Newsmaker: The face of face-to-face - Mick Aldridge, Chief executive, Public Fundraising Regulatory Association

Annie Kelly

Relishing his new role as champion of street fundraisers.

The arrival of Mick Aldridge as chief executive at the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association should lift the spirits of any browbeaten street fundraiser whose clipboard is wilting under the weight of public hostility and media antipathy. In Aldridge the 'chuggers' have found a new champion, a man who is determined to steer face-to-face fundraising into pastures new.

"I'll go anywhere to spread the message," he says. "I'm prepared to be the face of face-to-face fundraising and talk to any organisation necessary to explain its value."

Aldridge has taken the helm at the PFRA at a crucial time for street fundraising. The regulatory association was launched as an independent body in 2003 to promote self-regulation and oversee the use of face-to-face fundraising by charities and professional fundraising organisations, partly in response to a media backlash earlier that year.

Even though the new Charities Bill will sweep away all regulations restricting street funding, Aldridge has a hit list of 130 local authorities he wants to engage with to broker voluntary agreements about levels and activities of public fundraising before the Bill is passed.

"We must work hard to make sure the current restrictions don't creep back into any guidelines or model regulations after the Bill has passed," he says. "The Active Communities Unit has been supportive to date, but we know local government will be lobbying for more regulations after the Bill has passed, so we have to act now to ensure we stay self-regulating."

Aldridge has years of experience in the face-to-face fundraising field, having previously worked for two now defunct consultancies: Push and Fruitful Fundraising. And although he's only months into his new position as full-time chief executive, he's been involved with the PFRA since its inception.

"I've always been fascinated by marketing, advertising, branding and the power of persuasion," he says. "I could probably sell anything, but I don't want to sell guns or bank accounts. I want to sell good ideas."

For Aldridge, face-to-face is the epitome of this. The fundraisers are walking billboards, instant ambassadors who show the human side of the charity brand. The prospect of defying prejudices also appeals.

"It's very exciting, promoting a medium that is powerfully effective," he says. "And for me to try to contribute towards ending the horror stories about street fundraising is pretty challenging stuff. So bring it on."

But do people want chuggers on the streets any more? Aldridge thinks so. In fact, he believes most of us have a great relationship with face-to-face fundraisers.

"In our experience, many members of the public enjoy engaging and giving to charity in this way," he says. "We can't stand for a situation in which local authorities are telling us we can't come because they think someone will complain. We're asking to try it out - and if they do complain, we should have the chance to put it right. Nobody has yet come up with real evidence of serious complaints."

He also believes media antipathy is diminishing. And he's scathing about the emergence of websites such as www.bloodychuggers.co.uk, which calls for an end to street fundraising.

"These people are in the minority," he says. "Although I do dream of finding a blog in favour of face-to-face fundraising."

Aldridge's rallying call is that no charity that uses face-to-face fundraising should hide the fact.

"We should all acknowledge that it works," he says. "It's here to stay.

It's time to embrace that and promote it as positively as possible."

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