Chuggers: Helping the Cause or Stealing Your Money?

Charity street workers. We’ve all seen them, whether it’s in Union Square or on Bedford Avenue or, more recently, in Tribeca. They’re the ones asking if you have a second to spare for GreenPeace or Children International or the ACLU. Maybe you’ve taken the time to speak with them or maybe you’ve started taking the long way just to avoid them. Either way, it seems there are a lot of people out there wishing these guys (and girls) would just go away.

For years, people in London have been complaining about these workers who they’ve affectionately nicknamed “chuggers,” or “charity muggers.” In the UK, there are websites discussing the best way to avoid them. There’s also a Facebook group where people voice their chugger complaints. Occasionally you’ll find an article or website that defends these workers, but for the most part the articles out there raise a lot of questions.

In a recent article on WSJ.com, Anne Kadet explains that not all of these volunteers are out there for the cause, but are “often hired hands working on commission for professional fund-raising outfits.” Similar articles have also been written by the Village Voice and The Daily Mail.

In Kadet’s findings, a charity like Children International says a one on one interaction is more convincing than sending a letter through snail mail, but the charity’s 2010 national contracts show that Children International pays fundraising agent DialogueDirect a $245 fee for each $22 a month sponsor.

The ACLU says that many sponsors donate for several years after initially donating with the street charity workers, but the Grassroots Campaign, an independent organization that focuses on fundraising, says within the first year the average donor stops donating after seven months. According to these statistics, Kadet raises the point that your contribution barely covers the nonprofit’s fundraising expenses.

With these assessments there seems to be an important aspect missing: the people. Where are the testimonies from those who have donated? Where is the input from those who never bother to stop? Without these, statistics from both sides of the argument seem hypothetical.

In hopes to give a little insight, I’ve created a survey (embedded below) to see who is donating, how much and what the public’s opinion really is of these workers. Maybe then the decision to use chuggers will make a little more sense.

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