Chuggers. Where do you stand? Annoying, clip-board wielding students impeding your route to Top Shop, or essential front line fundraisers helping to keep our charities afloat?

Whatever your stance (and ours, we have to admit on occasion, is “pick phone up, pretend you’re having a conversation, recalculate route…”) it looks like the ‘charity mugger’ is about to become something of an endangered species. At least, that’s one of the options currently under discussion…

SevenStreets understands that City Central Bid, the management team that works in partnership with shops and businesses from Bold Street to Lord Street, Mathew Street and St John’s Lane, is reviewing their policy, with the view to curtailing the ever-proliferating, and frankly deathly, press-ganger’s cry of ‘Can I ask you a quick question…’

There was a time, of course, when a smile, a quid and a sticker was the sum total of the encounter. Flag days, and Scouts packing your bags at Sainsburys. Ah, innocent times. Now, with charities appealing for regular monthly standing orders, the exchange has been taken to a whole new level. And with upwards of 20 or so fundraisers strategically placed along Church Street and Lord Street, there’s a definite step-change in the way we navigate our town centre.

Add to this the privatised streets of Liverpool ONE being (mostly) charity-free zones, and you begin to see why the beleagured businesses of our city’s core are beginning to think that, erm, charity begins at home. Or at least at the tills.

City Central Bid are going to be watching Manchester City Council very closely over the next month while they dot the i’s of their new proposal – over there, the council has limited clipboard fundraising to just three days a week, and at just four dedicated zones.

City Co, their city centre management company, has drafted the joint agreement in conjunction with the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association (PFRA), adding Manchester to a growing list of 39 other UK towns and cities creating a framework to ensure charities, businesses and shoppers can carve out some kind of compromise.

“The new agreement is a breakthrough,” City Co says, “which acknowledges charities’ legal right to fundraise on streets as well as the ensuring that Manchester city centre remains a pleasant place to work.”

It’s an emotive issue. SevenStreets understands that it’s a tough time for charities. We just wonder whether soliciting for bank account details from part-time (commission-paid) collectors in a public place has ever been the fairest, most equitable, or effective way to raise awareness, or funds, for worthwhile causes.

Yes, we’ve signed up to a couple, but we’ve also been made to feel guilty when we’ve declined. It’s times like these that makes one wonder – left unregulated, doesn’t the whole phenomena create more ill will to good causes than anything? We know there’s a Public Fundraising Authority , but evidence that they’re in the business of curtailing, or even policing the activities of part-time fundraisers in our city centre streets is, to put it mildly, scant.

What do you think? City Central Bid is in the final stages of working out a new framework, but we bet they’d love to hear what your thoughts are on this most contentious of modern dilemmas…

8 Responses to “Reclaiming the Streets?”

  1. Some (maybe even lots) of these chuggers aren’t working for the charities at all, but are employed by outsource fundraisers.

    These companies bid to fundraise for charities and in exchange they take a cut of what you give, Normally how it works is that the company (and sometimes the chugger themselves) gets a fee for every person they get to sign up to a direct debit.

    Charity’s big business, don’t you know! Ban them.

  2. Well, you make it pretty darn clear which side 7 streets stands on! An illusion of impartiality might be nice 😉

    But there are too many of them, all out at once, and in too small an area. I’m pretty used now to having to say “No, No, Busy, sorry, No, sorry, busy, no” as I walk up Bold St. I’m pretty sure most people are just in the habit of chanting it now.

    Anyone new to Liverpool is probably bemused by the phenomenom of people chanting their no’s and sorrys on certain streets, until a few weeks in they find themselves doing it.

    And it probably works against them having so many, most people say no to all of them because they don’t want to pick and choose saying yes occassionally.

  3. Once again, the richer charities (who can afford to take the hit on this kind of expensive fundraising) get richer, while the poorer, cinderella charities, who can’t afford it, get less and less of the public’s limited charitable donations. These ‘high street’ charities are huge, top heavy businessess, with chief execs, pr machines, swanky offices and spin off subsiduaries. Charity equates to often only around 20 percent of their expenditure. Ban them from public spaces. They give the rest of us a bad name, and only serve to damage the reputation of the sector as a whole at a time when funds are needed more than ever. One local charity could survive and do real good work on the salary of the ceo of NSPCC alone.

  4. Totally agree with that Steven. These aren’t hard up beggars, they’re corporate machines.
    The city council would do well to ban them completely, and issue individual licenses to street fundraise only to specific charity applicants (not outsource companies), and give preference to local ones: Tip it on its head.

  5. They are just sales people, plain and simple and I’m sick of them. I give to charity all through the year but I refuse to sign up to their standing orders because it seems they just put you on a list which causes not only junk mail and begging letters but constant phone calls.

  6. I agree with you Steven – the big charities operate as corporate machines, and this just serves to catalyse that image in the public’s eye,. Not good, because there are so many good causes out there that need our help. It’s a lazy way to ‘do business’ in my view. They should be putting their energy and allocated funds into doing original things, activities that get the public excited – sponsored events (the Chick Run coming up at Easter – are you taking part?) that have always fired the imagination and stimulated people to respond, and give generously for effort spent. That’s the way it has always been, and should continue to be. Yes, it is a tough world, but charities need to embrace the fact that people still are willing to give – but not if they are no different to all the other corporates vying for our cash. It’s defeatist, and probably, in the long term, a bad move.

  7. The article says that there is “scant evidence” that the PFRA is “policing” fundraising in Liverpool.

    All street fundraisers must adhere to a code of practice produced by the Institute of Fundraising. If any fundraiser breaches the code, PFRA can investigate and assist a person with their complaint.

    But our active “policing” happens in town and cities where we have a voluntary agreement with the council or city centre management company, as we now do with Manchester.

    PFRA has asked Liverpool City Council if they would like to discuss a site agreement with us but so far we have not heard back. But if we could get an agreement for fundraising in Liverpool, then as part of the agreement, PFRA could send mystery shoppers to the city to monitor how fundraisers performed and spot check fundraising teams to ensure they stuck to the terms of the agreement.

    Nick Henry
    Head of Standards
    Public Fundraising Regulatory Association

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