Where’s the fun in that?

Last Thursday was a beautiful day, the sun was shining, signalling the long awaited return of spring, my iPod’s shuffle function was hitting it out of the park, and earlier in the day I had found the sweetest little book store down one of Cambridge’s narrow market streets. It was perfect, until, seemingly out of nowhere I was confronted with one of my most feared nemeses, a foe that is relentless, ever-present, and fills my heart with dread each and every time I see them – chuggers.

Like a gang of Goombas in my path, on the way to the Princess’ house, the chuggers (charity muggers) had strategically scattered themselves so that any passer by would be caught.

I can’t help but wonder: why were they there? Seriously. It’s no secret that each chugger is armed with powerful emblems of guilt designed to make you part with whatever change you’re unfortunate enough not to have wasted on stamps or a KitKat, but are they really helping?

Whenever I see one, it reminds of ORSG’s (obnoxious religious speaker-guys) who ignore the social code of public transport, and start ranting about Jesus, and how it isn’t too late to save my soul. Each time I encounter them, it puts me off of religion a little bit more. And it’s the same with chuggers.

The main problem for me is that I don’t feel good when I give to them. I feel like I’ve lost. I feel dirty. It’s so confrontational that I feel basically like I’ve been mugged, and that guilty feeling is resurrected like the ghost of Christmas past every time I see a flock of people wearing the same colour jacket.

I, for one, think it’s time to try something new. It’s time to construe some lie about joining the peace corps, change our mobile number and forget we ever met this ancient paradigm.

I’m not in any way saying stop donating to charities. I love charity, I just think that chuggers are an out-dated and annoying way to promote them. We’ve already seen the potential fun ideas that be used to promote volunteer work. When I think of my work with Orange RockCorps a few years ago, I was really pleased with myself about that, and it worked out well for all concerned: I got to help rejuvenate a local playground and watch the who’s who of the music industry, Orange got some nice PR loving, and the various charities got volunteers. Win, win, win.

I have recently seen this idea for Amnesty International. It’s a concept from these guys, but for the life of me, I don’t understand how it hasn’t been put into fruition yet.

This should be the future of fundraising: fun rewards for helping/donating. I have a personal philosophy that we should reward goodness, instead of punishing irresponsibility (positive, rather than negative reinforcement for the psychologists among you), especially in business, and it is backed by a parade of psychological studies (see Skinner’s work on reinforcement for an interesting investigation of human behaviour).

In this case, the game extension for Call of Duty is a brilliant reward for positive action. It provides exclusive content to an engaged and enormous (7 million strong) audience. Even if you weren’t particularly interested in charity, the exclusivity of the level and low barrier to entry – only  $1- means that you would probably buy it regardless. Gamers are rewarded for helping in a lasting and (slightly) relevant way.

This can be so beneficial down the road. If we compare the experience of gamers and the experience of a chug victim, we see just how destructive it could be. While the gamer has been left with a new adventure to embark on for one of their favourite pastimes, the victim only has memories of a guilt-laced conversation with a stranger and some stickers – unlikely to promote future donations.

My point is that charity doesn’t have to be forced, and that £20,000 per year spent on a street walker may be taking resources away from newer, alternative methods of promotion. New technologies are facilitating easier spread of information and messages, so perhaps it’s time to look to them as a source of successful, positive and on-going fundraising. When you’re trying to get people interested in your cause, or your organisation, the first thing you have to do is be interesting. Ask yourself: ‘Where’s the fun?’. Because ultimately that is what will motivate people to invest their time, and their money with you.