On-street charity direct debit fundraisers | AccountingWEB

On-street charity direct debit fundraisers

An acquaintance of mine shopping in Liverpool recently was engaged in conversation by a charity fundraiser who persuaded her to make a direct debit to a well respected children’s charity.

She gave him her name, address, bank account details and date of birth and authorised the direct debit.

The next day she started to worry that the whole thing might have been a scam and she might have allowed herself to become a victim of identity theft.  Why, she wondered, did he ask for her date of birth?  She worried herself about having been so gullible to have given the charming collector so much information.

She contacted the charity and was told that they had indeed authorised on-street collectors in Liverpool that day, and that the information she had been asked for was standard procedure for the direct debit collectors.

She also found out that people, such as herself, in their 20s and 30s were a key demographic target for the collectors because – once signed up for a direct debit – they tended to continue giving for many years.  The collectors are not employees of the charity itself, they are from fund raising specialists who charge anything up to 90% of the first year’s donations for the work.

I do have misgivings about this sort of operation.  I can understand that charities need to be proactive in securing donations, and I can understand the benefit to the charity of securing a direct debit.  It must be very much more effective to secure the direct debit authority there and then, rather than to ask the prospective donor to fill in and post a form later.

But it seems to me that there is scope for abuse of the system and a risk of donors’ personal information falling into the wrong hands.  I wonder how carefully these collectors are vetted before being sent onto the streets.

I would suggest that anyone who wishes to donate to charity just contact the charity direct to make the arrangements.  Quite apart from the data security aspects, that will ensure the charity gets the benefit of the whole of the donation!



Yes !

The Black Knight | | Permalink

Big business this charity collecting, and in the end those in need will suffer.

weaversmiths's picture

Charitiy Collecting

weaversmiths | | Permalink

I had a client who was a professional fundraiser for charities, both on PAYE and Self Employed, earned £99,000 net in one year. Charity is big business. Fell foul of one of his clients a couple of years ago and was bad mouthed in the fundraising industry, now he is all but bankrupt.  Not only big but a nasty business, too. He was a really nice straight up guy and took it badly.

The Ancient One.

cathygrimmer's picture

Sort of related

cathygrimmer | | Permalink

On a related subject, am I the only person who won't sponsor someone if a subtantial chunk of the money which I think I am giving to charity is actually going to be used by the charity to pay for an adventure holiday (e.g. climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, trekking The Great Wall of China) for the person I'm sponsoring. I don't see any difference between that and me saying 'give me £10 and I'll give £5 to charity and use £5 to pay for my summer holiday in Gozo this year'. Any takers???

What concerns me is that the people asking for sponsorship don't always make it clear that a big chunk of the money (all of it effectively if you are donating the last part of the minimum sponsorship!) won't end up in the charity coffers. These trips cost upwards of £1000!

I would happily sponsor a trip for someone to spend time helping children in underprivileged countries knowing the charity is paying for the flights, accommodation etc - it is the use of charitable donations to pay for a holiday which I can't countenance

Maybe I'm just getting old and curmudgeonly!


carnmores's picture


carnmores | | Permalink

welcome to the club!

your not allowed to rattle your tin anymore but my god these collectors rattle my cage

charities seem to think that they have the right to molest you in the street - there must be a more efective way of giving / collecting than this

thinking caps on everybody

Becky Midgley's picture

A dilemma indeed

Becky Midgley | | Permalink

You're right guys, there must be a better way, and there is: you have to take the initiative and contact the charities yourself as David quite rightly suggested.  Having said that, hardly anyone does which is why I think someone thought it a good idea to pitch to people on the streets.  Our office in the centre of Bristol is constantly plagued by what we affectionately call 'chuggers' (charity muggers) and we often find ourselves leaving out the back door to avoid them.  This is not because we are mean-spirited, but because we get hounded nearly every day. 

I do donate to charity, and I am also involved in a lot of voluntary work including organising fundraisers - this is a great way for me to do my bit without shoving it in people's faces.  I have to admit that I once went on a charity excursion to Peru: yes, there was something in it for me and yes, I did raise nealry £2k for a small, local charity, but yes, if I had my time again I would have donated a large sum of money and just paid for my own experience (I was young and misguided). 

You could say that if every one of our members here on Aweb agreed to donate £1 each per month to a chosen charity we would be able to donate huge sums of money regularly, but it wouldn't stop the chuggers (they get paid upwards of £7 per hour to do it) and you'd probably give up donating after 3 months or convince yourselves that we were scamming you, so I won't suggest this to the board; thinking caps back on...


Martinn7 | | Permalink

I've spent many a happy evening over the past few years presenting to accountants on ID theft, and one of my major concerns is "Chuggers" or "Charity Muggers". They seem to expect everything in the way of information a "419" letter sender ever wished for (except possible a sheet of headed paper), with the minimum of fuss. Why would anyone accosted in the street provide name, address, bank acount details etc for free? Just down the road we are advised by the ATM to shield our PIN number from public view; yet the victims of these chuggers are essentially providing similar information. No, you aren't being curmudgeonly! It's time people took the same amount of time and trouble to consider giving to charities as they give to other purchases; no serious person who is charitably inclined would make a spur of the moment decision. And why I should suddenly, having been stopped in the street, decide to sponsor a cat rather than commit to my usual charities beats me!

Old Greying Accountant's picture

I would far rather give to a charity of choice ...

Old Greying Acc... | | Permalink

... rather than the nationalised charity that is HMRC.

I also hate charities that either ally themselves with "sexy" topics, or cherry pick the poplar bits to waste money on rather that the important bits.

As an example, animal charities are, in my personal opinion, the leading culprits in this: cute fluffy bunnies, and dashing raptors bring in the cash better than water voles or house sparrows. Ironic that biodiversity and breeding successes are far higher on privately managed land than on charity (un)managed land!

Once charaties hit a critical mass they seem to loose sight of their intended purpose and become focus on getting money in rather than spending it wisely, oh sorry, I seem to have drifted back onto HMRC/Govt :o) 


cymraeg_draig's picture

Phoney collectors

cymraeg_draig | | Permalink

We are involved directly in shall we say "non glamourous" charities.  I don't mind giving my time, letting staff give their time, donating funds, whatever it takes, if I know its ALL being used to achieve the aims of the charity.

What I seriously object to is giving money to a charity only to find that 90% of it has gone to some "director" in a plush office for doing very little.  Nor will I give it to some moonlighting double glazing saleman type who is actually doing nothing more than begging on the streets to line his/her own pockets and 9 times out of 10 hasnt got a clue what charity they are collecting for, and next week will be collecting for a different one.  Not that I'm cynical you understand :)

I wonder how many of these "directors" of charities would do what I will be doing in half an hours time?  Going out at midnight with two more members of staff to deliver hot food and blankets to homeless people sleeping rough. We will also be giving hot food, and sometimes first aid, to girls who are working the streets in the hope that sooner or later some will be encouraged to break away from their pimps and let us sort them out at our hostel, help them through detox, counsel them and rebuild their self esteem, and help them by providing them with somewhere to live, help with education etcetera, and eventually get them back on their feet living proper drug free, fear free, lives.  Not exactly "glamorous" like fluffy animals (although I do support animal charities too), but something myself and my staff (most of them) have been involved in for 30 years with many successes (and failures) along the way.

To fund the hostel we raise every penny ourselves, by working for free so many days a year, and, by donating the client fees earned on those days. The building itself was paid for by a homeless person who was helped many many years ago by my mother, who never forgot her kindness, and who got back on his feet and became very successful (and I mean mansion, Rolls Royce, etc successful).

The next time you are accosted by one of these "collectors" ask them what they actually do themselves, do they actually get their hands dirty, or do they think that throwing a few coins in a tin absolves them of any responsibility? I've invited many of them to come out with us at night, I've explained how we have to take precautions in case of aids etc, I've explained to them what to do if a pimp waves a knife in your face.  Do you know, not one has ever agreed to come with us?  Just shows how much they really care doesnt it. 






cymraeg_draig's picture


cymraeg_draig | | Permalink

And why I should suddenly, having been stopped in the street, decide to sponsor a cat rather than commit to my usual charities beats me!


Posted by Martinn7 on Mon, 05/07/2010 - 15:11


If you feel the urge to sponsor a cat - theres one snoring on my desk right now - make cheques payable to me (as his primary carer), and after deducting the usual 99% management fee, I'll make sure he gets however much extra whiskas your donations pay for.

Give generously :)


Well at least I didnt accost you in the street.

Becky Midgley's picture

Question for OGA

Becky Midgley | | Permalink

Quote: "Ironic that biodiversity and breeding successes are far higher on privately managed land than on charity (un)managed land!"

Where did you get this information from?  It's startling and I'd be interested to learn more if you could point me in the right direction.

Thanks in advance


alistair_king | | Permalink

Hi Becky

I remember reading about OGA's biodiversity problem recently too... but I can't remember where...

Probably a newspaper article (but which paper?).

Possibly published 21st or 22nd May (for biodiversity day). Or maybe when one of the quangos published a biodiversity report...




Old Greying Accountant's picture

I read widely...

Old Greying Acc... | | Permalink

... here's a couple of examples:



These are managed estates, ie they control predators, and have far greater numbers and types of species than the nearby RSPB reserve which don't usually (and where they do they are ashamed to admit it)

If you want really good opinion, your best bet is Robin Page, IMHO, and if you want a good charity his countryside restoration trust is worth giving to:



Interestingly, this is a BBC report on a deer sanctuary run by animal lovers!


Missing hard statistics and a diversion further off-topic and in

alistair_king | | Permalink

I remember reading some hard statistics on numbers of species and being really shocked at the difference between the managed farms and the various preserves run by charities in the UK...

It was this year - I just can't remember where it was published...

I tried a quick internet search but still didn't find it.


Getting further off topic from information given to charity collectors... but following biodiversity

Some diversity issues where I live (Hong Kong) - most large animals got hunted out or eaten. I'm told there used to be tigers until a couple of hundred years ago. But we still have wild boar, some monkeys and occasionally I meet a water buffalo in the former paddy fields near the border with China, or wild cows up in the hills (although I think both of these are former domestic stock gone wild). Red kites love to soar 5 meters outside my office window (next to Tolo Harbour), riding the thermals. And I sometimes hear birds calling in the jungle. But generally I see less birds than I would have expected.

A lot of the smaller species (insects etc) survive. Goodness knows I get enough bites when I go running/hiking. Not long ago I was wading down a jungle stream with fish and litle shrimp with big claws at my feet while many varieties of bright coloured butterflies fluttered around my head... And I've seen some beautiful lizards.

In the seas here shark are just about extinct (Shark's fin soup) and stocks of many other edible fish are also low. But when I walk along some of the seafront areas I see shoals of beautiful but small tropical fish... sadly I can't name them.

Now OGA has got me thinking abot this biodiversity stuff I am going to find out more about what is here in Hong Kong and how it is managed.

PS - cymaeg draig- I was really impressed by what your activities on the sharp end of charity work. Keep making a difference!  (also how many cans of whiskas does your cat need?)

Old Greying Accountant's picture

Ah, Red Kites

Old Greying Acc... | | Permalink

Once extinct in UK, now back with avengeance, fillinf the skies along the M40 and M4 from Wales towards London, I saw one in the Grounds of Windsor Castle a couple of weeks ago - wont be long before the Trafalgar pigeons have more than kestrals to wory about. I believe there are plenty round Lewes too.

I spent a pleasant half hour watching 10 or so around High Wycombe recently, all framed in my car side window, beautiful birds, but I don't think I would like them hovering 10 foot off my lawn if I had cats, rabbits or other small pets! (or if I ran a commercial shoot!!) 

cymraeg_draig's picture


cymraeg_draig | | Permalink

Many years ago I saw a pair of Condors in the Andes.  Forget cats, I wouldnt feel safe in a small family hatchback with one of those hovering above it.  From the size of them I imagine that the local air traffic controllers must regularly mistake them on radar for light aircraft.

weaversmiths's picture


weaversmiths | | Permalink

I am ancient enough to remember, when I was a youngish teenager, putting money in an Oxfam Box on my Aunt's Christmas Table with the promise that any money collected would be with the starving country's (Africa, I presume)  people the next day.  (or some such promise).  There was to be no rich directors, large offices, etc etc.  At the time of Live Aid some 30 years or so later, Oxfam, it was reported in the press, had £40m in its coffers.  It's probably even more now.  I think it was probably a ploy to decrease the amount given to Cancer Pools where only 2d in every shilling went to Cancer Research.  

Until 3 years ago we had a retail business selling quality china, gifts, & books etc.  Then the charity shops came along selling not only S/H donated goods but a huge amount of new goods as well, especially giftware.  Of course, their overheads are minimal, low rent and no business rates, little staff costs  etc,  so we were driven out of business. Its no good bashing your head against a brick wall.  So, dont rattle a charity box anywhere near me - you wont like my response!

I will help small charities but the big ones - definitely not.  I helped a local radio station (RSL) I am involved with raise £2,600 for our local Hospice in May this year, so I am not all  bad.

Red Kites - There is a breeding programme near a reservoir close to Harewood House.  I saw quite a few last week - we were up there on a caravan rally and a kind local showed us where they were. So, if you are in Yorkshire, that is where you can see them. 


The Ancient One





Old Greying Accountant's picture

As it happens...

Old Greying Acc... | | Permalink

... I passed through Lewes today, no sign of red kites though - would be interested if any one can confirm they are there.
Hospices are fantastic, Princess Alice was where my mum ended, they made it as good as such a thing can be and have my eternal thanks and as much support as I can afford.

Not always a funded holiday...

paulwakefield1 | | Permalink

"What concerns me is that the people asking for sponsorship don't always make it clear that a big chunk of the money (all of it effectively if you are donating the last part of the minimum sponsorship!) won't end up in the charity coffers. These trips cost upwards of £1000!"

It's not always the case. My son is busy raising sponsorship for a cycle ride from Nairobi to Kisumu in November in aid of the Kenyan Orphan Project. The charity does not meet any of the costs and he has to fund all the trip and event costs himself. Every penny he raises for the charity goes to the charity (plus gift aid).

cathygrimmer's picture

@ Paul

cathygrimmer | | Permalink

That's admirable, Paul. You must be very proud of him. I hope my children grow up to be that altruistic!

That is how it should be done and I obviously have no objection at all to that. What I object to is the ones who make it look as though they are doing what your son is doing and then people donate thinking it goes to charity and a big chunk is then spent on their adventure holiday. It makes some of  us wary about sponsoring people like your son if we are not sure what is happening to our donation - and that must be a bad thing.

Does your son have an on-line donation site? Email me a link and I will put in a donation.


[email protected]

cymraeg_draig's picture

Pets as Therapy

cymraeg_draig | | Permalink

I know there are lots of dog owners here.

Instead of giving money, why not give a little time.  Check out a chaity I was heavily involved in when it first started - http://www.petsastherapy.org/.

If you have a little time you could make a huge difference - and get a great deal of pleasure out of it yourself.


Thank you

paulwakefield1 | | Permalink

@ Cathy

That is a very kind offer. Email sent.



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