/ 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