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28 Jun 11

In Defence Of “Chuggers”

“Hi, I’m Mark and I’m a ‘chugger’!” (pause for gasps)

It does seem funny to me that when I tell people that I’m a fundraiser I get that reaction 50 per cent of the time or “oh really? You must hate it”.

Traffic warden, estate agent…chugger!!

I hate the derogatory term “chugger”. I prefer high street warrior – a term I once read in a Guardian article published as a response to the newly coined “chugger” term. The article was written by a journalist who tried out fundraising for a week, lasted a day or two and realised how tough it can be and how dedicated most fundraisers are.

I’ve been a high street warrior for the last eight years and I really love it. I meet amazing people every day who have never considered giving or just didn’t realise the benefits of regular giving. I also make a lot of people smile – a lot more than I’ve ever seen running across the road screaming something about being “chugged”! A polite no will suffice, I’ll have you know.

The way I look at it, fundraising is essential for charities to exist and street fundraising is hugely cost-effective when done well and ethically. Therefore good street fundraisers (high street warriors) are essential too.

A lot of the negative view of street fundraising seems to come from the stereotype of gap year students or undernourished hippies flirting their way down the high street, not taking no for an answer, fluttering their eyelashes or giving puppy dog eyes.

The reality is (generally) far from this. I, for example, am 32 years old with two kids and a wife. I am the sole breadwinner and could do many things to earn money but choose to fundraise because it makes a massive difference and I will never apologise for being paid. I mean, doctors get paid, paramedics get paid, social workers and a whole array of people doing good things are paid, so why shouldn’t a fundraiser too?

I also think too many young people choose to dedicate thier lives to negative things so when they decide to do something positive it should be looked upon accordingly and not shunned.

Besides, look at the facts: in the financial year of 2009-2010 street fundraising brought in 177,665 brand new donors to various charities, giving, roughly, on average £8 per month.

That’s not including gift aid and let’s not get into the debate on how many people drop out – because with rising minimum ages and stricter quality controls, attrition’s not the issue that it may have been in the past. As for myself, I run two teams of fundraisers for the British Red Cross and, with the amount of new donors we’re on course to recruit this year, will raise £1,500,000 projected over a three-year period.

Finally, I’d like to quote a long-term Red Cross supporter, previously recruited by a fellow high street warrior.

Picture the scene: It’s a tough rainy day on Carnaby Street, I’m on one sign-up and have a face like thunder. After approaching the man and him replying hurriedly “no” and me wishing him a good day in pained tones, he stopped dead in his tracks, turned to me and said: “Don’t you dare.”

“What?” was all I could come up with, fearful that an unwarranted complaint was certain, “I just said have a good day”.

“Don’t you dare look like that, and don’t you dare give up. I already support the Red Cross and have done for a while and what you do is amazing, I couldn’t do it!” He continued: “Think about what you make possible. Right now food packages are reaching a disaster area, cholera vaccinations are been given in a refugee camp with an outbreak in a war zone. You might never see the result of what you do because you’re on one side of the solution but on the other side, trust me, lives are being saved because of what you do. I’ve seen it. Now pick yourself up, put a smile on your face and go and get some more people signed up because some of us appreciate what you do.” And off I ran like the energiser bunny.

I think the whole point of what I’m trying to say is that street fundraising is needed and very valuable to charities that choose to use it, and who are we to stop charities from being more cost-effective?

Also “chuggers” are people too. And mostly very good people, so don’t be angry by being approached – it  means you look friendly, and if you give to 50 charities on a regular basis or none at all it’s fine to say no, we’re not there to judge.

We just want to do the best job for the charity that we’re representing.

This blog was originally posted by Mark Quinn, one of our British Red Cross Fundraisers, on the BRC website