Chuggers: The Economics of High Street Fundraising

How often have you walked down your local high street and had to slalom to avoid the inevitable charity collectors?

Known as “chuggers” (half charity collectors, half muggers), whilst their tactics might be a little annoying, they obviously must be effective, as the numbers seem to be on the increase.

By standing on the high street, they can obviously push their message to many people, and rely to a certain extent on the guilt factor to get people to sign up.

There’s an interesting article on the Independent which explains how the high street fundraising works. Most of the collectors work for a third-party (ie do not work for the charity directly), with the third-party earning around £50 – £60 for each person signed up. This initially might sound like a high amount, but the model does work:

Last year alone, 210,000 people were persuaded to sign up in the street to support charities, according to the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association. Of the £24m raised last year by Shelter, the charity for the homeless, a quarter came from donors recruited by street fundraisers… On average, every £1 spent on face-to-face fundraising brings in a return of £3.

I generally give them a polite “no thank you”, regardless of how pushy the fundraiser might be – I realise that despite the nuissance factor, it must be a pretty difficult job to do, especially given some of the abuse they must receive. And I’ve no idea how much of the £50 – £60 those doing the hard work on the streets must earn.

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