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Big debate - street charity collectors in Bexleyheath

PUBLISHED: 09:22 06 September 2012

Nick Gianakakis

Nick Gianakakis

Archant

To some they are an annoyance (especially in Bexleyheath) but to others, they provide a welcome opportunity to donate to charity with minimum inconvenience

Ian McQuillanIan McQuillan

There seems to be very little middle ground concerning street charity collectors, or ‘chuggers’ as some people call them, blending charity and muggers.

Just two weeks ago new regulations were introduced to limit their practices. These stipulate that they can not follow a person for more than three steps; they must not stand within three metres of shop doorways, crossings, cash points, train stations or bus stops and they can not sign up people for direct debits if they appear drunk.

The Public Fundraising Regulatory Authority (PFRA) also states that they must leave people alone when clearly asked to do so. Offenders can be fined up to £1,000 so it is clear that the PFRA means business.

We asked the people of Bexley what they think about ‘chuggers’ after conversations on Streetlife.com revealed that they are key issue affecting Bexleyheath town centre.

Nick Gianakakis, 23, Bexleyheath, business to business sales

We all feel it time to time- that prickling sensation on the back of your neck to snap you out of which ever idyllic scene currently playing through our head.

The red warning light flashes and lets us know ‘here be dragons’. Albeit their skin is not is not impenetrable and scaly, rather brightly coloured and parka-ry. Yes, as we sail down the sea of any given high street, our personal space is bombarded by these denizens of the deep pockets.

Yet for all we hear of the ‘chuggers’, they are just people trying to stick to, often unobtainable, targets in order to earn some money. Subsequently, this work can allow them to get through uni with at least some of their debt minimised, as is often the case.

The new rules should go some way to alleviating perceived problems relating to charity workers, yet also provide flaws. The charities are to be fined for breaches, not the private companies that are renting this service out to organisations.

As we cruise down our high-streets, we feel even more inconvenienced, when the wind is knocked out of our sails by some upstart with half orange/half pink hair and a poorly maintained beard. Before you fire a broadside of bile at them, consider this. Could you do their job? Endless rejection whilst aiming for ridiculous targets? Rather than lamenting look to government and ourselves for pushing charities to undertake these means.

Ian McQuillan, 47, Public Fundraising Regulatory Authority

Face-to-face fundraising (F2F) – what some people call ‘chugging’ - is the fundraising success story of the past 15 years.

One of the charity sector’s most senior fundraisers has said it “literally saved the charity sector” when it appeared in in 1997 because other ways of finding new donors had “gone through the roof”.

That’s why so many charities to use F2F, because more than 200,000 new donors take out monthly direct debits each year.

However, F2F’s greatest success is also its greatest weakness. It is a brilliant way to enthuse people about a charity’s cause.

But if it’s done badly, or even done well to people who don’t like to be approached this way, it has the potential to generate a very adverse reaction.

Because F2F is so high-profile – and we can’t deny, controversial – it not only has to be practised to high standards, but been seen to be practised to high standards. That’s why the PFRA introduced a new best practice regime for street fundraisers earlier this month.

The Institute of Fundraising has had a code of practice for the past decade, but our new rules – such as not standing within three metres of a shop door or station entrance – provide more operation detail to complement the code.

And we can issue penalty points for rule breaches, which will ultimately mean fines for the organisations breaching most rules.

We are certain this will drive up trust and understating of this vital method of fundraising and ensure it is available to charities for years to come.

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