Some pretend to be talking on their phones, some claim to be catching a train, others even change their route to work: many and varied are the strategies used by city centre pedestrians for avoiding charity fundraisers.
Most of those hurrying past the young men and women with their bibs, clipboards and regulation grins have no beef with the concept of fundraising for charity per se. Most recognise that stopping people in the street is a legitimate means of raising cash for good causes, but merely tire of being stopped every day on the same stretch of road. That mild irritation can easily spill over into anger if they start to feel harassed.
Therefore the introduction of standards for those fundraising on behalf of charities on the streets of Glasgow and Edinburgh is a positive development, both for the public, but importantly, also for charities.
Due to the economic downturn, donations to charity have fallen in recent years and street fundraising is a crucially important means of trying to make up the shortfall. There is no denying the maths – one-fifth of those who donate to charity became donors through street or doorstep recruitment, and as these donors sign up by direct debit, they often contribute long term.
This boon to charities, however, has to be balanced against the adverse effect "chuggers" (charity muggers) could have on their image if they are seen to be too numerous or behaving in a pushy or aggressive manner.
A fundraiser who trots alongside an embarrassed pedestrian as they walk down the street, or stands, feet apart, blocking their path, is going too far. Such behaviour risks not only damaging the organisation's reputation, but undermining the whole business of on-street fundraising. A great deal of money could be lost to charities if the public were to lose patience with chuggers.
Now that the standards have come into force, though, it will be important to ensure they are enforced in a level-headed way. Chuggers must not "deliberately" use guilt as a selling tactic and must desist immediately if the pedestrian doesn't want to engage. Encouraging someone to stop and giving a brief run-down of a charity's work would not be described as guilt-tripping, but what about, say, describing dire scenes of deprivation? If someone says in a friendly fashion that they can't stop and the fundraiser follows up with a light-hearted "pretty please?", is that breaking the rules? Common sense must apply.
If it does, and the excesses of charity fundraisers are curbed as a result, it will be for the long-term good of charities and the public.
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