Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Why Islington shouldn't ban chuggers

OK so this won’t make me any friends but Islington Council should not be allowed to do this:

The council is consulting lawyers about bringing in a by-law to stop teams of “in your face” street fundraisers who sign up long-term direct debit donors – and work for agencies that take a cut of the payments.

The move would answer the calls of residents who complain of being hassled by the collectors, often nicknamed chuggers or charity muggers.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m no fan of chuggers but I don’t see any reason why the Council should be allowed to stop the practice. Let’s put it simply so those angry residents understand – if chugging didn’t work it wouldn’t happen! That means hundreds of people do engage with the brightly t-shirted youths who earn a commission from signing us up to direct debits.

And it’s an important source of income:

PFRA estimates that donors recruited through F2F make a combined donation around £10 million to charity each month (£120m a year).

We also estimate that about 17-18 per cent of all donors who are currently giving to charities through direct debits or standing orders were recruited through F2F fundraising.

The point of all this is that people have the capacity to say “no” – and if everyone gave that response the chuggers would disappear. But not everyone wants to say no, some people genuinely do want to listen to the charity’s story and end up as firm supporters.

It’s true that the chugger gets paid – would you stand in the street all day accosting passers-by without getting something in return? And, it’s also true that the first year’s payment (on average) goes to the organisation employing the chugger. But the figures don’t lie – face-to-face fundraising is now a very important source of new donors and new supporters. That and it reduces a lot of students' debts!

We shouldn’t be banning it just because a few residents moan to you about it or because, as a self-important “community leader”, you decide you don’t like it. It’s a public space in which people should be allowed to raise funds for charities – I’m guessing Islington Council won’t be banning slightly drunk blokes in Pudsey bear outfits waving plastic buckets or red nose and stocking-clad young women rattling Comic relief tins.

Or maybe they do plan such a ban? It wouldn’t surprise me from a Labour Council.


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