Glasgow pulls the plug on “Chuggers”

Posted on March 13, 2012

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GLASGOW City Council will more closely regulate Glasgow street fundraisers next month by decreasing the days and locations the collectors can operate to prevent aggressive fundraising.

The new voluntary agreement aims to improve the image of the city’s charity collectors and the experience for shoppers as street fundraisers, a great source of annoyance to commuters, often try to stop commuters to ask for money.

Can I have a second of your time? pic: Ronnie McDonald

Two anonymous Glaswegians have claimed that fundraisers have asked questions such as, “do you care if children are dying?” or “do you even care if rare animals become extinct?” in order to receive donations.

The agreement, signed by Glasgow City Council and the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association (PFRA) will restrict the street fundraisers, often known as “chuggers” or “charity muggers” to six city centre sites from which only five collectors can operate from at any given time. Each site can host only one charity two days a week in the city centre.

Gordon Matheson, Glasgow City Council leader, said: “The issue of street fundraisers is a source of annoyance to many shoppers and visitors.

“We recognise charities have the legal right to raise funds on our streets, but we must ensure people working in, living in and visiting Glasgow are not inconvenienced by this practice.

“Do you care if children are dying?”

“Glasgow City Council has pro-actively tackled this situation and we believe this new voluntary agreement will go a long way to help solve the issues raised by the public about street fundraisers.

“This agreement involves controls on when, where and how many street fundraisers are operating in our city at any time and also how they conduct themselves.”

The move by Glasgow city council to restrain the activity ought to decrease the collector’s harassment of passers-by. Walking in front of any following citizens, blocking shop entrances and being near dining areas will also result in penalties.

Pic: Ronnie McDonald

Fundraisers often work for an independent company unaffiliated with the charities they represent and earn their employers around £80-£160 for every direct debit signed up. Those who donate via a fundraiser may never even know that during the first year of the direct debit, it is highly unlikely that the charity will receive any money.

A survey by easyfundraising.org.uk found that 60% of people in the UK said that fundraisers put them off supporting a charity and over 40% have actually stopped supporting a charity specifically because of concerns over their aggressive fundraising techniques.

Fundraisers earn charities substantially more revenue but the cost of this is that they benefit from money that is supposed to be going to charity. At the moment is not mandatory for fundraisers to mention that they take a substantial fee or tariff, also many people assume that collectors are in actual fact affiliated with the charity they appear to work for.

A former street collector who wished to remain anonymous said: “We had a day of training that covered our charity’s history, its aims, its activities across the world and some of its main campaigns in the UK and worldwide.

“I was paid £7.50 an hour and got anything between one and six donations daily. Some days you’d have really nice chats with people or you’d meet people that had been helped by your charity. Other times people would shout and swear at you, and I remember a drunk man trying to hug me and show me his knife wounds.

Life isn’t easy for a Glasgow’s street fundraisers

“People act as if you are disgusting – they give you a look as if seeing you is worse than stepping in dog muck and you’re a disgrace to the human race. When some people see street fundraisers they don’t see people working for a charity they see evil chuggers trying to con them.

“But if street fundraising didn’t work then charities wouldn’t do it. It would be great if everyone was donating to charity but they aren’t. Even after paying staff, travel, training and recruitment, street fundraisers still get more donations for the charity than any other form of fundraising.

“I understand why people get annoyed with marketing companies who’s fundraisers work for multiple charities. It appears that the fundraisers don’t care about the individual charities and the external companies themselves must make money out of it.

“At the moment you can’t have more than one group at a site at a time but what a fundraising team might classify as a site and what the general public perceive can be different. The new rules will make being in Glasgow less intimidating for tourists and shoppers which will help Glasgow businesses, however, the new legislation may have a detrimental effect on the donations that charities get so they are bound to suffer.

“All large companies outsource services, charities are no different. If you pay people to fundraise then in theory you get more out of the people fundraising and you have more control over hiring and firing. No charity will turn down a volunteer, and there’s always something useful they can do, whereas they can pay to get the best fundraisers to get the most money for their organisation.”

Other changes the agreement will ensure are that all street fundraisers will have to carry photo identity cards and wear official charity tabards or official distinctive clothing.

Nationwide change

The PFRA has already agreed similar site management schemes with 41 councils in England and Wales, but this is the first such agreement with a council in Scotland.

However, love them or hate, the recession and the difficult new climate imposed by the government will see the pressure upon independent fundraising companies not only to continue supplying charities with money, but merely to survive. Only last month, Gift Fundraising Limited entered administration.

The street fundraiser recruitment company, which has offices in seven cities in the UK including London, Glasgow and Edinburgh, undertook high street fund raising on behalf of well-known national charities and since its inception ten years ago it has raised over £100 million on behalf of various charities.

Company administrator Cameron Gunn said: “Unfortunately, high street collections for charities have been hit in recent times with the public seemingly less inclined to give to high street fund raisers during these austere economic times. Gift Fundraising thus suffered from a sharp recent drop in collections and will not continue to trade.”

High Street fundraising as we know it is changing, but will it be for the better?

Further reading: here, here, here and here.

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