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Face to face charity

  • Story Highlights
  • Recently, charity collectors have proliferated in shopping malls and retail strips
  • People are now being asked to sign up to have their accounts debited monthly
  • Donating from one's payroll is easy and could provide tax deductions
  • Some charities have reduced street collectors but chuggers are fighting back
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By Brigid Delaney
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Who'd be a chugger? It's a thankless task -- standing on the High Street often in the rain, wearing a fluorescent vest, hold in a clipboard and trying to get someone, anyone, to stop and talk to you -- and maybe even donate some money.

Chuggers often face harsh responses from the people they approach

Often the response to chuggers (a term meaning Charity Muggers, used to describe collectors who operate on the street, signing up shoppers for direct debit to a charity) varies between abuse and being ignored.

I ask one in Carnaby Street, who wants only to be identified as Ted about his experience. "People tell me to 'F**k off' or pretend that I don't exist. Some people if they are having a bad day take their frustrations out on us. A few people want to have a fight-- they say because we get paid we are parasites, but I stand out here in the weather all day and try and raise money for a really good cause."

In the last few years charity collectors have proliferated in shopping malls and retail strips. The practice started in Austria in the 1990s and is seen by many charities as one of the most effective forms of collecting.

The aim of 'face-to-face' collecting is to create a new style of giving -- or contributing to charity. Instead of asking the public for a one-off donation (as what may have happened previously with door to door charity collectors or events such as telethons) collectors try and get people to sign up to a direct debit scheme where monies are deducted from their bank accounts each month.

Charities are increasingly keen to target individuals who make regular repayments as it allows them to plan ahead and get a sense of future cash flow. Some charities also need time to pay off the fee earned by the charity collectors.

According to the Guardian newspaper, "While all the money donated via a chugger is paid directly to the charity, a one-off fee, typically between £50 and £100, is paid by the charity to the fundraising company. It is estimated that it takes about a year for a charity to earn back this fee before it can start benefiting from your regular donations. So if you cancel your direct debit early it can cost the charity dear, particularly a smaller one."

In the U.S., donating to a charity direct from your payroll is a popular way of giving. It is worthwhile talking to your employer as they may have some charities affiliated with their company. Payroll may also be able to advise you about any tax deductions you can make.

If you want to pick your own charity but are concerned that money donated won't get to its desired target, then this Web site can help you sort out what percentage of your donation will be chewed up by administration costs:

Some charities such as Greenpeace and Médecins sans Frontiéres are noting that many members of the public are hostile to 'chuggers' and have scaled back their operations.

But the 'chuggers' are fighting back, with one blog ( defending collectors and their methods.


Collector Lewis Honney writes: "It is easily as offensive to call a professional fundraiser a 'chugger' as it is to call a policeman a 'pig', a journalist a 'hack' or a flight attendant a 'trolley dolly', and I would suggest that branding fund raisers in this highly negative way contributes to the violence and abuse that many have endured in response to their appeals."

"They are not out-of-work actors, wannabe salespeople, students just wanting to earn drink money in their holiday term. But they are hard-working, charity-minded (otherwise they wouldn't do the job) people. The correct term is face-to-face fundraiser. Let's please start using it, and banish such a negative reference to a fantastic but often difficult role." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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