Councils are calling for new powers to crack down on “chuggers” – or street fundraisers – who collar passers-by for donations to charities.
A survey carried out by the Local Government Association shows 68 per cent of councils have received complaints about chuggers’ sometimes aggressive tactics such as shouting at or chasing members of the public.
More than half of the councils said that such street fundraisers were putting off potential shoppers.
Lord Hodgson, a Conservative peer, is carrying out a review of the Charities Act 2006 and has been urged to tighten the rules governing chuggers.
Because they collect bank details rather than money, they do not have to abide by precisely the same rules that apply to volunteers with charity collection tins, says the LGA.
The group called on government to improve their powers to restrict when and where street fundraisers can collect.
“Unfortunately a small but significant minority of overzealous collectors are making a nuisance of themselves,” Nilgun Canver, the LGA’s licensing champion, said.
The Public Fundraising Regulatory Association said that it agreed the Charities Act was “not fit for purpose” and said it wanted a unified licensing regime.
Ian MacQuillin, spokesman, admitted that chuggers could be annoying. “They are more ‘there’ than leaflets or TV adverts; with fundraisers you can’t press a button or throw them in the recycling,” he said.
But he said chuggers, a portmanteau word of charity and mugger, last year accounted for only 485 complaints out of 18,442 in the fundraising sector.
Tobin Aldrich, director of fundraising at the World Wildlife Fund, said street fundraisers were a vital revenue stream. “About 600,000 people started supporting charities through this form of fundraising last year alone,” he said.
More than 40 councils have voluntary agreements with the PFRA to regulate chuggers’ activity. “The ones complaining about this are the ones not working with us,” said Mr MacQuillen.
Chuggers who spoke to the Financial Times on the condition of anonymity said they were often demoralised by the public response.
“It makes me feel gutted. I understand if people don’t have the money but when they don’t even make eye contact or run away it gets to me,” said one young woman raising money for Shelter on London’s Borough High Street. “Once someone I knew even ran away from me.”
With few employment opportunities, some take the job for both money and a sense of purpose. “I was doing labouring before but I felt this was a better job because I feel I’m making a difference,” said another.
This article is subject to a correction and has been amended.
Get alerts on Local Government Association when a new story is published