They stop us on the streets and make it virtually impossible to say no, but are chuggers worth the money or are there better ways to support charities?

A chugger’s demand

There was a time, not so long ago, when ‘chuggers’ - a portmanteau of "charity" and "mugger" - were just bored people with buckets for you to drop a few pennies in. They wanted nothing more than an on-the-spot donation. Whether you loved them or hated them, your interaction with them was, at least, guaranteed to be mercifully brief. However, charities have changed their tactics in recent years. Nowadays, chuggers don’t want the loose change from your pocket: they want you to set up a direct debit so that you donate a little money to their charity every month.

It’s easy to see why charities have changed the task they assign to their chuggers. After all, a reliable source of revenue is obviously preferable to a one-off donation. There’s just one problem: the new tactics have turned dealing with chuggers into a nightmarish ordeal that generates resentment on the same scale that a Tesla coil generates electricity. What’s more, setting up a direct debit with a chugger isn’t even the best way that you can give money to charity.
 

Are you a real chugger?

The first problem is that there’s no way to be sure that the chugger you’re talking to really is an authorised employee of a charity. Not to put too fine a point on it, but he might be a con artist who’s trying to wheedle your bank details out of you. Regardless of how convincing a particular chugger is, you’d be a fool to take the risk. Of course, some charities recognise this issue and simply have their chuggers collect less sensitive information such as phone numbers and e-mail addresses. However, even a chugger asking for these might turn out not to be the genuine article. After all, ruthless individuals can use this information for identity fraud or to sell on at a profit. Most of the chuggers you meet are, of course, real employees and volunteers for charities. However, it’s unwise to take even the smallest risk with your personal information. 
 

Commitment issues

The second problem is that it’s not really a good idea to commit to any sort of regular payment while standing in the middle of a street. When forced to think on your feet, you may overestimate the amount you can afford to donate and be forced to cancel the payments before anything can leave your bank account. Alternatively, you may drastically underestimate the amount you can donate. While that’s not disastrous for you, it does mean that the charity you’re donating to ends up getting less support from you than if you’d donated by some other means.
 

What are your alternatives?

If you want to give to donate regularly to a good cause, your best bet is to use the internet. Most charitable organisations have websites that allow you to set up regular donations. Alternatively, if you’d prefer to make a large, one-off donation, you might like to consider simply walking into a charity shop and handing over the desired sum of money to the staff. It’s far easier to verify the authenticity of both websites and charity shops than it is to be sure about the identity and intentions of a chugger. What’s more, because you can make donations online or in charity shops on your own schedule, you’re far less likely to make a mistake regarding the size of donation you can afford. 
 

Raising awareness

Ultimately, chuggers are a great way for charities to raise awareness of the causes and issue they represent. They can talk directly to the public and get people to think about the role of charity in society and how they can help support it. However, as a method of raising money, they’re inefficient and, quite frankly, unpleasant to deal with. We all want to do our bit for charity, but you’d be well advised to avoid chuggers and donate on your own terms.

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