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Are charity tweeters the new chuggers?

26 October 2010

Bright One founder Ben Matthews wonders if charities are using social media channels as a microphone to ask for donations

Charity street collectors, or "chuggers" (charity muggers) as they’ve come to be known, have been criticised quite a bit recently. The way that they block your path when you're trying to get from A to B is a temporary annoyance, but one that many people are vocal about their dislike for, especially when they have a bad experience with a particularly pushy worker or get approached by 2 or 3 chuggers in the same part of their journey.

It might be an unfair comparison, but I find their presence on the high street quite similar to betting shops: you may find the sight of them unpleasant, but they must be making money for someone or they wouldn’t be there. I don’t want to come across as someone who thinks all chuggers are bad. I’ve heard of many, many fantastic stories where charity street collectors have managed to get huge regular donations from passers-by to the massive benefit of a worthy cause, something that wouldn’t have been possible without them being out on the street and approaching people in the first place.

Another broadcast channel

But I’ve increasingly found the the presence of chuggers has wormed its way into other areas in quite an unexpected way: charities’ social media channels. Generally, charities approach social media in an excellent manner: offering valuable content, engaging with followers and fans, and generally following best practise approaches. In some respects they’re even further ahead than a lot of business and private sector organisations.

But an increasing number of charities aren’t getting it "right", perhaps blinded by high-profile online fundraising case studies, and are simply turning their social media channels into another broadcast channel (although I’m aware that it’s widely held that there is no "right" way in social media).

I’ve seen recently several charities not balancing the messages they put out about themselves with content of value to others, making them come across as "online chuggers". And this obviously has negative consequences. Generally chuggers are avoidable. You can simply change your route or cross the street if you spot them and don’t want to be approached. The same can be said for online chuggers: I can simply unfollow your channel if I don’t like the content you put out into the community – the digital equivalent of changing my route or crossing the street.

Valuable content 

I’m hoping that this post – rather than come across as a direct criticism of chuggers – acts as a timely reminder to look across your social media channels and make sure that the content you are posting is of value to your community, rather than just being used as a microphone.

Do promote your own content and ask for donations, but balance this out with other content of value to your community. Think about your audience and tailor your content to what will interest them. Otherwise, your social media newstream will come across like a street of pushy chuggers and you may find that your supporters no longer walk down your online "street" with you.