A volunteer group based in the north west of England has sent emails to every MP and local council in England, Scotland and Wales claiming that "chugging" is the worst and most damaging form of fundraising and calling for the public to be informed of the fees that fundraising agencies charge.
UK Charity Aid, which organises fundraising events and street collections around the north west for a range of charities, launched the email campaign because it believes professional fundraisers are having a negative impact on its own fundraising efforts, for which its volunteers are unpaid.
One of the two emails the group has sent to MPs and councils says that more than 90 per cent of the public dislike street fundraising methods, citing as its source surveys by third parties such as the Bolton News. The emails also describe the Public Regulatory Fundraising Association as the "paid mouthpiece" of fundraising agencies and says that it takes 75p of each new donor’s money. The 75p refers to the levy members pay the PFRA for each new donor they sign up. This income funds the PFRA’s services, such as running site diaries, managing site checks and mystery shopping programmes, and conducting research.
The volunteer group contacted every council in England, Scotland and Wales in June to ask what complaints they had received about street fundraising; it received responses from 73. A representative from Wiltshire Council is quoted describing street fundraisers as "pushy, intimidating and obstructing free passage into shops", while Test Valley Borough Council in Hampshire said it had considered signing up to a site-management agreement with the PFRA but was concerned this would "regularise the activity of chuggers and will not remove the problem".
Peter Quinn, chairman of UK Charity Aid, said in one of the emails: "Chugging is now a huge business machine that employs hundreds of people and has made millionaires out of so many. We don’t have much to fight with, but if we can help one person to make an informed decision about whether to sign up with a chugger, we’ve done something worthwhile. That’s why we, the passive majority, should be fighting back against the harassing, aggressive minority."
Quinn also urges MPs and councils to view a report broadcast by BBC Newsnight in 2010 about the fees paid to fundraising companies, and says that "chugging has brought words such as harassment and aggression into what used to be a noble cause".
Quinn told Third Sector the emails were designed to increase public awareness of the costs of street fundraising and to allow donors to make an informed choice about the methods they used to give to charities. "I don’t think people should be stopped in the street and asked to donate to charity," he said. "Secondly, it’s a lot of money that the chuggers take out, rather than giving it to the charity – why do they not tell people this?"
Asked if he was concerned that the report could have an impact on UK Charity Aid’s own street fundraising efforts, Quinn said: "If we got rid of chuggers, we’d do a lot better. People think that we’re chuggers, so we’re highlighting that difference."
Peter Hills-Jones, head of policy and communications at the PFRA, said in a statement: "The unfounded and unsubstantiated claims made in these biased emails are simply not borne out by hard evidence. The role of volunteers, in all aspects of charities’ work is invaluable, as is the role of professional fundraisers. Some might wish to turn people against each other, but we at the PFRA prefer to celebrate all who work for charities and focus on those who benefit from the money raised, regardless of the source."