The Fundraiser - Practical advice and insight for the charity sector

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Fundraising on the frontline: a top chugger tells all


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James* Ďchugsí for a major UK charity. He is one of their best street fundraisers, recruiting between 12 and 15 direct debit supporters a day. He tells us what heís learned on the job.


I can talk about my charityís cause with genuine passion. Iím deeply connected to the cause I work for, and I do this job because I love the charity. In fact, while there are loads of other great causes out there, I donít think I could fundraise as effectively for another charity simply because I donít have that personal connection with them, or the same passion for the cause.

As a street fundraiser, itís your job to inspire people, to instil passion in them. If you have no passion for the cause yourself, it will show through, and youíre not going to get good results.


You have to treat every person you encounter as an individual. I think this is the number one most important thing. When someone is standing in front of you, you never know what their personality is like, what their personal situation is, and what they might be able to offer the charity. We fundraisers are not just a lanyard with some branding on it, we are ourselves - and itís the same with the people weíre speaking to. You have to understand and respect where theyíre coming from as individuals.


The biggest mistake Iíve seen other fundraisers make is in their objection handling. Iíve witnessed situations in which a street fundraiser is talking to someone who seems convinced the cause is a worthy one, but is unsure about whether they can or want to support it financially. The fundraiser will then say: ďoh come on, itís only two pounds a week, youíll hardly notice itĒ. I think this is incredibly rude; you donít know the financial situation of the person youíre standing in front of, youíre in no position to make comments relating to their earnings and itís unfair to assume that £2 per week isnít a big deal for them.


I try to get people on board, not their wallets. I think itís really important generally for street fundraisers to shift their mindset away from just getting money out of people - especially if you want to keep their support long term. Itís people power that can make a positive impact for a charity first and foremost. A solution is often more about getting people to stand united in order to eradicate poverty or stop child abuse or protect the environment, than about mindlessly donating a tenner a month. In this regard, I actually think itís better to have more people giving less money, than fewer people giving more.


Itís infinitely better to motivate someone to give, than manipulate them. While I always try to explain (clearly and transparently) how we make peopleís donations work for us as much as I can, I will never push someone into something they are not wholly understanding of and/or connected to, as thatís not being respectful of their individuality.

Some people simply wonít be comfortable handing over their bank account details on the street. You can explain to someone how a direct debit works, and try to make them feel more at ease, but you should never make them feel bullied, pushed or manipulated into handing over their details. They will go away feeling uneasy, and unsure about the charity, rather than feeling excited and inspired.


I donít let negative responses get me down. If Iíve spent time explaining things and someone still doesnít completely trust me, I donít get offended or downcast. I know that by virtue of speaking to them about the cause, Iíve helped to raise awareness for it. They may not have handed over their bank details to me on the street, but they might go on to sign up online, you never know.

I focus my thoughts on the amazing people I meet, the ones who are really turned on to the charity and who really want to support it. That guy who swore at me before? Heís not going to remember me in 15 minutesí time - so I donít waste my time thinking about him.


*not his real name

5 Comments on Fundraising on the frontline: a top chugger tells all

Scott said at 14:39 on 14 May 2015

He's well versed in the multitude of clichés within fundraising,i'll give him that. All he's done here is chug! As an ex fundraiser myself-and not an overly successful one as I didn't pressurise individuals into signing- I know how this scam works both for the poor mug signing up and the chuggee. As a chugger if you didn't get your target you'd be out the door within weeks,therefor the only way to hit target is to throw them a line,to manipulate them into signing up. This guy is attempting to pull the wool over your eyes. Don't believe this utter nonsense for one second. Chugging is all about ruthlessness,its about manipulation,its about getting sign ups no matter what.

Gabriel (WWF) said at 04:11 on 03 September 2014

Shows that a genuine approach works better than a pushy one; as the writer says, this is something a lot of fundraisers who are new to the job don't understand. I'll probably use this as a reference for new in house fundraisers to keep in mind.

Stephen as to your point, my own view is that agencies should place fundraisers on campaigns they feel passionately about if they want the best results; not easy due to the churn, but where agencies have multiple sub-campaigns for one charity (each focusing on a different issue) it can make a big difference to put fundraisers on the issue they feel most connected to. Presuming a contract is for at least a year, I don't think it's great practice for agencies to switch fundraisers from charity to charity; it means even the most committed ones won't have time to get fully comfortable with the charity. Meanwhile a charity can be kept 'fresh' with relaunches and focus on different areas of its work. All of this gets harder the larger the scale, and 'James' is a rare case, but the more passionate we (charities) and agencies can inspire and encourage in fundraisers, the better representatives they'll be so I'd say getting to know fundraisers and their interests is certainly a worthy investment as far as possible.

Stephen Noble said at 13:19 on 02 September 2014

James explains his motivation and success are derived from his deep connection to the cause he works for, he loves the charity; even that he couldn't fundraise as effectively for other charities simply because he doesn't have the same personal connection with them. Fair enough, makes absolute sense. But where does this leave all the agency street fundraisers who represent different charity clients from one week to the next?

David Cravinho (UNICEF) said at 16:43 on 18 August 2014

Good content that will resonate with anyone who has experience of F2F. But why endorse the word 'chugger' with all it's negative connotations that contradict the sentiments expressed in the article. If we want our street fundraisers to be proud of their work, we should step away from this pejorative term coined by the tabloid press. If we really need a specific word for the role, how about 'changel' (ie. 'charity angel' instead of 'charity mugger') or the more straightforward 'facer'?

Rebecca Worth (Cats Protection) said at 10:10 on 11 August 2014

More like this please!...I will personally be showing volunteer fundraisers that I support, this testimonial. It is a great example of the person beneath the 'chugger' label that the nations media so callously use all the time.

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