UK Weighs Effects of “Chugging” for Charities

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February 28, 2012; Source: The Guardian

In the UK, “chugging” (a mash-up of “charity” and “mugging,” for those who aren’t familiar with the term) or face-to-face fundraising is being monitored closely online and in local government councils by people trying to assess both the benefits and the problems of the practice for the charitable sector. Last month, the town council in Burnley, Lancashire, banned the practice during five of the seven days of the week, opening up the possibility that other councils might follow. As a way to extend and bring focus to this ongoing debate, the Guardian invited two professionals from the charitable sector to provide perspective on why this reliable fundraising practice is now generating problems for UK charities.

As a “chugging” advocate—but also someone who’d favor a new name for the practice—UK charity consultant Rachel Beer observes that, “Whoever had the bright idea of merging ‘charity’ and ‘mugging’ to describe face-to-face fundraising has presumably never been mugged.” She acknowledges, however, that a recent query to her Twitter followers for their impressions of “chuggers” resulted in one word descriptors that included “aggressive, intimidating, invasive, nuisance, pests, pushy, stressful, unfortunate, and unpleasant.” Beer also shares the more in-depth comment from one person who noted, “It raises lots of money, but … it turns increasing numbers of people off charitable giving.”

According to charity consultant Joe Saxton, “Street fundraising is one of the great success stories of fundraising of the last 20 years” and is a particularly effective method of reaching young donors. In Saxton’s view, the opportunity for face-to-face dialogue gives potential donors opportunities to address questions in a way that goes beyond a print or media advertisement or an organizational website. In a time when less government funding is available to charities, Saxton also finds it “ironic, even perverse, that local authorities are curtailing an activity that helps charities to cope with the extra work those same councils are foisting upon them.”

The Association for Fundraising Professionals has outlined voluntary guidelines for member organizations in the U.S. and Canada that employ face-to-face fundraising. The guidelines include recommendations for conduct, communications and data protection. Are these fundraisers doing an effective job of cultivating a new demographic on behalf of nonprofits in the U.S.? –Anne Eigeman