CHARITY worker gangs who straddle Chester’s main street almost every week may be breaking the law, a watchdog has said.
The face-to-face street fundraisers – dubbed ‘charity muggers’ or ‘chuggers’ – try to persuade passers-by in Eastgate Street to sign up to direct debits on behalf of some of the best-known charities in Britain.
But Intelligent Giving, which carried out a “mystery shopper” survey of 50 face-to-face fundraisers, representing 18 charities, found that many misled the public and were motivated by self-interest rather than altruism.
The watchdog found that only eight per cent admitted how they were paid. The Charities Act states that “the method by which remuneration is determined and the ‘notifiable amount’ of that remuneration” must be disclosed “before a donor has authorised an agreement to donate”.
David Pickering, chairman of Chester City Management, has concerns, partly because of the manner in which some chuggers operate, which can “reduce the good experience” shoppers should be enjoying.
He said: “We are looking at it and would like to see the various charities represented come back and tell us what they are doing, how they are doing it and why they should continue, to create a debate.”
Intelligent Giving found 15 fundraisers broke the Institute of Fundraising’s code of conduct by refusing to back off when asked to do so.
Among the charities whose chuggers featured in the study were Amnesty International, Shelter, Unicef and the British Red Cross.
“Most of the 50 chuggers we spoke to showed little interest in anything other than raising the maximum amount of cash in the minimum amount of time,” said Adam Rothwell, director of Intelligent Giving.
“By employing chuggers who may be breaking the law, tell lies, or refuse to leave members of the public alone, charities undermine the trust we all instinctively have in them.”
Mr Rothwell urged potential donors to give online instead.
But Diana Mackie, a spokeswoman for the Institute of Fundraising, said face-to-face fundraising was a “good way” for charities to engage with new donors, but she accepted it was a form of fundraising which had “its critics”.
The British Red Cross said it “reserves the right to take disciplinary action against any fundraiser found to have acted outside those guidelines”.
Chester City Council confirmed that charities which ask for direct debit donations rather than cash do not need a street licence to collect although the law is due to change next year.