Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Hug a chugger

My housemate came home last night and in a gleeful tone announced he had ‘shouted at a chugger.’ He is doing the Slimfast diet and apparently the bad mood caused by his hunger was eased by having a go at a street fundraiser. 

I didn’t give him the satisfaction of asking who the poor soul was fundraising for or what had provoked the shouting. But it made me think – how did we get to the point where this is acceptable? Twenty years ago would we have thought it fun to shout at an old woman collecting for Christian Aid Week? Or school kids doing Red Cross Week? 

I can’t really blame my housemate though – face to face fundraising (both in the street and on the door) has had a hard time of it. Slated in the press, there has been a lot of one-sided coverage. 

Charities have been anxious about daring to come out and support this effective and brilliant form of fundraising. Sadly some members of the charity sector are less anxious about coming out and slagging face to face off. And I have a big issue with this! 

Two things have got me mad about this recently: 

What makes me mad #1

Firstly my friend *WHO IS A FUNDRAISER AND THEREFORE SHOULD KNOW BETTER* proclaiming about ‘chuggers’ in the pub. Then perpetuating some of the favourite myths about street fundraising – the big one clearly being that the individual fundraiser is ‘paid hundreds for each donor they recruit’.

No love, they aren’t.  

When I pointed this out, I was told they had been discussing this in her organisation and all agreed how bad it was. (Now, without naming and shaming, her organisation is an umbrella organisation and totally unsuitable to the technique – in fact they don’t really do any Individual Giving).  

But what really made me mad is this: what right do other fundraisers have to say one form of fundraising is better than the other without any results to look at? And what right do fundraisers hiding behind a desk all day have to criticise people out there actually fundraising - asking people to their face for money.

What makes me mad  #2

This man in Third Sector. Where do I start? What he seems to be saying is that,as a trustee, the most important thing for your organisation is to pick the kind of fundraising you like and allow your organisation to do only those techniques. 

Never mind your organisation’s funding needs. Never mind the flexibility and freedom regular gifts bring. Never mind the good for your cause that could be achieved with increased regular givers. 

The point they both missed is this: it is very easy to judge face to face fundraising – you judge it on the results. 

Run a small test, see how it goes, see if it works for your organisation, review, tweak, roll out. Like all fundraising, sometimes it goes well, sometimes it doesn’t. Some of your fundraisers will be brilliant, sometimes they will be totally unsuited to it. But just because you don’t like it don’t slate it. 

Regular gifts from Mr and Mrs Donor are the back bone of the charity sector. Whilst Trusts fund exciting radical projects with restricted funds and major donors give generously after being wined and dined, it is regular givers that keep the organisation going. 

And just because they were recruited by a fundraiser in a bib outside and not from someone wearing a suit in an office doesn’t make their donations any less worthwhile. 

And as for the fundraisers on the street and the doorstep – let’s show them some support. They aren’t an annoyance and ‘over-zealous representatives’. They are our colleagues. And for a lot of charity workers they are also paying our salary!

PS Just to prove my point: a fellow fundraiser in my office has just come over and asked us to stop ‘this awful telemarketing we are doing’. Deep breaths...

Kathryn Brooke


  1. I had an interview to become a chugger today! I really hope I get the job. It's a worthwhile job and I'd be employed directly by the company, not an agency. I have done door to door before and that was ok. But you do get a lot of rejection. It takes dedication to carry on. Almost all of these charities do really essential work and rely upon regular donations to keep going. I don't agree with pressurising people, but simply stating a case and asking them to help is ok...they can always say no.
    PS I've been on Slimfast for 3 weeks and haven't become psychotic....yet lol

  2. Excellent piece - I work as a campaign manager across face-to-face and telemarketing...and sometimes it's easy to lose sight of what you're achieving when you see the complaints, listen to calls and hear other colleagues talking about it negatively.

    I actually went out and shadowed some door-to-door fundraisers in the bitter cold recently and this gave me a real insight into the amazing work they do for charity.

    Personally, I don't like face-to-face and telemarketing, but I cannot deny that these methods do work and allow charities to continue delivering their services.

    Great post.