Better to give than to receive
November 25, 2008 2:39 AM   Subscribe

Charity fundraising volunteers, known colloquially as "chuggers", are a common sight in downtown London. And charity watchdog group Intelligent Giving believes they should be banned. Chuggers are not without their defenders, of course, or their detractors. Some have already downplayed Intelligent Giving's report, and Mick Aldridge, chief executive of the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association, has called it "grossly irresponsible".
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing (65 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I have to say that reading the lovely comments from the Telegraph readers (in the banned link) made me more sympathetic to the chuggers.
posted by i_cola at 3:14 AM on November 25, 2008

"Charity fundraising volunteers" - if they're paid I don't think you should call them volunteers. (Not that I personally have a problem with them)
posted by edd at 3:15 AM on November 25, 2008

From the Guardian piece: According to Charity Facts, which provides information about the charity sector, the agency will typically take a fee of £40 to £60 for each sign-up. And it says that, overall, it costs charities about 15p-25p to raise each pound. Most collectors will be paid an hourly rate rather than commission.

Which means it's bloody stupid to sign up with a chugger if their pitch has convinced you to donate to the charity - just set up a direct debit when you get home, and you're giving an extra £40 quid.
posted by jack_mo at 3:18 AM on November 25, 2008

Does the UK have a charity research site like
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:19 AM on November 25, 2008

Never mind, just realized I fat fingered the address for intelligent giving dot com.
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:21 AM on November 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

Hello sir, I'm one of those nice middle class kids with a twinkly eye and easy charm that makes me come across as a little less intelligent than I think I am. Beneath my brightly coloured tabard you'll notice that my clothes are slightly more expensive than yours and, though I am ostensibly performing a menial task for relatively little money, you should bear in mind that I am younger and better looking than you are and I can, with an astonishingly small effort, spin the two weeks I'm going to spend doing this into the resume equivalent of rescuing Vietnamese orphans from bands of roving rapists. In five years you will be working for me. I am everything that you hate. I was wondering if you had five minutes to spare?
posted by Jofus at 3:22 AM on November 25, 2008 [47 favorites]

I suspect we're in the midst of a backlash of some sort. At one time the charity volunteers would turn up at all kinds of public events, collect some cash and hand out leaflets to anyone showing an interest; this has gradually transformed itself into something much more pushy, where you're more likely to end up filling in a direct debit form than handing over some loose coins.

Tactics used by many charities (or rather the commerical entities doing the fundraising for them) are really beginning to harm the goodwill people have for these organisations; as an example, several people I know have cancelled their monthly donations to a major British animal charity because the fundraisers will call you once a month, rush through some script about how grateful they are, then try to talk you into upping your monthly contribution. You just end up thinking "Hey, hold on, I've just given you this money, and you're using it to pay some smug shit in a call centre to phone me and ask for more. Well, I'll show you." And then of course you cancel the direct debit. [end of rant]
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 3:26 AM on November 25, 2008 [6 favorites]

Here in Brighton they do door-to-door calling, which I find much more annoying. When you're trying to get a recalcitrant six-year-old into the bath the last thing you want is a chirpy student at the door trying to guilt you into taking out a Direct Debit.
posted by athenian at 3:28 AM on November 25, 2008

The comments on the article at the IF site are pretty unforgiving.
posted by patricio at 3:47 AM on November 25, 2008

"Charity fundraising volunteers" - if they're paid I don't think you should call them volunteers.

Salient point. Those who are paid should be called "charity fundraisers" or "charity fundraising workers", although there are chuggers who volunteer.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:48 AM on November 25, 2008

I'm sure they can point to statistics that show this increases revenue but whereas I would usually give to charities on the old flag days I just blank chuggers and all other overly aggressive marketing - only using Smiths as a magazine library since the 'would you like some half-price chocolate with that?' starting coming with every purchase. At least the bank's stopped trying to sell me insurance every time I tired to pay something in.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:49 AM on November 25, 2008

I must be lucky, or look poor (or perhaps threatening) ; although I do wander around the streets of London a bit, I've never been asked to sign a Direct Debit and only rarely been pressed excessively for a donation. I have had the sort of phone call lmdba mentions, though, and they are very annoying. Once I even got a follow-up letter saying 'we hope you enjoyed your conversation with our representative enough that you're now willing to send us a big cheque in a haze of confused gratitude at being chatted up by a real human being, you witless schmuck.'
posted by Phanx at 3:53 AM on November 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

This has become as commonplace on this side of the pond. During the summer, it's impossible to walk 2-3 blocks without encountering some super-happy person with a clipboard and a charity. There was a period when they would at least not accost you if you refused to make eye contact and walk past them, but this summer I had some problems with a few of the canvassers disrupting a cell phone call (to my mom) or behaving in an out-and-out abusive manner towards me.

This also seems to be a problem in NYC.
posted by pxe2000 at 4:09 AM on November 25, 2008

walk 2-3 blocks IN BOSTON.

I need to not post while comatose, is what.
posted by pxe2000 at 4:11 AM on November 25, 2008

I had a guy come at me today with an outstretched hand and an insincere look in his eye, wanting to know "how I was doing this morning". Not a real estate agent, but a red cross "volunteer". I fucking hate that kind of shit, I must say - but I'm torn here. I like the red-cross. I would probably donate to them if I wasn't already giving $40 a month to community through a little Haitian kid (through a non-profit/non religious charity).

I remember being in a hurry once, running late to a (most likely) insignificant rendez-vous. I was sprinting through the city, at full stride, when a fucking mormon jumped in front of me and asked if I could spare a minute. I fucking really hate that kind of shit - and I let him know that he was an utterly stupid cunt for asking, as if it wasn't abundantly obvious, as I flew past. I'm not so torn there (note to self: If you ever need to hire a dynamic sales mofo, hire a lapsed mormon or jehovah's witness - they take "no" and being called a cunt in their stride and just keep on with it) - same kind of thing except, you expect that kind of insincerity from religious freaks.

There are "volunteer" ghettos that I avoid in various malls and arcades of Sydney (in Bondi Junction there are layers of the volunteer undead that you need to navigate in order to indulge your consumer guilt) - I just find the idea of giving money to fund an industry that spends ~35% of their donations on marketing and "volunteers" a tad wasteful. But then I'm torn, because they need to get their message out there. I gave a one-off $60 donation to Medecins sans Frontieres after reading a post on Mefi one day, and since then, I have probably received the same amount back in mailed marketing material - which they won't stop sending me (despite repeated requests).

They do themselves no favours by employing pre-eminent real estate agents honing their sales skills and desensitising themselves for a life of verbal negation. But that's just my torn opinion. Because after I ignore or negate their advances, I kind of feel pity and then guilt for my actions.

Give as good as you get. No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.
posted by strawberryviagra at 4:17 AM on November 25, 2008

I do feel sorry for the chuggers, because I've done volunteer street collecting and while some members of the public are nice to you, most of them will ignore you, and some will heckle you, blow smoke in your face, try and stand in front of your pitch, or throw milkshakes at you while you freeze your arse off trying to stay cheerful and friendly. It's not something I would like to do as a full-time job. On the other hand, it's harder to do volunteer collecting when the skeptical donors know that the chuggers are paid and don't quite believe you're a volunteer, or they ignore everyone because they don't want to get into a prolonged discussion .

I'm surprised it works as well as it does, as I always give them a wide berth. I know what charities I'm going to donate to and I go directly through their website, so while you can persuade me to stick a pound in a bucket for a charity I might not otherwise support, you're not going to get a direct debit.
posted by penguinliz at 4:26 AM on November 25, 2008

How are these people different from the "squeegee men" whose banishment from the curbsides of NYC did so much to improve the quality of life in that burg? How are they different from people standing on the streets handing out flyers for x-rated clubs? Our cities have become too civilized. In a sane municipal culture, these people would be beaten to a pulp and left in a heap on the sidewalk. The women would be kidnapped by pimps and forced into white slavery (I mean, if they like soliciting on the street so much, why not go all the way?) Or at least, they should live in terror of such a fate. When I'm walking down the street, you just stay the f*** away from me, you understand?
posted by Faze at 4:42 AM on November 25, 2008

I live on the fringes of a pretty wealthy, but liberal (weird, huh?) neighborhood, and we get 3-4 door-knockers per month. A guy running for my state representative (Andy Brown -- seemed nice) got a few minutes of my time, and I laid into him about taking it to Tom DeLay & the redistricting "problem" we've had. Otherwise, they've all been from some group I've never heard of. The Foundation to Fight Wasteful Utility Spending and Hunger Amongst the Inuits, or whatever. (I suspect a lot of these groups fall into the 97% "expense" category) I universally send them packing. If I'm going to donate to charity, it's going to be a thought-out process, and not through badgering and the desire to get my front door shut before dinner burns. I have even less use for people why try to stop we from getting where I'm going while I'm walking somewhere. I'm polite, but utterly not interested whatsoever, "thankyoufordoingthegoodworkexcusemeiminahurry."
posted by Devils Rancher at 4:48 AM on November 25, 2008

My patented chugger-be-gone technique:

Look them in the eye, smile, show that you sympathise with the noble work they are doing, then say "I work for a charity". Smile again, keep on walking.

It gets rid of them almost every time.

In my case, it's not a lie, and no, we don't use Chuggers to fundraise.

My best chugger victory was a few months ago when I got one to donate to the charity I work for instead. I was waiting for friends in a spot that was also inhabited by a chugger. I used my patented be-gone technique. He wondered off to try a few other marks. My friends were late, he came back to me. "So which charity?" I told him, told him what we did, told him what I do for the organisation (I had some sympathy, many chuggers do it for CV fodder to get into the charity sector, so I didn't mind telling him what I do and how I got here - not by chugging, that's for sure!). Turns out he had relatives with the health condition we support. He asked for the web address to make a donation. Result!
posted by Helga-woo at 5:02 AM on November 25, 2008 [11 favorites]

What amazes me is how anyone would consider giving their name, address, and bank details, to some guy in the street because he has a Red Cross t-shirt on. The next time I want to run a big identity theft scam, I'm going to hire a load of chugger agencies to go out and socially engineer strangers for me.
posted by DangerIsMyMiddleName at 5:07 AM on November 25, 2008 [11 favorites]

When I worked on a Boston college campus, it became an art form to from point A to point B to dodge the chuggers and Lyndon LaRouche fanclub. I usually had to walk mail or forms over to other offices and while I did enjoy getting out of the office, I found the best thing to do was to just stare straight ahead, walk briskly and have a set of headphones on, turned up just slightly too loud. That way I couldn't legitimately hear anyone ask me if I had a minute for the environment, or for gay marriage or for crazy paranoid government stuff or whatever.

Most of the time I support the causes the chuggers are seeking donations for, and I feel bad for those kids because I know they are getting paid shit and probably will quit in two weeks. But it's a terrible way to raise money - especially when you're on a city street full of people who just want to get to their destination and don't have a minute for small, cuddly animals just now.
posted by sutel at 5:07 AM on November 25, 2008

I have noticed their techniques seem to be more agressive recently. I've had from "Hey, you have nice hair" to "Girl in blue hat, can I have a word with you!" used to get my attention in the past few months. They are also using the "I'm not asking you for money, can you sign this petition" technique, which leads to follow up phone calls later.

(My offices are based opposite the tube station in a very famous area of London, there are chuggers outside almost every day).

But the stats I've seen suggest that they do work, and bring in significant income for the charities that use them. The Charity Commission web site gives you niffty little pie charts that break down a charity's income and expenditure, if you want to see how your favourite cause spends your money.
posted by Helga-woo at 5:11 AM on November 25, 2008

Big problem on the UWS of NYC too.

I find staring right through people who accost me on the street helpful. If that doesn't work I let them get close then blow a cloud of smoke or cough in their face as if they weren't there at all. As a last recourse, if the block my way at all, I keep walking right into them as if I didn't see them (at 6 ft/200 lbs you don't want me walking into you in most cases, so you're likely to step aside).

I feel really strongly about this. I'm entitled to my private thoughts and my inner concentration when I am walking in public. I don't get much down time, and I use time walking to think. I don't care who or what you represent. Accosting me to sign your petition or listen to your spiel or give you money or buy your stale candy bars is no different than spamming my email or junk-calling my house. If I want to give your cause money, I can do it by my own lonesome self. If you bother me and you aren't asking directions or something else innocent, you can go f*ck yourself.

Get a real job, kids.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:23 AM on November 25, 2008 [6 favorites]

I work in London. I'm a sucker. I always get caught by their 'Howdy!'s, always end up signing up, always cancel the DD after one month's payment, feeling guilty about cancelling it, but unhappy that I was coerced into it. My quality of life would improve if these people did not exist, but then I wouldn't have DD'd about £35 (pathetic total I know) to these random charities.

I am not a good person, but I can be talked into thinking that I might be one if I just give them my details...
posted by Cantdosleepy at 5:27 AM on November 25, 2008

Here in Salzburg the same girl has accosted me three times asking for money for Amnesty International. The first time I would have gladly given five euros, but no, she wanted to do a debit withdrawal of a minimum of NINETY EUROS. She didn't take no for an answer, either.

And so by asking for so much, Amnesty International got nothing instead of the five euros I could afford to give. Of course, if the chuggers are getting a commisison like that, I can understand the girl's relentlessness.

It makes me think a lot less of Amnesty now, though.
posted by dunkadunc at 5:43 AM on November 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

Being chugger-free is one of the things I'm really enjoying about being in a small town - there were some shitty days last year when being aggressively pursued by a chugger (repeatedly calling out to me by description, dodging in front of me, trying to strike up ANY conversation, etc) made me turn on my heel and abandon any non-essential plans. It really took away from being in the city, and I know the city involves human contact, marketing and hassle, but the ambient sort that doesn't chase you down the street admiring your shoes is easier to offset against the good stuff.

My preferred technique is a giant, smiling "no thank you!". It doesn't invite rebuttal, it's polite, and it seems to be kind of unexpected.
posted by carbide at 5:46 AM on November 25, 2008 [3 favorites]

I've never even considered giving money to people canvassing on the street, except buying the Big Issue. When we were fifteen a friend was harassed into signing up for a direct debit arrangement by some wildlife charity bastard, when she didn't even have a job. Fortunately her mother got it cancelled (15yo girls not legally being able to sign contracts, duh) but if I give to a charity it's going to be in a way that doesn't encourage immoral/illegal practices by them.
posted by jacalata at 5:47 AM on November 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

Chugger rage 1, clarity 0.

It really took away from being in the city, and I know the city involves human contact, marketing and hassle, but the ambient sort that doesn't chase you down the street admiring your shoes is easier to offset against the good stuff

Er, I meant unwanted/uninvited human contact. I love the people! All the people!

I used to work in a cafe and had a cute, scruffy chugger who came in a lot. He had strong coffee with flavoured syrup and then added a ton of sugar, as well as accompanying it with cake. I'm sure that's not what they're all running on, but it explained a lot.
posted by carbide at 5:51 AM on November 25, 2008

Just a week or two ago here in Boston, I saw a chugger giving his spiel about helping the homeless. Not twenty feet behind him, a group of paramedics were trying to assist a homeless man who had collapsed and was non-responsive. Both men were common sights on the corner and I had seen them active previously that day.

I'm not sure what to take away from that. On one hand, yeah, it proves that the homeless do need our help, but it also shows that a 'volunteer' who was out trying to 'help' the homeless stood by going his thing while an actual homeless person needed help.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:54 AM on November 25, 2008 [5 favorites]

But, do they Givewell?
posted by ericb at 5:56 AM on November 25, 2008

Where I am in London the chuggers *always* inhabit the same spot. Every week it's a different charity, but we commuters are the same people walking by the chuggers each week. It is pretty tedious to have to weave your way between the office and the generic sandwich shop every lunchtime.

Personally I do believe they are on some sort of incentive scheme. Some years back when I was young and dumb and didn't bother to check my bank statements regularly I signed up to give the Red Cross money through a chugger. I said I'd give £10 a month, i.e. £30 a quarter. I subsequently discovered I was being billed for £30 a month. Lesson learnt.

I still give to charities of my choice but now always tell the chuggers I'm late for a meeting. Even on Sundays.

On an related note, I invented the patented MuffinMan Jehovah's Witness rebuttal technique some years back:

"I'm sorry, but I prefer not to discuss my faith."

This copyrighted line is yours to use on a commission basis, with all royalties going to the MuffinMan Institute for Personal Credit Crunch Soft Landings.
posted by MuffinMan at 5:56 AM on November 25, 2008

In a sane municipal culture, these people would be beaten to a pulp and left in a heap on the sidewalk.

I wasn't going to comment in this post, but that's a fucking asshole thing to say.

I'm not a chugger, nor have I ever been one, but a very good friend of mine is. The profile of people who work for these organisations is very far from the fixed idea most of us have - people do it for all sorts of reasons. Some are simply looking for a job, others want to build experience before looking for fundraising work with a charity, others want to do a job that helps other people while also paying their rent.

The reason charities use these organisations is simply because they work. They're consistently the most effective way of acquiring long term donors, and per £ or $ spent, far more effective than posters, TV campaigns, radio campaigns or anything else, which can cost in the hundreds of thousands without even blinking.

Yes, they can be persistent. Yes, their apparent cheeriness can be irritating. And yes, sometimes they overstep the line into intrusiveness. But that does not excuse the absolutely vile things that have happened to my friend and the people she works with. My friend fundraises for Amnesty Internation, and works her arse off to get donations. She's really good at what she does, and now manages things on a regional level because of her abilitity to motivate and inspire the people that work with her. To get to that point, she's been called every name under the sun, had things thrown at her and generally weathered things that would have me swinging punches.

In a big city like London, you'll run into chuggers two or three times a day, if you do a lot of walking around. The very least you owe these people is the relative courtesy of silence and walking past without eye contact. If you're annoyed by one of them overstepping the boundary of your personal space, tell them so reasonably civilly. If you're still not happy, ask for their badge number and report them. There are bad eggs in any job, and they can be counterproductive.

But have some fucking respect - many of these people passionately believe in the causes they're fundraising for, the ones who last anyway. They have chosen to do a job that entails a lot of abuse, standing in the cold for hours and helping charities effectively raise money. You can trade chugger horror stories all you like and rant about people who have the temerity to ask for a moment of your precious, precious time, but really, thinking or saying they should be beaten for doing their job is reprehensible.
posted by Happy Dave at 5:57 AM on November 25, 2008 [8 favorites]

Here in Cape Town we have chuggers coming into restaurants selling trinkets and roses (and targeting the couples especially the ones that look like they're on a date so the guy is forced to buy) all in the name of charity, usually for blind children.

For some reason restaurants let them in, I have no idea why, nothing makes me want to come back to a place like knowing I'm going to be panhandled while I have a mouthful of steak.
posted by PenDevil at 6:01 AM on November 25, 2008

You're not very Happy, Dave.
posted by MuffinMan at 6:02 AM on November 25, 2008

I'm perfectly happy - just not too pleased with the unquestioned assumptions being thrown around in this thread. Chuggers seem to be the latest uniting horror that everyone from Guardian-reading liberals to right-wing tories have decided it's okay to hate. And since I know a few of them personally, and they're good people taking a lot of abuse who raise money for charities (and do so cost-effectively), that pisses me off.

Hate the chugger who's bad at his job and breaks the rules, not every single paid fundraiser.
posted by Happy Dave at 6:06 AM on November 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

I've noticed a huge increase in street canvasing here in the San Francisco Bay Area, but for the most part, they are representing pretty well known charities, and I haven't been "chugged" yet. The people who annoy me the most, though, are the signature gatherers that are employed by various political causes. These people are generally one step above selling a Street Sheet (homeless newspaper) and often carry up to 6 clipboards with petitions on them. I finally interrogated one of these people (as he kept stuffing clipboards under my pen) and found out he was getting paid by the signature. The biggest concern anyone should have about these people is that they don't care about the issues they are promoting, and will tell you just about anything to get you to sign the paper. I asked one of them about an issue they were petitioning about, and they turned the petition around and read the abstract at the top of the page to me. They are aggressive and very not cool, and I've completely stopped signing any petitions because of them.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 6:26 AM on November 25, 2008

I think it's OK to hate people chugging, rather than the individual chuggers themselves. I read it that people who come out with all sorts of statements about how rude or violent they want to get with chuggers are bascially advertising their lack of social skills that would enable them to say no thanks politely.

That said, effective fundraisers or not, they are a blight on the streets because they always choose the same spots. However effective they may be, I do wonder what research has been done into the damage done to a charity's brand value by chuggers. Certainly I tend to dislike charities who are prepared to sacrifice such a high percentage of donations to chase the cash.
posted by MuffinMan at 6:27 AM on November 25, 2008

Hate the chugger who's bad at his job and breaks the rules, not every single paid fundraiser.

To me any face-to-face random hard sell like this is the in person equivalent to spamming. It's not really a big deal (you can always just ignore them) but it's unsolicited and intrusive. I constantly get junk email, junk snail mail, phone calls at work trying to sell me investment advice, ads in any place where an ad could possibly be placed, etc.

It would be nice if charities could at least just focus on finding people who are genuinely interested in the cause, rather than pressuring random people to donate money. I guess if they make enough money using these methods than without, it may be more positive than negative overall, but there are definitely some negative aspects to doing it.
posted by burnmp3s at 6:35 AM on November 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

After having a lengthy chat with a lad on the street a year or two ago ago, I discovered that not only do some of them get £7.50 an hour for standing on the street, they get incentives for doing so (not just bottles of wine) and three figure cash prizes at the end of the month. Even worse than that, they work for several charities at once - there was a central organisation that sent people out on the street. All that money could be going to help someone, not getting pissed up a wall on a Friday night or being swallowed by administrative costs. So they get absolutely none of my time, not when I can't guarantee that others aren't being employed in the same way. I can't support that.

So I try and balance this by giving the old folks who sell the Remembrance Day poppies twice as much as they ask for, buying the Big Issue when I have the money, adopting shelter animals (and hopefully volunteering there in the future) and eating buying Girl Scout cookies. There are plenty of ways to give to charity.

> "but really, thinking or saying they should be beaten for doing their job is reprehensible."

Agreed. I find them mildly annoying, but being annoyed is not a justification for violence or abuse. See also: abusing call center workers. I'm not sure when it became OK to behave like that towards others.
posted by saturnine at 6:42 AM on November 25, 2008 [3 favorites]

At least it sounds like most chuggers are in better shape than those door-to-door magazine sales kids. I was a sucker for them once, and it took 6 months for my first magazine to arrive.

PenDevil - those sound like a different shade of Chugger. I wonder if they really support any charity, or they're just trying to hook you. There are Flower Ladies in my little town, usually vacant-looking lasses who always smile in a sad sort of way. But they don't pitch, just offer their flowers.

I can't muster any hate for these folk, unless they're bulldogs who don't let go. I'll give them courtesy as long as they do, to. I realize that charities need to be known to do well, and need money to do good. Those who are too small, or not organized well enough, don't have the hiring and training capabilities the for-profit agencies have, but it might do the non-profits some good to do a bit of check-up on the streets, seeing how those chuggers are representing their efforts.
posted by filthy light thief at 6:46 AM on November 25, 2008

What really irritates me is that the same kids are collecting donations for the Red Cross (red vest) or some organization that makes them wear a green vest (I don't talk to them, so I don't know what it is).

It's also irritating that these folks, working for a contractor, and not the Red Cross itself, know absolutely nothing about the organization they're collecting money for.

As well, when people don't stop, the volunteers often get frustrated, and make rude comments, as if no one can hear them.

posted by KokuRyu at 6:51 AM on November 25, 2008

We get these folks a lot in Portland. In my part of town, a lot of suburbanites drive in and park (poorly) and shop. I refer to them as "tourists". Since they are in unfamiliar territory they always walk down the sidewalk in a bit of a confused dazed, amazed - Amazed! - state. (OMG There are so many cute shops here!)

I take advantage of this cluelessness. When I am walking home from work, I keep an eye out for the canvassers. When I spot them at a corner up ahead I time my walking speed so that I arrive at the corner just behind a pack of wild eyed tourist. The canvasser goes for the tourists, I slip by unnoticed.

I like this term "chuggers". I will use it from now on.
posted by device55 at 6:52 AM on November 25, 2008

I hate pushy solicitation peddlers. Street Sense, Greenpeace, NYPIRG, candy seller scams, whatever ... go get fucked. If I'm walking somewhere I'm in a hurry and don't have time for you to exercise your dramatic inclination to the fullest "informing" me about your spurious claims.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 6:59 AM on November 25, 2008 [3 favorites]

Hmm. I did this, a lot of years ago, and in Canada, not the U.K. -- so not sure if there are major differences. We never called ourselves "volunteers".

What strikes me about the breed on the street these days is how judgmental and sometimes downright nasty they can be. Not all of them, mind, and sure, some of my peers way back when might have been also. I don't know. We never worked in pairs. But I'll be in a hurry and wandering past, say, the Doctors Without Borders guy, and seeing that, I'll wave and smile but tell him "I'm already a member". Yeah right says the guy (or much worse). I mean sure, I bet they get that a lot, but I was tempted to bust out my most recent mailing from them (it was in my bag) and wave it in the ungrateful punk's face, except: a) I was in a hurry, and b) I was angry at the kid, and shouldn't allow that to spill into anger at his employer. So I stomped away. But it pissed me right off.

On preview, post-rant: I see KokoRyu (and probably others) beat me to it on the rude comments. Though wasn't aware of the lack of knowledge. That would never have done in years past. One other thing that rankles, though, is that, as an interested person, if you know about the topics these kids hit you up with already, and try to make it a conversation, it is not appreciated. "Actually, I did know that. And what's more, the tailings from that mine were not disclosed to the next buyer, who went belly-up. That's why the government is stuck with that mess." Yeah. Not interested.

All that being said, I invite them in for tea when they're in my neighbourhood. It's a hard job and many of them get pretty worn out by the public abuse in no time. Though there seem to be two types who end up with this job: bright-eyed idealists who don't last long, and scammers who would be slinging something else if it wasn't this. The latter I tend to keep at the door. Also, I quit when I found out that 90+% of the average donations we took in went to run the office and pay us, and I make that clear if they ask why I left.

Sorry for the long post!
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 7:33 AM on November 25, 2008

Whoah, my mistake. Agencies of paid intermediaries? No wonder they know nothing about the charity. In that case:

Which means it's bloody stupid to sign up with a chugger if their pitch has convinced you to donate to the charity - just set up a direct debit when you get home, and you're giving an extra £40 quid.

Damn straight.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 7:44 AM on November 25, 2008

God, now I'm wondering how many of these are chuggers as opposed to working directly for the charity. That might help explain some of the behaviour.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 7:54 AM on November 25, 2008

I walk every day at lunch, for the exercise - I can't really jog thanks to general decrepitude - and oh how I envy my jogging brethren and sistren. Nobody stops them and they can jog along in peace. Thanks to my lack of spandex and slow speed, I'm apparently a chugger magnet. I try to be polite but firm and generally say "I'm on a mission!" and walk briskly on, but it's like dragging an anchor some times.
posted by cairnish at 8:51 AM on November 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

People I'm willing to give cash to in the city:

1. A magician on the N/W/R/Q trains who uses live animals and whistles gently instead of talking
2. The guy on the 1 train who draws portraits and is a great conversationalist
3. A lovely classical violinist, usually in the 77th st station
4. The man with several mechanical dolls which bob along to his accordion-synth version of the Godfather theme, I've seen him in Times Square and Columbus circle
5. (tie) The kids selling candy bars, if I need a candy bar, otherwise mariachis and barbershop-style quartets
posted by sondrialiac at 9:23 AM on November 25, 2008 [5 favorites]

I find it sad that people looking for charitable donations are considered in the same category as panhandlers, sondrialiac, though I can understand how they ended up there.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:58 AM on November 25, 2008

I hate chuggers with a passion. If I want to donate to a charity, which I frequently do, then I'll do so directly over the Internet. I've only had a few such people actually come to my door, but I've resented their pushy salesperson style. I've generally found that if "No, thank you" doesn't work, even after the third time of saying it, then a simple "Fuck off" works wonders.
posted by idiomatika at 12:06 PM on November 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

I've often thought of trying to start a website that would, every few months, select a single charity that uses chuggers and try to persuade thousands of people to pledge to give significant and ongoing funds to that charity in return for it agreeing to stop using chuggers either forever or for some fixed period of time.

I don't blame the individuals who take these jobs to make money. But chugging radically reduces the quality of the street environment in London. Seven or eight approaches in a lunch hour in Holborn is completely normal. I guess it's like charity crack... I can't believe that its short-term benefits aren't offset by the long-term damage to the charity's brand.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 12:46 PM on November 25, 2008 [2 favorites]

By the way, the trick to avoiding being stopped by a chugger is to focus on not breaking your pace. If you do this, I find, all the rest of the stuff (politely rebuffing their "friendly" advances) falls into place.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 12:49 PM on November 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

Durn Bronzefist, those aren't panhandlers, they are working for their money, and they provide more for the money than most people who solicit for charity.

I've never spoken to one person who could provide detailed information about the charity's actual actions (vs their stated mission), efficiency, or effectiveness,. Nor do they provide any proof that your information or money will be going to the right people.

Besides, the magician has a DOVE.
posted by sondrialiac at 12:58 PM on November 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

In my case, earning a non-temp-job income meant I could finally donate to Amnesty International, as I had long intended. But I didn't actually do so until I bumped into a chugger and said "I've been meaning to do that!". I left that running for a while - long enough that whatever the chugger got for sealing the deal was pretty insignificant. So it worked OK in that case.

Direct debit makes complete sense. Charities for the most part don't want your spare change - they want predictability. Once you set up a direct debit, provided you aren't living hand-to-mouth, you're likely to leave it there. Glad to see the love for the Big Issue here. That's where spare change goes.

But chuggers are horrible:

If you want to donate to that cause, but don't want to sign up to a direct debit on the street, you feel like an arsehole for wasting their time, then go home and forget to sign up.
If you care but can't or don't want to donate you feel like an arsehole.
If you are an arsehole and don't care about charity you feel like they're hassling you.
If you don't want to seem like an arsehole, you sign up on the spot - this tends to affect younger people with less stable ingoings who shouldn't be signing up for outgoings.
Who then panic and cancel later.

It's not pleasant to ignore another human being, it's not pleasant to tell them no, and it's not feasible to say yes to all of them.

Basically, face-to-face pressure, guilt, and (supposedly) long-term financial commitment don't sit right with me. But what's the alternative? Begging for change?
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 12:58 PM on November 25, 2008

Hate the chugger who's bad at his job and breaks the rules, not every single paid fundraiser.

Tell you what, Happy Dave. You give me *your* bank account details, and the next time I'm harrassed by one of these fuckers -- which will almost certainly be tomorrow night, given the frequency with which they call at my house -- I'll be glad to pass them on, on your behalf.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 1:34 PM on November 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

robocop is bleeding: I had a similar experience at uni in Brisbane (Brisbane's full of chuggers). On the same pathway were a group of people fundraising for some big charity (forgot the name), and the resident Big Issue vendor whom I've known since I first started uni. I chatted with the Big Issue guy and he told me that he hasn't managed a sale in a while despite all the people. Just next to him were these rather outgoing fundraisers, and they weren't doing ANYTHING for him - not even buying a copy of the magazine! I felt like doing some fundraising on the Big Issue vendor's behalf, but got too chicken.
posted by divabat at 1:47 PM on November 25, 2008

those aren't panhandlers, they are working for their money

I also treat street performers differently so I guess I categorize, too, but I would certainly lump buskers with panhandlers before I would lump people working for the Diabetes Assoc. or the like with them. I mean all three rely on a "goodness of your heart" motivation, but only one of the three is advancing a cause not his or her own. (which is a good time to differentiate the charity workers from the chuggers, I suppose)
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 3:18 PM on November 25, 2008

These people are generally one step above selling a Street Sheet (homeless newspaper) and often carry up to 6 clipboards with petitions on them. I finally interrogated one of these people (as he kept stuffing clipboards under my pen) and found out he was getting paid by the signature.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 3:42 PM on November 25, 2008

1. A magician on the N/W/R/Q trains who uses live animals and whistles gently instead of talking

Check, pretty amazing

2. The guy on the 1 train who draws portraits and is a great conversationalist

Never seen him, but "beggar" and "great conversationalist" seem at odds. see [f*ck off] above.

3. A lovely classical violinist, usually in the 77th st station

Don't know him/her either, but there is a dude who sings like marvin gaye at 116th some evenings, lanky african american guy. i've given him 5 bucks three times. he's really, really good. I want to be his agent in another lifetime. Very few like that, though. And the er-hu should be banned, along with the trumpet and any form of percussion, from underground.

5. (tie) The kids selling candy bars, if I need a candy bar, otherwise mariachis and barbershop-style quartets

Those kids are working for handlers who get most of the money; they're often just north of slave labor, and you do them no favor by supporting their efforts - you feed the system by which they are exploited (ever see them during school hours? I have). And the candy is often out of date and stale.

Mariachis and norteño ensembles, meh. For a year or two it was sorta charming. Now every time I hear "La Bamba" I want to assault someone. What, is every guy from Puebla a freakin' Mariachi? I'm something of a connoisseur of Tejano/Conjunto music, so the ethnic flavor alone doesn't steam my tamale. Good for entertaining kids, I guess. I do admire their precision formation money-collecting skills, however.

Years ago in Cambridge there was a dude in a wheelchair who roamed Harvard Square repeating "give money for wheelchair basketball" over and over in the same low voice, shaking his can. He did pretty well. I once saw him walk into the Mug and Muffin and order coffee. Walk, I said.

Since then I don't even believe the amputees are on the level, though in the interest of my eternal soul I'll give 'em what's in my pocket just because it has to be hard to fake being legless.

The iPod is the greatest invention ever from a New York-centric perspective. Blessed unawareness, granter of solace, permitter of many answered emails by the time I get uptown. I'm not that big a fan of street theater, even the really avant garde stuff.

It's a hell of a town.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:01 PM on November 25, 2008

And don't get me started on the Lubavitchers.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:03 PM on November 25, 2008

He doesn't really beg, he draws pictures of you and then gives them to you.

& is fun to converse with.

Huh, didn't know that about the kids, where did you get that info? I rarely see them during weekdays.
posted by sondrialiac at 5:12 PM on November 25, 2008

Why I don't like chuggers
- Once I had one come to the door and try to get me to sign up with a charity. Told him I already did (truth - charity I support through 'sponsoring' various children). He was honestly surprised, admitted he knew nothing about the charity and asked if I could tell him about it.
- After the Asian Tsunami, would often get assualted by chuggers asking for money. Always told them I had already given. Some were cool, some would ask why not give more. I told them (again, truthfully) I was raising a kid alone at home because my husband had gone, with 48 hours notice, to work on Tsunami relief in Aceh, didn't know when he was coming back, as far as I was concerned that was enough from our household. Even then some wouldn't stop.
- A month ago got stopped by a chugger asking me to sign up DD for 'his' charity. Said I was leaving the country soon (again, the truth) but could make a one of donation, how was $30? He said the minimum that would accept was $50. No deal.
- They are annoying people most of the time. Even if it wasn't for all of their vices, that alone is enough reason for me not to like them.
posted by Megami at 5:54 PM on November 25, 2008 [2 favorites]

This would probably not be the best time to admit my non-trivial role in starting the first ever telephone fundraising in the UK.
posted by genghis at 10:55 AM on November 26, 2008

Here's a thought -- make a stack of papers that look like some sort of sign-up list, and cary them on a clipboard with a string-tied pen on it wherever you go, and maybe they'll think you're one of them, and leave you alone.
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:55 PM on November 26, 2008

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