By Eva Nyandoro
My first day working as a street fundraiser will be forever marked in my mind. On that day 52 people were killed by four terrorists on 7 July 2005. As I walked through King’s Cross after being told to get off the 73 bus, a mass surge of people run away from king Cross knocking me sideways and pushing people to the ground. Obliviously to the chaos around me, I kept on walking. I was a woman possessed with the blitz spirit. Needless to say, I was the only one in the team to get to Warren Street station. Our shift was cancelled that day.
Everyday a group of us would hit different spots across London from local high streets to affluent areas like Richmond. The hours were long and often we didn’t finish until we hit our quotas for the day. We had an hourly rate and if we managed to sign up a lot of people in the day, our hourly rate would increase for that day. I was great at chatting to people; unfortunately, I was terrible at getting people to sign up. I was let go after one month. Throughout my brief summer month working as a high street warrior I would come home either drenched in water from failing miserable to hold my umbrella, dripping with sweat from standing in the burning sun all day. Waking up in the morning and knowing that somebody was going to sign up to Amnesty International and they didn’t even know, kept me going on those particularly dark days.
My time involved heckling and joking with the commuters that skidded around me. I always had a knack of making people smile even if they didn’t stop to talk. I even drove a man to head into a lingerie shop to avoid me. He jumped out of the shop embarrassed and I was there waiting for him. I met the late George Best in a leafy picturesque village. He gave me his signature but he didn’t leave his credit card details as he had left it in the pub. He never came back in the end.
If you ever want to avoid street fundraisers the tricks that left me stumped were:
- I’m already a member
- I don’t speak English very well
- I’m running late for a meeting
- I’m underage
- The meter is running
On-street fundraisers are often picked on in the media as ‘chuggers’. It is an aggressive charity mugger that goes around causing a nuisance and pest to people walking on the high street. This term is offensive to the hard-working fundraisers who work long hours making real changes to charities up and down the country. Over the years they have been branded with a barrage of misguided perceptions from the public.
The reality is a very small minority of individuals act like chuggers. They can use abusive language or be obstructive to passers-by. This type of person doesn’t represent the ethos of the charity they work for. Nobody would willing hire a person like this. The majority of Face-to-face fundraisers (F2F) are more like high street warriors.
Did you know that F2F fundraising raises £130million a year for UK charities and 18% of all donors that give through direct debit and standing order were recruited through face-to-face methods? This is one of the most cost-effective ways for charities to find new donors to support their causes.
Whether you like or hate fundraisers – when was the last time you went out of your way to donate money without being bombarded by an advertising campaign, emergency crisis appeal or plea from friends or family involved in fundraising projects like friend’s skydiving for Cancer Research? When did you just randomly decided to donate £5 to a great cause?
It is too simplistic to lay the charge of ‘chuggers’ on hardworking fundraisers. Or, put another way: don’t hate the fundraisers, hate the reality. If you don’t want to sign up you can always say NO. By the time a high street warrior hits their pillow tonight they will have helped to change people’s lives. Can you say the same?