Charity ‘Chuggers’ Should Be Banned From The Streets: Discuss

Charity ‘Chuggers’ Should Be Banned From The Streets: Discuss

We’ve all experienced that dreadful sinking feeling after spotting a gaggle of charity fund raisers on the path up ahead. Like impeccably polite mafiosos, they require a “contribution” to let you pass — and they’re not afraid to use first world guilt to get it.

The next few seconds are either spent formulating a brusk excuse (“sorry, in a rush to catch a train/plane/horse!”), or sheepishly crossing the street in the hope that they wont notice (they always notice). Usually, the last thing on your mind is the charity in question — you just want to get past with the contents of your wallet intact. Simply put, people don’t like being accosted for money on the street, regardless of how worthy the cause might be.

Well, it turns out that street fundraising (AKA “chugging”) isn’t that successful anyway; especially when it comes to signing up for regular donations. According to market research agency McNair Ingenuity Research, charities need to rethink the way they reach out to prospective doners.

While the practice of “chugging” is cost-effective from an operational standpoint, it is not the most successful way to secure contributions. Rather, a combination of raised media awareness and direct targeted approaches (such as mail campaigns) is the best way to keep donation levels high.

“Since most people are likely to donate to the charities that they know best, the first and foremost consideration is AWARENESS if you want more donors,” McNair Ingenuity consultant Angela Brooks explained in an opinion piece on Mumbrella.

“In this day and age with literally thousands of different charities to support, and the average number of charities that a person donates to 3.3, there is little room to get the marketing mix wrong.”

In other words, instead of swarming the streets with tins in hand, charities need to better utilise media and communication tools such as advertising, social media and public relations campaigns.

It may be that some charities are already getting the message. According to McNair Ingenuity’s latest annual poll, just 66 per cent of people were approached by a “chugger” in the last year, compared to 88 per cent in 2009. Of those who were approached, only 26 per cent agreed to sign up to make a regular donation. In addition, collection tins on average receive significantly smaller donations than either door-to-door or credit card donations.

To recap, street-level fundraising has proven to be less effective than other charitable strategies and it can also cause frustration and resentment on the receiving end. Some even argue that the damage it causes to a charity’s “brand” far outweighs the revenues raised. So why is it still a thing?

Do you think the world would be a better place if charities abandoned this practice altogether? Or are you of the opinion that every dollar counts, no matter how annoyingly it’s acquired? Share you thoughts in the comments section below. We’d also like to hear the best excuses you’ve used to get past chuggers unmolested.

[Via Mumbrella]


  • I could imagine these guys getting maced if they did this in places like NY.

    Though I did get stopped by some rappers ‘giving away’ cheap CDs doing a similar thing – they were targeting people clearly not from NY to avoid this kind of response.

    • This happened to me in New York. He ended up “signing” the CD and pissed me off so much with his false friendliness that I walked off and left him with an unsellable disk (to anyone who’s name couldn’t be distorted into “J-sexy”… ugh.)

  • I’ve always just brushed past can-rattlers unless I particularly like the cause, but I used to get sucked into those conversations with the people who want to sign you up for long-term regular donations. Now I understand that they don’t want to waste their time with somebody they can’t convince (ie me) any more than I want to be guilted into donating “just fifteen dollars a month every month (for the rest of your life.”) My current strategy is to look them in the eye, smile and say “no thank you” then continue my day.

    • Yeah, I go with, “Good luck.”

      That said, how much human contact they want is often a function of how driven they are. I actually managed to swing a lucrative job by talking to a girl who was doing that streetside charity gig, and had clearly got to a point of desperation where she was actually saying things like, “Hello! Hi! Just some eye contact! Don’t even need to sign up or chat, just some acknowledgement of existence would be great!” while literally dozens of people put invisible blinkers on and stared straight ahead, walking past.

      I didn’t have anywhere to be in particular so wandered over and struck up a conversation in commiseration. She asked what brought me to the city, I said job hunting, she asked what industry, I told her tech, she mentioned she knew a guy looking for folks with skills she didn’t have personally, gave me his number. I called him, he liked my voice and resume, said he’d already done a recruitment routine (group interviews, single interviews, all that bullshit) but could probably squeeze me in with the last intake. Our interview was a coffee at Starbucks which he admitted almost immediately was just so he could get a look at me to make sure I was professionally presentable, then I was in.

      So that’s serendipity in action, but it only came about because there was a girl on the street who just wanted to be treated like a human for a moment or two.
      Shitty job. Couldn’t do it, myself.

  • I usually pretend I just got a phone call and continue past having a conversation with an imaginary colleague. My phone’s usually on silent, so I usually don’t get caught out, and if someone calls during my charade, I just say “oh hang on, I’ve got someone calling me, I’ll talk to you later” and pick up the call.
    When I’m caught unawares, I just say that I lock in my charity commitments at the beginning of the year as I work it into my budget, and reevaluate each year. I usually ask them to give me a flyer so I can consider them when I review. It works because it’s the truth.

    • I try to ignore them, but if they still try to engage, I tell them I’m actually homeless and ask them if they’ve got any loose change.

      • ^^ Hahah.. I personally like to really drill them about where the moneys going and how they know and what percentage their corporate overage represents etc.

  • We typically donate $500 a year to a charity so I don’t feel bad by brushing past these people. Don’t forget, they work for an organisation contracted by the charity to collect funds and only about 50% makes it to the charity.

    “I’m sorry, I’m not in a charity cycle right now. See me in November!”
    “I’m sorry, you’re not one of the charities we donate to.”
    “Oh great but look, I’m in a hurry right now but if you give me your home number I’ll call you later!” Thank you Seinfeld!

    • “Don’t forget, they work for an organisation contracted by the charity to collect funds and only about 50% makes it to the charity.”

      That’s a VERY broad brush… and a false statement. Some but certainly not all collectors are paid.. For smaller organisations, certainly not.. they can’t afford it.

      As someone who has volunteered to help a charity that supports my brother, and stood in a mall “chugging”, the whole premise of this article is incorrect. Chugging is indeed successful at raising money. In my case, on the day I Chugged we raised $5000 from 20 odd collectors from 6am to midday.

      And, in Adelaide at least, there are rules that you cannot approach people. You can interact, but the giver must make the approach.

      • Given the ones in the city in Canberra are all british backpackers being put up in hotels, I can almost guarantee 50% would be a generous number to get back to the charity. I can’t remember the last time I had a chugger come up to me that was Australian.

        I’ll happily throw my change to the old Salvo’s bloke who sits there every day, but I’m not giving any chugger my credit card number.

      • Tin shaking is not normally considered chugging. People are usually happy to give loose change. The ones ppl hate and the reference to 50% being taken by the ppl doing it are the credit card based operations. Its normal for the company to get the first 3 months, the chugger to get the next 3 months worth and then the charity starts getting money. Volunteers don’t do the street credit card angle.

      • It may indeed be a very broad brush, but I find that I am now extremely cynical with regards to charities and will donate only when I am very sure the person is a volunteer. I also read the back of raffle tickets and if it is run by a commercial company “for reward” I don’t buy the ticket and explain to the seller why I chose not to.

  • I generally just don’t even stop, or slow down. They can be as pushy as they want.

    A few weeks back there was a group of them in a local shopping centre collecting (probably signing people up) for some charity to do with kids. As I was walking by he asked me how I was going. I made eye contact, replied politely, told him I was busy and said ‘Have a good day’. He responded by glaring at me and saying “Ohh, so you dont care if these kids die”.

    Thought that was an interesting tactic to get money from people.

    I understand they get better results by being pushy and guilting people into signing up, but donating money to any charity is supposed to be a choice that you feel good about. You aren’t supposed to feel like you have been conned.

    • I had one guy say to me “Hey you have some really good biceps, do you work out?”

      I don’t, and I don’t, but it was so obvious that I just laughed and kept on walking.

  • I just say “No thanks” and keep walking. No is a perfectly acceptable answer.

    The thing that concerns me about this sort of collecting is the commissions that are often paid. I’d much rather give to my chosen charities directly.

  • I’ve found that the easiest way to deal with them is to not engage. I don’t physically avoid them. I don’t lie to them and say I’m busy, in a rush, etc. (I’m very rarely in a rush, though).

    Walk straight past/through them, don’t make eye contact – that’s not to say look at your feet – and don’t say anything except for a polite “Hello”.

    I don’t really care to be shamed into donating, I don’t really care to waste my time talking about something I’m not incredibly passionate about. And I don’t think it’s unfair to feel this way.

    Having said that, I’ve spent time talking with these people when I’m going to be there anyway – say, waiting for a friend, or a bus. It’s a great exercise in testing their knowledge of their field. Then I walk off. (Yeah, this might be a bit rude.)

    • That works for the first person. And the second. Perhaps the third. It’s when you get harrassed for the tenth or eleventh time and it’s been a hard day anyway — that’s when it isn’t welcomed. Unfortunately, they are using my politeness against me. They are generally not polite, they are pushy and rude, and don’t take no for an answer.

      If I shake my head, they should let me go. I shouldn’t have to follow up with a “No, I’m not interested.” Sometimes that’s not even enough, they just keep coming and coming and coming … it will never stop … argh!

  • It’s an annoyance. But how else are European backpackers going to make beer money on their trip around Oz?

    I don’t think it needs to be banned. I just can’t see it being that lucrative. Maybe it’ll just die a natural death.

  • People out the front of a store rattling cans for lose change, or selling Anzac Day badges/remembrance poppies are fine, they don’t harm anyone, they just sit there accepting anything you can offer.

    The problem is the groups of people who want to sign you up for things, who feel the need to try and engage you in conversation before asking you to sign up to a $n a month donation package.

    I’m surprised more retailers don’t act against these people. I suspect it’s harming the retailers more than the general public. Look at how many people cross the road to avoid these people, think about how many people don’t go into shops they’re standing out the front of?

    Councils should charge these people by the hours to stand there, and make them pay a fee to the retailer they’re out the front of while they’re at it. Maybe if they actually start paying for the inconvenience and loss they cause they’ll change their ways?

    • They’re not allowed within something ridiculous like 10m of a shopping mall entrance here, which they breach all the time anyway. The shopping mall wouldn’t care anyway, they rent stall space to those black sea mud people who basically use the exact same tactics to sell you face mud.

    • +1 I don’t mind these types.

      I happily drop in lose change that I have as long as they don’t get to my sign up to shit.

  • Walking past with earphones/headphones on usually works well for avoiding them talking to you. Failing that, a simple no thank you, or not today seems to work.

  • I have no idea if this is true or not but I’ve heard from a lot of different people that even if they do manage to sign you up, you’re not actually helping the charity much at all – at least, not as first.

    Apparently, the chuggers you see on the street aren’t employed directly by the charity they represent; rather they work for a contracting agency that provides this service to the charity in question. This agency apparently profits by taking quite a large slice of the donation. The reason they’re so desperate to get you to sign up for a repeating donation is that initially, the agency takes most of the donation – say 80% for the first year, while 20% goes to the charity. As the years go by, that ratio changes until after the fifth year of the plan (for example), everything is going to the charity.

    As I say, I have no evidence to back this up but it’s a popular theory.

    • This is what I have heard also. On top of this, the charities they solicit for are often not particularly productive/efficient charities anyway.

    • I signed a contract for one of these once, not knowing better. The contract stated the entirety of the first eight (or was it eighteen? I can’t recall) months of pledges went to the sub-contracted company who’d solicited the commitment. Scary amount of money that I’d dumbly assumed was destined to help less fortunate people.

      • Would anyone here like if a non for profit street Fund-raised directly to run benevolent programs for disadvantaged members of our communities? While not contracting but Directly employing disadvantaged members of society, the Non Profit in turn collects for positive change while helping people that struggle to work while assisting them to address barriers as they become enabled to achieve their goals moving forward. Its a model run in Victoria and looks at not hassling people, rather raising awareness around a great cause (other humans) where disadvantaged persons are given an opportunity to work and begin to actively contribute to society by learning job skills, people skills, and getting mentored to break down barriers so people may realize their self worth and hidden potential…something that many never get the chance to.
        These said Fundraiser have been told to never harass and rather be known for a positive image that creates change for real individuals that do it so tough. I know this from my Mentoring work and our disadvantaged members of the teams are inspired by the generosity out there as well as hurt by the ruddiness of some members of the public. Work like this is a launching pad where responsibility and commitment is learnt and can be adapted to focus on where the youth would like his energy directed, tools in hand. I understand some coin collectors/fundraisers cross the line, people still are people and it would be lovely if all could remember manners doesn’t cost a Cent and not everyone are trying to rob you. Once someone passes judgement without really knowing, just assuming they know whats up while also deciding to play games and concoct their own thoughts of what a particular charity is doing and how it is functioning, open your eyes, mind and hearts and do some research.

  • Of course they shouldn’t be banned. They’re doing a job, and it’s one that is (usually) for a good call.

    If you don’t want to engage, just say, ‘sorry, no thank you’ and don’t slow down. Pretty easy.

    • If they’re rude or aggressive, they’re likely just sick of the constant rejection. In which case, feel free to turn around and tell them that if that’s their attitude, they should probably look for a different line of work.

    • That’s like saying that homeless people shouldn’t be moved on or banned from begging in the streets. Chugging is nothing more than begging under the pretense that it’s for a worthy cause.

      They’re no more “doing a job”, than a car thief is “doing a job” when he is stealing a car.

      Charities that resort to chugging are just plain lazy. If they want to earn money they should set up a tent and a BBQ and provide people with something they want.

      • Yes! I will always buy a sausage and a drink at a sausage sizzle, and I usually let them keep the change.

      • Comparing collecting for charity to stealing cars. That’s an actual comparison you have just made. Seriously?

        So someone on the street, asking for regular donations to build wells in Africa so people can get clean drinking water, is AS BAD AS STEALING A CAR?

        • I think it was more an allusion to their methods of obtaining that money and the complex web of red tape where everyone gets their cut before the well in Africa gets the 2c out of the dollar you donated.

  • Near where i live the door knockers are children while there parents wait on the street, pretty low tactics sending your kids in.
    Though once a drunk friend tackled a wwf guywearing a koala suit, he was like a turtle on his back, couldnt get back up.

    • Yeah, that’s real nice assaulting someone while they work. Not funny. Not nice. Not brave. Just nasty really.

      • Harassing people in public is not nice either, and working? I didn’t know they were paid.

  • I think the system is woefully inefficient in terms of effective altruism however I have no inherent problem with them or their existence. I simply walk past them and don’t acknowledge them. Those that feel the need to shake their hand or talk to them only have themselves to blame.

    The times when they are to be condemned are the times when anyone is to be condemned:
    * The commit assault or battery

    In all the years I have heard friends and colleagues complain about them, this threshold is very very rarely reached.

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m quite the misanthrope who dislikes the existence of most other people. But I’m also realistic about it.

  • The guys who stand outside the shops are the worst, they try to get you going in and back out again, I dont care what charity it is, I’m tired of getting harassed just about everywhere you go, save the beer breasted spotted warbling fish, save the kids, save this, sponsor that. Hey, I’ve got an idea for you… Fuck off and leave me in peace! And yes I’m a grumpy old bastard! And I dont care who knows it.

  • I hate when its a charity I have/do donate to and they ask and I tell them “Sorry, I’ve already donated” and then they try and guilt me as if I haven’t and I’m just lying! Frustrating. But otherwise I just say no and walk past

    • This is particularly annoying when you are, in fact, lying. The web of deceit starts to tangle you as they ask more questions. Tch. Bloody blaggards.

    • ^^^ Like.

      It’s really difficult to master, by very fulfilling to pull it off – is to say “no” to them, in exactly the same voice & facial expression as you would use if your dog looked like it was about to shit on the carpet.

      Not loud, not abrupt, just firm and forceful, and with an unavoidable condescending undertone that they should have known you would be displeased, and they should be ashamed of what they are asking.

  • I refuse to go out of my way to avoid them. I’ve found that a slight dismissive shake of the head & an assertive “no, sorry” without slowing down as you walk past/through them ends discussion fast enough.
    I run a veritable gauntlet of these guys every day heading from work into the city food courts for lunch, so I think they’ve started to recognise me as a lost cause.


    twice now I have been ‘kinded’ into signing up to those long term donation things.
    Problem is, is that i’m a nice guy and it’s hard for me to ignore someone who is trying to get my attention “Hey, how are you etc..”

    I now take longer routes to avoid said people lol.

    at the end of the day If i want to donate to a cause I will do it online and when I feel like it.

  • I give what I believe is an extremely fair amount every month to the charities I’ve chosen. What annoys me is if I tell them I can’t afford it because I already support several and they INSIST. It still happens every time and unfortunately it’s starting to breed a little contempt in me.

  • just to add to this, My girlfriend once worked for one of these charity things (she did not know at the time what she was getting herself into)

    What they did is that each week they would pick a ‘charity/cause’ for them to practically ‘sell’ and they would send everyone out everywhere.

    If you did not make a certain amount of money you would get in big trouble by the team leader so you were forced to make the sales.

    in the end since my girlfriend was not pushy enough was fired by one of her team members (weird huh?), needless to say she was relieved.

    The company that she was working for is a massive multimillion dollar corporation it basically is run like giant pyramid scheme.

    The team leader gets commission from the how good their team do and so on ( you get the idea)

    trying to think of the name but I just cant put my finger on it atm was something like “adeco” adveco” you won’t see the company name on the employees since their uniform changes to what they are selling ie royal lifesaving etc.

  • I donate to about 15 major charities on a regular basis through direct payments, workplace donation programs, and direct mail campaigns. So many, that most of the chuggers who jump in front of me walking along George St in Sydney (where they have the really annoying habit of doing it about 15m in front of the bus stop I’m normally rushing to get to) were … chugging (?) for charities I already donate to. When I say “I’m already donating”, they almost always move on straight away. If you don’t mind lying, I’d say this would work on most chuggers, even if you don’t donate to them.

  • Chuggers? Ignored!

    Unemployed people trying to make a living selling The Big Issue? Definitely!

    I gave a guy in Pitt Street, Sydney (who was in a wheelchair) $20 for The Big Issue magazine one day, but I told him to keep the magazine for someone else. He was a bit surprised at first. The $20 was because he actually got out of bed to sit in a wheelchair all day in front of hundreds of people to try and make a living. That’s his *job*.

    I didn’t say this to him of course, but told him: “I’ve been unemployed before as well, so I know how hard it is. Hopefully this can help you out.” He was very surprised, but more importantly, so amazingly grateful and appreciative.

  • I recommend the No Agenda method of dealing with chugging.

    What ever the cause is, you hate it.

    Chugger – Hi, I’m here today to help the children on the world!

    You – I hate the children of the world.

    Keep a straight face, the couple of seconds of time your responds buys you is enough to get a few extra meters away from them. You do get some very weird looks from people you are with, but after a couple of goes they get past that, and even start using it.

  • What kind of ethics does a charity have if it makes people feel bad to get them to donate?

    Don’t engage with them, but don’t ignore them either. If they ask me a question I either answer it (if it’s a simple one to answer quickly) or just smile at them – but I always keep walking. Never stop, even for a second, never look round if they make some remark as you pass.

  • Ask them if they know what the CEO of their charity gets paid; whether he flies first class and stays five-star (like Tim Costello and the rest of the professional-parasite Charity Vampires); or what the MER (management expense ratio) is.

    If they can’t tell you, just say “Sorry – I’m not giving my money to any cause that probably just funnels it to some Vaucluse-living vampire. Have a top day.” [substitute Toorak for Vaucluse, Victards).

    Or – if I’m really in a mood to be cruel – I’ll engage them on why the charity in question is not sufficiently radical (doesn’t support BDS in Palestine, doesn’t advocate hard enough to bring key US war criminals to the Hague for trial… that’s always a good one for Amnesty) and give them a short lecture on why anarchy is the only system that doesn’t wind up being captured by megalomanaical sociopaths.

    But ban chuggers? Weak…

    In fact, we can put the ubiquitous CCTV surveillance to good use: people too soft to say “No” to chuggers do not have the requisite strength of character to properly raise children, so we can use the chuggers to identify the weak-of-character, then abduct them and spey them.

    Y’all know it makes sense: after all, it would be “for the children” – all that’s required for every wet-brained leftie nincompoop undergrad Sociology major to support it as a policy. If there are still dissenters, all that’s required is to pay a leftie authority figure to tell them to change their minds. Who’s the modern Natasha Stott-Despoja?


    • Another one to add to the list [works well for ‘development ‘charities]. “For every dollar of aid which makes it to the developing world, $10 gets stolen in tax fraud. That is, very roughly $AU 200 Billion per year comes in as aid, and $AU 2 Trillion is squirrelled away to bank accounts in the likes of the bahamas” Where does [Charity] stand on tax fraud?”

  • What they are is a bait-and-switch; they ask for a donation, but make you sign a contract! That is not donation.

    I speak as someone who has done community level fundraising for years (local hospital, APEX, bushfire relief, etc) We never made people sign-up for things, were always happy to accept cash donation, provide information, and never attempted to guilt anyone who didn’t want to give time/money.

    As for street fund-raisers, If they just want people to, you know – ‘put some coins (or a note) in the tin’ i’m fine with that. If they also want to hand some glossy brochure with it, OK. Selling a Big Issue? I’ll take it to read on the train.

    Chuggers on the other hand are different. They won’t accept cash. They wont provide information on the charity (beyond their sales pitch), they must ‘sign you up’ to a contract and take your credit card details, or account. Often the ‘contract’ contains a clause to ‘periodically increase donation in line with inflation’ (which may be arbitrarily defined as, say 5-7% per year, rather than actual CPI). Maybe that is all fine if one has a large, stable, guaranteed income, but as someone living week-to-week, the last thing one needs is something else which takes $50,$60,$70 per month out of the bank account.

    Many of these ‘Chuggers’ are in-fact employees of contracted marketing companies, of which there are two main types. Call centre operators, and MLM scheme operators. The call centre operators pay minimum wage, but only count ‘working’ as the time spent on a successful ‘sale’ (a practice of dubious legality, which makes it difficult to earn any meaningful income). The MLMs on the other hand operate like a pyramid scam, where pay depends on the person’s hierarchy. Often the marketing company keeps the first year of ‘donations’ to themselves, with an increasing share going to the charity over time(usually the company is still receiving some cut after 24 months).

    The whole scheme only works while the number of subscribers is growing. Once the growth stops, it becomes a loose-loose for the charities (who have lost their ‘goodwill’ and suddenly need to keep paying exorbitant fees to maintain their ‘subscriber base’). Unfortunately the decision makers in these institutions are so short-sighted that they overlook the real impacts of their decision whenever short-term gain is involved.

    [The reason I am writing this? I had such ‘Chuggers’ knock on my door! First, they then attempted to mislead me about – the purpose of their ‘visit’. – the ‘cost’ of their subscription (“… thats $11 per month … so you will give $11 …” “just $11 as a once off?” oh $11 per week, thats $48 per month …” Then claimed I could get it all back as a tax deduction (not even earning enough to pay tax atm!)]

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