Let’s face it, people can be a little squeamish about face-to-face (F2F) fundraising, and that includes professional fundraisers too. And yet door-to-door (D2D), street, private sites, events and experiential F2F methods have generated billions of pounds for a huge range of causes in the UK since the late 90s and remain among the most effective channels for engaging new supporters.
Internationally, face-to-face is rapidly expanding into new markets, but it’s changing too. Digital data capture and payment technology has evolved what fundraisers can deliver in person and how quickly information is relayed back and processed, offering choice, and positively impacting how we manage those initial supporter communications. Some of the age-old barriers between fundraising and marketing activity are starting to be challenged too. With digital comes the ability to more easily integrate channels, with the potential for F2F in generating new conversations being very much a key component of this debate.
So, in this new evolving era, what lessons can the sector learn? What do we need to avoid in order to succeed with face-to-face?
Avoid a myopic focus on short term returns
Face-to-face is a disruptive medium. But then so are a lot of things that have changed the world for the better. Because of this, we will see both higher recruitment and attrition levels for regular givers than for many other channels. But when we focus on attracting and nurturing the donors that stay, there is rich potential to develop large numbers of donor relationships that would otherwise remain untapped.
So, it’s time to stop the emphasis on break even points and comparisons on short term return on investment, and to shift the focus onto nurturing the new relationships generated on the back of good fundraising.
Don’t think that regular giving is the only game in town
In an era of austerity and limited investment across the sector, regular giving remains hugely important as an unrestricted long-term income channel. Still, there’s talk that regular giving may have had its day, or its heyday at least. I’m not going to hitch myself to that bandwagon, but it’s certainly fair to say that if you’re waiting for the return of the peak growth we saw in the channel’s early years, when Direct Debit was relatively new, you’ll be somewhat disappointed.
There remains an important place for regular giving and face-to-face is critical to that. But we do risk the future of regular giving, if it remains the sole proposition and solution pitched to members of the public. It’s time to start thinking and investing more in the positive face-to-face conversations we are having that don’t always end in a regular gift there and then, but still represent huge potential future value.
What other options can we offer supporters and how do they help charities meet their goals, whether that’s in terms of fundraising, campaigning, brand awareness, service delivery, volunteering or more. There is equity in all positive conversations, we just need to work together (charities, agencies, service providers and all stakeholders) to find new ways to unlock this potential and ultimately offer choice to the potential supporters we are connecting with every day.
Don’t take your fundraisers for granted
This is a golden oldie, but it remains as important today as when Greenpeace fundraisers first started talking to people on the street nearly thirty years ago! Simply put, let’s not forget our people or make this purely a numbers game.
With thousands of committed individuals still working for agencies and in-house charity operations across the country we need to ensure they receive great training, praise and recognition for their efforts and impact. In recent times we have rightly focussed on the donor experience across all fundraising channels and should continue to do so, but to achieve that we need to look after our own. So, I’ll conclude with a shout for that humble, yet spectacular F2F fundraiser!
Dominic Will is Director of Partnerships for face-to-face fundraising specialist Personal Fundraising Services Ltd and has previously served as a trustee of the Institute of Fundraising.