Debra Allcock Tyler: I have no patience with people who complain about our street fundraisers

They do vital work in tough conditions, says our columnist, and if people find them too persistent they should just get over it

Debra Allcock Tyler
Debra Allcock Tyler

Ten years ago I was on the Buse Commission on the self-regulation of charity fundraising. Developments since then on the regulation and management of fundraising have generally been healthy, well-intentioned and largely effective. But I am moved to speak because I am furiously disappointed by a conversation I had recently with a friend of mine about the issue.

We were talking about the challenges the voluntary sector faces in funding itself when he launched into a long tirade about face-to-face fundraisers and how they shouldn't be allowed to work on the street. He told a tale about a street fundraiser who approached him on Tottenham Court Road in London.

My friend spotted the fundraiser and didn't want to stop, so he tried to avoid eye contact and speeded up. But the determined young man nonetheless smiled at him and walked alongside for a couple of yards trying to engage him in conversation. My friend ended up being rude to the young fundraiser, retorted with a sharp and hurried "no thanks, leave me alone" and strode off angrily. And that should have been the end of that.

But I have to confess it's not the end of it for me. In fact, I am still blazing with anger at the selfish, ignorant attitude of my friend. (Don't worry, he's used to my straight-talking and still loves me.)

I blooming love street fundraisers - those poor shivering souls with buckets and direct debit forms, dealing with rude, unhelpful, unpleasant members of the public who are rushing home to their nice warm houses to eat their hot dinners in front of a television they own, surrounded by people who love and care for them.

I have absolutely no time or patience for those people who complain about being asked to give to charity. If you don't want to give, then don't. Say no thanks and move on. And if they are over-persistent, get over it. They have to be, because if charities don't ask, they don't get. They're not doing any harm apart from making people feel guilty and uncomfortable. Frankly, those of us who are lucky enough not to suffer the mostly undeserved disadvantages that others face should feel guilty and uncomfortable about having the privileges we do.

Fundraising is for charity - for human beings, for animals, for the environment; for those suffering, in need or facing challenges that we are lucky enough to avoid. And, furthermore, almost every member of the public, whatever their financial or social circumstances, will at some point in their lives benefit directly or indirectly from the work of a charity. Whether it's mental health, ageing, disability, illness, animal welfare, a national park, a clean river - this work is carried out mostly because of the open-heartedness of donors and volunteers.

So I say to charities: don't ever apologise for asking for money on the street. And if someone does complain - send them to me.

Debra Allcock Tyler is chief executive of the Directory of Social Change

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Already registered?
Sign in
Follow us on:

Latest Jobs

RSS Feed

Third Sector Insight

Sponsored webcasts, surveys and expert reports from Third Sector partners


Expert Hub

Insurance advice from Markel

Managing risk at outdoor events

Managing risk at outdoor events

Partner Content: Presented By Markel

Voluntary and community events are increasingly popular, especially around this time of year.

Third Sector Logo

Get our bulletins. Read more articles. Join a growing community of Third Sector professionals

Register now