Earlier this week, I was stopped by a chugger in Richmond. We see a lot of chuggers in Richmond. I suppose that the charities see it as an area that still has a lot of disposable income. Usually I have my earphones in so they ignore me, but this was at lunch when I’d just popped out for a sandwich so I was easy prey.

She bounced up to me in that overenthusiastic way that many of them have and started talking to me as thought we were old friends. I asked her which charity she represented, told her that I never support charities that stop me in the street and walked off. Even as I made my exit she was saying “but we can still have a chat…”

From talking to friends I know that I’m not the only person who hates being stopped by chuggers. I don’t know anyone who claims to enjoy it. So I started to wonder about the economics of it. Surely so few people sign up on the street that’s it can only just be worthwhile for the charites. And if that’s the case, then perhaps it would only take a small change in public attitudes to make it completely uneconomical.

Denny pointed me at this report from Newnight last August which goes into some of the details. I was astonished at how much it costs the charities. The first thing to realise is that the chuggers don’t work directly for the charities. They work for fundraising companies who will work for many different charities. So there are a lot of people who need to be paid out of the donations you sign up for,

It turns out that many charities pay around £100 for each person who signs up on the street. If we assume that most people pay a tenner a month, then it’s nearly a year before the charity makes any money at all out of the deal. And, of course, if you stop the direct debit before you’ve donated £100, the poor charity will be out of pocket.

I accept, of course, that times are hard and charities are as short of money as the rest of us. So, of course, they will try any means at their disposal to make money. But to use this method, which has a pretty good chance of them losing money shows just ho desperate they are. But perhaps we can use this to our advantage and send the charities a message telling them how unwelcome chugging is.

Depending on my mood, I tell chuggers one of three things when they stop me. If I’m in a hurry I’ll just say what I said this week – that I never give money to people who stop me on the street. If I have more time or am feeling a little more evil I’ll explain that because I have been stopped I will never support that charity financially in the future. If I’m feeling really bad and want to ruin the chuggers day then I’ll say that I currently support that charity with a monthly payment of £20 a month. but that because they’re using this rude tactics I now intend to cancel the direct debit. Feel free to use those if you think they’re useful.

But, of course, there will be charities who you see chugging that you want to support. One common excuse for chugging that I hear is that they remind people that a charity still exists. And, of course, if you want to support a charity then you should support them. However, if you’re going to sign a direct debit to make regular payments to support a charity, then it is really important that you don’t sign the chugger’s form. If you sign that form then most of your first year’s payments will go to pay for the chugger and their company. No, if you really want to support a charity, then go to their web site and fill in a form their. That way the charity gets all of your money.

Actually, that might just trump all of the other things that I tell chuggers. Next time I’m stopped I’ll tell them that I intend to visit the charity’s web site as soon as I get back to my desk. Surely they can’t object to me taking action which gives the charity more money. I wonder what they would say?

Now I want to be stopped next week so I can try it out.

P.S. One important point that I missed. If you ever decide that you aren’t going to support a charity because of their use of chuggers or if you just get annoyed by chuggers and want to complain to someone, then please use the ‘contact us’ form on the charity’s web site to let them know. If enough people tell the charities what we think of chuggers then perhaps they’ll realise how many people they are alienating.

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