Margaret Stock draws on Alexandra Rose’s 99 years of experience with street collections to provide some tried and tested tips for success
Britain’s first flag day was in 1912, when Queen Alexandra was joined by the society ladies of London in launching what has now become a great British tradition. Street collections are an effective way to raise the profile of your charity as well as to collect money. They give the people within the charity a chance to go out, meet the public and talk about how the money helps – providing an insight into the charity’s work.
The paperwork required to secure permits can be complicated for small charities, and the purchase of collecting tins and badges is costly. If it all appears daunting, the tips below could help make your collection a success.
Location, location, location
The first thing you need to do is to select a location for your collection. Good ideas for this would be a railway station, an out of town supermarket or your local high street. If you have enough volunteers you might consider doing all the locations on the same day. Also bear in mind weather conditions – for example, a shopping centre or supermarket might be a better choice during the winter months.
Timing is everything
Think which day would be best. For example, does your town have a weekly market? This would attract more people and get a greater footfall for your collection. You could also check at the railway station to find out the peak times for commuters in the morning and evening. Ensure that you consider car parking costs for the volunteers.
Applying for a permit
Now you have chosen a location the next thing to do is a find a date that will fit in with your volunteers. This is the hard bit. You need to apply for a permit nine to 12 months before your collection. If you are collecting in a street you will need to obtain a street permit from the local council. This process varies from council to council. Some will have details on their websites and others expect a phone call and letter to request a particular date. You should be informed of a successful application six to eight weeks before the collection date. To collect at railway stations or supermarkets you will need to apply with a letter about your charity and the date and location you would like.
Respecting banking rules
When holding a street, supermarket or station collection you will be receiving cash donations. The buckets or tins you use must be sealed and numbered to each collector. The collecting tin or bucket must be clearly labelled to show the name of your charity, so the public will know which local organisation will benefit from the money raised. When the collection is complete all sealed tins or buckets must be returned to three officials in your charity. The money will need to be counted by them in a safe place or inside the bank. The funds must then be paid into a bank account registered to the charity.
Notifying the local press
All street collections must publish the amount raised in a local newspaper. This is a requirement of the local authority. The amount raised by each individual must also be noted and this information should be sent, along with the press cutting, to the local authority within one month of the collection date.
Find out how many volunteers you have and draw up a suitable rota. Ideally, do not leave one person for hours on end without a break. Make it an enjoyable experience, so they will want to come and help you again. On the day of the collection, make your volunteers stand out . If you have a charity t-shirt or a sash this will make them easily identifiable. If you have a pop-up banner, see if you can use it at the venue. For a street collection, you might even consider wearing fancy dress!
Make sure all your equipment has your charity logo and use t-shirts, banners or posters to reinforce your message. Make sure your volunteers know all about what your charity does. They are the face of your charity and must act in a professional manner.
Adhering to regulatory requirements
Your permit or letter of authorisation will include guidelines on how to carry out the collection in accordance with the land owner’s requirements. You will be given the date, time and location and advised on how many collectors may be there at one time. When booking remember to ask to bring a table or banner. People under the age of 16 are not allowed to hold a collection tin or bucket, but they can stand with an adult to assist. Shaking a collecting tin or bucket is forbidden. You are also not allowed to approach people. If comes towards you, smile and try and talk about your charity and answer any questions you may have.
Margaret Stock is national director at Alexandra Rose Charities, which helps charities across the UK that do not have the staff, time or funds to organise a collection for themselves
This article first appeared in The Fundraiser magazine, Issue 5, May 2011