Charity in the street

Hannah ThompsonYouGovLabs and UK Public Opinion Website Editor
October 18, 2011, 3:04 PM GMT+0

There is a definite public feeling against charity workers who approach people on the street to try and get them to sign up to a regular donation scheme, our poll has found. Charity workers can be found on most British high streets looking for shoppers to talk to about their charity’s cause, in the hope of a regular direct debit donation or at the very least, raising awareness of the issue at hand. However, they have sometimes been negatively termed ‘charity muggers’ or ‘chuggers’ in reference to their sometimes-aggressive tactics.

Our poll shows that much of the British public say that they are unlikely to stop for such fundraising individuals, however, and over half think that these charity tactics shouldn’t be allowed.

  • Over half (58%) say street fundraising for charities should not be allowed
  • 29% think that it should be allowed
  • A substantial 83% of the British public claim that they are unlikely to stop and talk to a charity fundraisers if approached by them on the street
  • Just 12% say that they are likely to stop and talk to them
  • Nearly half (48%) of people say that when they go in to a commercial area, they are approached ‘some of the times’ they go by charity workers on the street
  • While a full 28% say that ‘most times’ they go into a commercial area they are approached, along with a particularly hassled 10% who say that they are approached ‘every time’ they go to a commercial area
  • Interestingly, a higher proportion of people in Scotland (66%) think street fundraisers should not be allowed compared to 57% and 58% of those in the rest of the UK

Lord Foulkes, a member of the Scottish Parliament, has spoken out on the subject, telling the BBC that he fears that the straightened economic climate might force fundraisers to become ever more aggressive in their approach. He says that his constituents have complained to him that they ‘feel harassed’ by these charity workers and are made to feel ‘mean if they say “no”, when in fact they may already give generously to charity’.

Effective, or a nuisance?

Face-to-face fundraising has been widely practiced since the 90s but reports of charity workers expanding these tactics even beyond the high street and onto people’s doorsteps have seen negative comment directed at fundraisers. Earlier this year, Manchester City Council was one of several authorities to agree time-limits on charity collectors' activities, which allow them to work between certain hours, on certain days of the week, and only in certain parts of town.

However, some observers warn that good causes will actually have to become even more persistent in order to keep people giving to worthwhile causes in these tough times.

Many charities insist that street collecting is a very effective means for them to raise funds. According to the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association (PFRA), over half a million new donors are collected each year via the method, which can amount to over £100m in funds.

See the survey details and full results here