Sacked street fundraiser: I was EveryChild's scapegoat for its lack of data protection training

Kaye Wiggins talks to the chugger who sparked an inquiry by the Information Commissioner's Office

EveryChild street fundraiser
EveryChild street fundraiser

A face-to-face fundraiser who sparked an inquiry by the Information Commissioner's Office by leaving a clipboard containing donors' direct debit details on a street in Norwich believes the international development charity EveryChild used him as a scapegoat.

The fundraiser was not sacked after the incident because it was admitted he had not been trained in data protection, but he was dismissed four months later for allegedly drinking alcohol while working, a claim he denies.

Staff at the charity had been looking for an excuse to dismiss him since the data was lost, he said in an interview with Third Sector. "By not training me in data protection, they messed up - and I was the scapegoat."

Since his dismissal, he said, all but two of the team of street fundraisers who had worked with him had left their jobs and been replaced.

The fundraiser, who asked not to be named, admitted that he left the clipboard unattended in a bag on a bench and that this was negligent. But he said it was common practice among street fundraisers because it was hard to carry everything all the time.

The clipboard was handed to the ICO by Mike Smith, a member of the public who campaigns for tighter restrictions on street fundraising. The ICO carried out an inquiry under the Data Protection Act and ordered the charity to tighten up its procedures.

Since the incident, all EveryChild street fundraisers have been trained in data protection and instructed to keep donor information with them. Some street fundraisers for other charities use electronic pads to record donor details so they don't need clipboards.

The fundraiser, who is 19 and going to university in September, said he and his family had supported EveryChild for years and he chose to become a fundraiser for the charity because he admired its work.

He said he was consistently one of EveryChild's top performers, but found that street fundraisers were treated as dispensable and given targets and promises of bonuses that were unrealistic and counterproductive.

"EveryChild is a brilliant charity, and I really wanted to help it to raise funds," he said.

"But the problem is management's approach to street fundraisers. They're on temporary contracts, so they're so expendable."

The culture of targets led many street fundraisers to pester people on the street, he said, and to ask friends and family to sign up on the understanding that they would cancel their direct debits soon afterwards.

"I know that at some charities, people are told they will be sacked if they don't get four sign-ups on a particular day," he said.

"I never did anything I'm ashamed of at EveryChild, but I did ask my brother and grandmother to sign up.

"I had gone for three days without getting a sign-up because it was the middle of winter, it was snowing and no one would stop and talk to me.

"So I was desperate. I was worried I'd lose the job I loved if I didn't meet my targets."

The charity should scrap performance-related pay, he said. "I don't think I've ever heard of a fundraiser being motivated by bonuses. The bar is always so high that you know you're never going to get them."

He said smaller teams of more committed fundraisers who did not work to targets would raise as much money as larger, target-driven teams.

"These are young, idealistic, bohemian people," he said. "The managers don't understand that; they think people will raise funds only if they have targets to meet."

What the sacked chugger told me: read Kaye Wiggins's blog post


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