Sunday, February 26, 2012

Street ‘chuggers’ in the firing line over charity fundraising tactics

Street fundraisers for charities known as ‘chuggers’, or ‘charity muggers’, are coming under fire for being pushy and "touchy feely", and trying to hug people they are trying to recruit. 

Dedicated twitter account Chuggerwatch is telling people where chuggers are working, and the tactics they are using. 

The practice, officially known as "direct recruitment", seeks to attract regular donors to support a charity’s cause. 

It is governed by a code of practice and carried out by identifiable individuals usually with clipboards, carrying ID and working in twos or threes on city streets.

Twitter users have been posting comments in recent weeks expressing frustration at being stopped by increasingly aggressive or persistent sales people.

"There was really sickening tactics going on Grafton St today. Borderline harassment," one said.

"Chuggers shouting at people, calling out what they’re wearing. Tapping guys on shoulder, asking kids for high fives," another posted.

One twitter user lamented that a chugger tried to hug him. "Are hugs a new tactic?" he asked.

Children’s charity Barnardos has been getting the brunt of the negative comments. 

Ruth Guy, director of fundraising and marketing, said the reason Barnardos uses this method of fundraising is simply because it works. 

The charity needs to raise €7m each year from private donations, and 60% of this comes from people paying through direct debits, often recruited on streets.

"We understand that some people don’t like this method of fundraising, but it is very important to us and it works."

Ms Guy said the charity gets about two phone calls a month from people complaining. 

"We always deal with complaints straight away. We take the person off the street and talk to them and if necessary they are removed from the team."

Barnardos pays a flat fee to a private firm which supplies staff who are then trained by the charity. 

Ms Guy said the workers are not earning commission from them and, as far as she was aware, they are not on performance-related bonuses with the company they work for. 

A code of practice which governs direct recruitment states: "This type of fundraising secures regular donations from people that are invaluable to charities for long-term planning of their programmes. By asking donors to commit to regular donations, via direct debit, standing order or credit card, charities can rely on ongoing support for their good work for several years."