The other day I watched an overly aggressive Save The Children ambassador almost knock a cup of coffee from a man’s hand on Sydney’s George Street.
A couple of days after that, I felt thoroughly patronised by an Amnesty International representative during an awkward social exchange in Martin Place.
And last Thursday, a Cancer Council worker rudely interrupted my phone conversation as I walked up Queen Street in Brisbane.
Not that these mercenaries really work for those organisations of course. They’re just wearing the tabards.
Chugger: Paid “charity” street worker (read: student) who has been trained to believe that they are carrying out a worthy task, improving peoples’ lives by conning Joe Public out of their money for this week’s Good Cause.
Usually an agency worker where the agency takes a hefty cut of the hourly rate that the charity in question has paid for, whilst at the same time increasing profits by selling on details of those foolish enough to actually stop and sign up to said Good Cause.
If you really want to support a charity, do it through their website, not a chugger.
– Definition of a ‘chugger’. Source: Urban Dictionary
But I can’t help but wonder whether the price of fundraising for organisations is becoming too high for the brand damage it inflicts.
Clearly, the street fund raising strategy is a crack cocaine that charities would find hard to kick. Indeed, the very Urban Dictionary definition of Chugger (charity mugger) is now nearly a decade old.
I’m sure it worked very well, when the idea first emerged. But certainly in Australia, the point has been reached where the damage surely outweighs the financial benefit.
Rather than send your volunteers out to rattle tins, you outsource street fund raising to a third party company who will do so with hungry backpackers or students working on commission to grab direct debits.
Indeed, I know it worked well back in the day, because I still have a monthly fee disappearing from my bank account to Amnesty International. So long ago did that process begin, I can’t even remember the interaction that led me to sign up. It was before I wrote about marketing, and I was less cynical about the motivations of the person who signed me up.