Why Street Fundraising Sucks

It's been more than a week since I last posted. It's been a busy week: I had a Halloween party at the house on Saturday, a friend stayed over from Sunday to yesterday, I started a new job on Monday... I was a busy little beaver.

The party was good. We drank, we ate, we talked, we socialised and we listened to good music. (Courtesy of le moi.) My escapades with Carolyn, despite our limited time together, were fun. We drank, we ate, we talked, we watched Ringer and we went to a local pub and the biggest shopping centre in Europe.

Image courtesy of Guy and Dolls.

The only part that sucked about my week (and when I say sucked, I mean I'll-have-trouble-keeping-this-post-short sucked) was the new job I got, which was as a street fundraiser, also known as a "chugger".

(These guys.)

I saw the listing about a week or two ago on Gum Tree, and while I knew it was dressed up to sound nice, it did look to be quite good: £8.5 per hour, always 10-6, Monday to Friday or Tuesday to Saturday and immediate start. I wasn't sure if I'd be able to do this, but I decided to give it a go. (I was desperate, and still am.) Of course, after one day on the job, I discovered that everything about it sucked. Here's why:

#1. You put yourself in a position where you welcome abuse.

On my first (and only) day on the job, I got to experience a variety of reactions towards me when I approached people. Some nicely said "no, thank you", some rudely responded with "Busy!" when I asked them how they were, some just totally ignored me and others raised their palm to my face as if addressing a dog. One guy told me to fuck off. Another guy shoved past me so hard that he knocked me over.

When I'm on the street and I see a fundraiser a few steps ahead, I take the mobile phone approach: I pull my mobile phone out of my pocket, pretend to call or text someone and put it back in as soon as I've walked past them.

("I just happened to remember I need call a friend I haven't talked to in years
as soon as I saw you. Not my fault!)

Witnessing that from the other side, I can say that it looks quite ridiculous, but at least it's amusing. People don't have the time for you but they don't want to tell you to your face, so they come up with poorly planned alternatives. I didn't mind.

I didn't mind the ones that said "no, thank you," either. At least they had the decency to acknowledge my existence. The people who ignored me were annoying, but a mouthed "fuck you" made me feel better. The worst ones were the ones who showed me their palm.

I get that you don't want to talk to me. I wouldn't want to talk to me either. But who the fuck do you think you are to treat me like I'm beneath you? And you can't even say anything to them, because it would "create a bad image for the charity". All you can do is smile and take it while you swear at them between your teeth.

("I hope that hand of yours falls off and a blue waffle vagina grows in its place.")

#1. You're basically harassing people.

On my first (and only) day on the job, I also got to witness the team leader, a tall black guy who'd been doing this for seven and a half years (!), approach two people and get them to sign up as donors for a charity. I'd heard all about the methods we were expected to use during the training process, but I hadn't seen them in action until then.

It was horrible.

What you're supposed to do as a street fundraiser is ask people questions that would make them look like Hitler if they said no to: "Do you believe everyone deserves the same human rights?" "11 million children die every year. Do you think that's right?" "People are being imprisoned because of their beliefs, their religion or their sexual orientation. Do you think that's fair?"

("11 million children... only?!")

Then, once you've got that down, you start tearing down their defenses one by one. You reassure them that the direct debit is safe, you explain where the money's going (conveniently forgetting that 25% of that goes to your salary, even if indirectly), you remind them that £10 a month is only, what? Two pints? And there you have it: you've got them signed up.

And all that's after you get them to stop. The harassment begins long before that. I'm not joking: I actually witnessed the team leader approach a 20-something-year-old girl who was texting and say, "Did you get my message, love?"

(The team leader.)

#3. It's not really that great of a cause.

For obvious reasons, I will not be naming the charity I worked for, but I will give you the figures: in 2010, they spent 6.8 million on research, 8.2 million on campaigning, educating and raising awareness, 3.2 million on encouraging more people to take action or become supporters, members and funders, 4.3 million on recruiting and communicating with their supporters, 1.5 million on raising funds and 447 thousands on administrative costs.

What does this mean? Out of £22.9 million, 29% didn't actually go to charity. And out of that 29% only 5% was administrative costs; the rest (about 25%) was spent on... guess what... fundraising.

("This is for a great cause. You give £10 and I keep £2.5!
And the rest goes to research and stuff.")

The worst thing is that street fundraisers rely on that feeling of doing the right thing to get through their day and do their job well, but if you break it down, you're not doing that great of a thing. Sure, you can say that if charities didn't benefit then street fundraisers wouldn't exist and that "95% of our income comes from our supporters!" (which... duh), but the truth of the matter is, you're just a glorified salesman. The charity is doing good things, and the people donating are doing a good thing, but you? The middleman? You're not doing a good thing.

(And this kitty is judging you for pretending you are.)

As I said, I saw the team leader get two people to sign up, both of them women. When the second woman finally agreed to give him her bank details, she said, "You bullied me into it." He answered, "No, miss. I inspired you."

Baby Jesus cried when those words were spoken. And the kitty above judged.

#5. At the end of the day, you have to be a certain type of person to fit the profile.

And that person has to be a persuasive, manipulative masochist, with excellent skills at bullying and harassing people and who is that broke.

(I thought I fit the profile, but I guess I wasn't enough of a masochist.)

Which is why this morning, after one day on the job, I went to the office to meet the manager and said, "I don't think I can do this."

And he answered, "Neither do we."

Back to job-hunting. Yay!


  1. Awww. Is one super-enthusiastic cyber-hug enough to offset the doucheyness?

    Yours if you want it...

  2. I'll take it. I've received a lot of cyber-hugs since I posted this. I'm a cyber-whore.

  3. *Super-enthusiastic cyber-hug*

    You hussy. ;-)

  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.