‘Don’t let chuggers put you off giving to charity’

My Sunday paper recently carried a six-page investigation into street fundraisers or “chuggers”, with one agency in particular accused of poor staff training, shoddy practices, and broken guidelines, if not law. The newspaper suggested the owners of this profit-making business had pocketed �2.4m in dividends. If true, all of that is the very opposite of what most of us would recognise as charity.

Speaking personally, I don’t recall ever being “pestered”, and I think I am perfectly capable of saying “no thank you” and walking on. Having said that, I wouldn’t like to see my charity, Haven House, involving an outside agency in this way. Chuggers can leave negative feelings amongst many of those they approach and it’s not always easy to measure that negative impact.

My biggest worry though about this story, is what it does to the public’s perception of charities in general, and as a result the overall impact on giving, particularly for smaller charities like Haven House.

Street fundraisers tend to be employed by larger national charities who can most afford the initial outlay in cost. We have some 180,000 charities in the UK but an increasing percentage of giving is accounted for by the very biggest names – some of whom, I fear, are now perceived by many as little more than large money-making machines.

At Haven House we don’t use street fundraisers. Instead, we have chosen to develop a lottery, to raise the funds needed to meet the growing demand amongst local children and families. We believe that this is a better way, as it offers the local community the opportunity to support Haven House, with the chance of winning something back, particularly important in the current economic climate.

This lottery does involve canvassers who may phone or knock on doors. They are paid by our partners, Local Hospice Lottery (itself a company owned by Farleigh Hospice in Chelmsford). All these men and women are properly trained and managed, they will have full ID on display at all times with a phone number for anyone to call to check, and are trained to be polite and not to pester.

My commitment to all readers is this – if you are approached and you’re not sure as to the canvassers’ legitimacy, call us to check on 020 8505 9944. If you are unhappy about anything to do with the approach, call or email me on MikePalfreman@havenhouse.org.uk

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But, crucially, please don’t be put off from supporting charities by bad behaviour elsewhere. This behaviour is not representative of the majority of us who fundraise fairly, politely and legitimately.

Smaller local causes need your support even more today.