AUTHOR: Niall Sweeney

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On plenty street corners and establishments, you will encounter a charity campaigner, but many know them under a different name – chuggers.

A derogatory term to describe the ”charity mugging” they supposedly get up to, they gained an undesirable reputation among the public. But is it warranted?

In my own experience, I’ve found them persistent….fixed eye contact, Christmassy demeanour. I don’t know how they do it. There must be some amount of training involved to get them ready to face the public, capture their attention and their hearts. Tough crowd.

I contacted a charity fundraiser working on private sites, to get the lowdown on the daily work involved, the generosity of the public, and the difficulties and highlights of the job.

Why did you decide to become a charity fundraiser?

I’ve always had an interest in my charity, I went looking for a job there because I knew so much about them. I believe in the work they do, so I wanted to do something to help.

It’s a passion of yours then, helping people….

Absolutely.

Describe your day to day work.

It’s slightly different to the streets in that I’m put in a spot, set up, and as people go past I would ask for a minute of their time. On the streets it’s about stopping people, my work is more just smiling at them etc. We’re trained differently. Someone might stop to see what you’re doing, what you have in your hand. We’d have a stand alongside us that would explain what we’re about.

Favourite part/difficulties of the job?

My favourite would be those moments when someone decides to help. The difficulties we can come across is that sometimes people have in their heads ”oh I heard this on the radio, such and such is on so much money”.

I’d like to think that even if people don’t sign up, they are informed of our guidelines and the service we provide, and where the money goes. So when someone walks away, either way,  they have a greater understanding of us.

How do you find getting people’s attention, is it hard?

It’s not hard at all, to me. If you just smile at people, say hi, and ask for a minute of their time, most people, unless they’re in a rush, they will come back to you. You’ll get the odd person with other things going on in their lives that will walk past you. But the Irish are generally quite friendly and interested to see our work. Once they see the stands and certificates on the table they’re up for a chat.

If people don’t have the money, we’d never push it….I always say if you don’t have it, and you’re gonna miss it, don’t give it because we don’t want it if that’s the case. You’re out there in aid of vulnerable people, and after a while chatting with someone you may realize that they’re struggling themselves. I just let them know what we do so in future, if their circumstances change, they may come back.

For me,  it’s not about just selling something. I’m doing my passion because I believe in this charity. I see first hand the difference it makes in people’s lives. People don’t realize how many services we do, that’s why it’s so good to educate them. You’ll always find there’s something they didn’t know.

Following the Console scandal, did you find there was less trust in charities such as yours?

One hundred percent, yeah. Some people are just afraid, and they don’t trust easily, but we have had our books online for the last ten years. We work hard for our good name, we’re really strict in every sense, so that’s how we’ve gained trust. Transparency is important.

But again, the Irish are charitable with their time and money, and they know they can trust us.  You meet so many wonderful people. In five minutes talking to them, you get their life story, they really open up.

As I always say, nobody goes through this life without needing some sort of help at some stage. And whether it’s family counselling or men who are struggling, we help everybody, leaving judgment at the door. Our supporters realize that.

Especially at Christmas time, where issues like loneliness are that much harder to deal with.

Exactly, puts more stress on people who don’t have a family, a home, or cash. It drives the reality home, things you can avoid the rest of the year. Families who are struggling, in hotels at Christmas, with Santy coming.

I noticed something the other day in the shop, they have made keys for hotel rooms, magic keys so Santy can come. What does that tell you?

Any personal highlight of your fundraising work?

To genuinely know that every time someone signs up, that there’s another child closer to help or off the list. It’s progress.

Advice for fellow fundraisers?

Be honest. When fundraising for a charity face to face, the trust is gained with you. Show genuine honesty and interest, they’ll see that straight away. The most important thing is the rapport you build with the person. You can know every single detail and statistic but the rapport is what stands.

*END*

It’s very easy to tar any group of people with the same brush based the actions of a few, and despite the chuggers and chancers out there, I still believe there are many that take to the streets and shopping centres from a place of genuine passion for their cause. This was evident in our conversation.

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