Ryan Donohue was walking near his workplace in Brisbane’s Queen Street Mall recently when a woman approached him, and asked if he remembered her. They’d met before, she said.
“I was completely thrown off-guard by her genuine nature,” he told The Brisbane Times.
“We got engaged in a conversation and she said ‘Do you remember when you said you were going to look at…’ [then named] whatever charity she was working with, and I completely realised I had been fooled.”
It was the last straw for the Queensland man. Fed up with constantly being ‘accosted’ by handshaking street fundraisers, Donohue has launched a petition via Brisbane City Council in an effort to limit the number of charity collectors permitted in the CBD and to establish guidelines around their behaviour.
Donohue insists he has nothing against the organisations themselves, or even against face-to-face fundraising.
“There is obviously a legitimate cause to a lot of those charities, but there comes a point where these people are approaching you in a way that is accosting,” he said.
He’s not alone, locals in Brisbane have erected signs reading, “Warning, chugger territory” to forewarn locals of nearby charity workers.
While fundraising is formally regulated by state and territory governments, local councils may also have rules for the conduct of fundraising in their area.
Teaching our kids the joys of charity through baking and donating. (Post continues below.)
Donations remain a significant source of income for the over 50,000 registered charities in Australia. In 2015, 26 per cent relied on donations and bequests for more than 50 per cent of their total annual income.
The tactics by which some obtain those donations came under fire from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission in November, when an independent investigation revealed that a number of charities were outsourcing fundraising to third-party marketing firms.
The ACCC report found that these middlemen would generally earn commission for each donor they signed up to the charity, in some cases as much as 17 times the donor's monthly commitment.
The ACCC expressed concern that this not only lead to hounding tactics by collectors, but that there was a "lack of transparency by some charitable organisations around these relationships and disclosure regarding the size and structure of fees".
“We found it surprising just how many multiples of the monthly donations some charities were paying third party fundraisers for face-to-face or telemarketing services," ACCC chairman Rod Sims said.
“Consumers who want to donate are advised to contact the charity and ask how they can donate directly.”