get out more, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist.
Trading standards have enforced that they have to state they are paid before the person signs the form and failure to do that results in a £5000 fine, like I mentioned before, and its on the print on the back of the form. This then gives the person the option to not sign the form if they disagree, now to me if that person signs it and doesnt agree that’s their problem, not the chuggers. Also on the back the charity declare the size of the budget that they investest each quater to that particular company, and how much return they expect if they majority of the donors donate for the average amount of time. From the previous years gone by the charities which I worked for expected us to return £5 or every £1 they invested into us.
Also something I completely forgot about, most companies have recently changed their name badges so in bold font it says PAID FUNDRAISER.
Sorry but if the person is made aware of all these things, they have no excuse to complain.

So that’s it, that’s my opinion, the world is changing, money is becoming harder for people to get, fuel and domestic prices are spring, people have no choice to tighten their belts. This has a direct effect on charities and their incomes. So if this form of fundraising helps the charities sustain their income or even increase it then I’m for it. If on the other hand it isn’t working and the charities are doing it at a loss then yes I will side with all the people that disagree with it.

Thank you for this nice little debate Fiona, once again I apologise for sounding slighty aggressive at times. Like you said let’s be content at agreeing to disagree…until the next time lol

I hope that although people disagree with what I’ve said, they can ser the points I’ve been making.


mikey says:
3 February 2012

And once again, I’ve just noticed that my predictive text decided to speak on my behalf in places, and they call them smart phones?

Sorry about that

Fiona says:
5 February 2012

Thanks, John! Appreciate it!

Mikey – ‘obvious quote of the week’ – hah! Laughed out loud. Cheers.

Brian – the ‘Fiona and Mikey show’ – excellent! And ‘Fiona and Mikey’ just SOUNDS better.
; o )

Mikey – you certainly argued your point with passion – and so did I. Apology accepted – and allow me to apologise, too: for pretty much the same reason! ‘Nice little debate’?! See you at the charity hustings …(!)

Again: wishing everybody here love and joy in life,


mikey says:
6 February 2012

Anyone fancy a pint down the Winchester? Lol

Jennifer says:
16 November 2012

I’m sure you’re aware that for the majority of charities around 80% of their income is spent on the work they do, 18% on generating future income and 2% on admin costs. It’s from this 18% that the “chuggers” are paid.The charity invests, let’s say £1 million in the company they work for over a certain amount of time and they will have a set in stone deal with the charity to return at least £3 million to them. When you look at it that way, it certainly makes it seem worth while especially when you consider that money was only going to be spent on posters or adverts; and by adding gift aid they get an extra 25p per pound from the government which more than covers that 18%.
The majority of “chuggers” are paid hourly, only receiving a small commission after hitting a certain target. And while I’m sure they’d love to chat with people all day knowing they’re still getting paid at the end, they don’t, they push to make it worth the charities while. And just because they are being paid doesn’t mean they don’t genuinely care. When you give cash directly to a charity do you honestly believe they see all the money? You don’t think they have to employ people to keep track of that money?
I know I’d rather be giving my money to that poor student standing out in the wind and rain that actually knows quite a bit about the charity they’re working for than some fat cat sitting in his office laughing all the way to the bank.

Colin says:
16 December 2014

I was stopped in a supermarket by a chugger. A very nice person, but hogtied by a script. First, I had to listen to a long introduction full of questions about how caring was I; did I know there were X million disable children? etc. This was delivered at fast speed. In the end I interrupted the flow to say I was willing to give her a donation there and then. But she couldn’t accept a cash donation, instead wanting me to sign up for a regular payment to the charity. I don’t want to do that as I’m on a pension now, but I’m happy to make one off payments when I can afford it. I had £5 of change in my hand and could have handed that over immediately. But no. They want a regular payment and the hapless collector won’t get any money unless I did that. It just seems incredibly short-sighted that charities collecting in supermarkets can’t take immediate donations – they must be missing out on hundreds of pounds. And why can’t these collectors be allowed to deviate from their script, obviously written by some bright spark in their marketing department tuned into the latest marketing crap. I would have appreciated it if she had come right out and said ‘I’m looking for a regular donation’, instead of all the preliminaries they have to wade through. I feel sorry for the people who have to take on these jobs; i can’t believe they really want to do this type of legalised begging for a living; it must be soul-destroying.

John says:
21 June 2015

Charities will never openly disclose things they fund that put off potential donations. E.g. Cancer Research UK, Alzheimer’s UK, British Heart Foundation all fund experiments that would turn the British public off donating. Do they charities come clean if asked? I’ve asked many of them. Some aren’t even aware (or claim not be aware) of these experiments. Those that do obviously trivialise them and try to ‘reframe’ them in a way that would appease most British people. E.g. “Would you rather we experiment on a rat or a human?”, even though they also experiment on dogs and cats! Even though the question could be “Would you rather we experiment on a rat or use modern techniques, human samples etc?”

Charities are just like any other business – They want your money and will deceive you in any way they can to get it.

So, where is your £10 donation to Alzhemer’s UK really going? To cut up a live conscious dog’s brain or to help that little old lady in the nursing home?

In general, I will not donate via any chugger, who I consider to be misery pimps, because I do not want my compassion to be warped and manipulated to someone else’s ends. I will not donate ever, at all, to single illness charities, like cancer research, because they hoover up all the spare cash, resources and thus the brightest brains wanting to develop their careers, taking them away from our NHS and dangerously stunting the study of the nature of disease and ill health. People are not single illnesses, they get ill. You might “cure” their cancer, only for them to die of something that hasn’t been “promoted.”
Also, maybe you could argue that a particular disease is “rare” so your chance of getting that particular one is extremely rare. But consider this, there are vast numbers of “rare” diseases, so your chances of one of the many “rare” varieties getting you, is quite high.