I have worked in and around face to face fundraising since 1998. A friend of mine worked for Action Aid at the time and he asked me if I could help him set up what I guess was one of the first in-house face to face operations.
Face to face fundraising is surrounded by controversy, but I don’t believe that’s because there is something inherently controversial about face to face fundraising. Speaking to someone face to face, talking about something you believe in, giving them enough information and clarity of understanding that they want to join you in this belief, well we have done this since we developed language.
The controversy of face to face fundraising, a bit like religion, comes not from it’s ethos but from some of those people executing it. I don’t mean that some of those people executing it are inherently bad or have the wrong intention. I mean that because of poor training, a lack of checks and the pressures that they are under from charities, they don’t always go about it in the right way.
I believe that face to face fundraising is here to stay and in fact is going to grow. It need’s to go back to it’s roots and remember what it’s true purpose is. To promote the cause and garner long term, sustainable relationships with the public. We just ran a Director’s lunch which focused on the fact that traditional sales and fundraising models are broken. The spray and pray approach doesn’t work as a means of immediately encouraging people to make a purchase. What does work, as many organisations in the commercial sector know, is engaging with people, building a relationship and giving them enough information so that when they are ready to make a purchase they will choose you.
This might mean that the fundraising mix, face to face with the public, will need to include conversation’s and engagement for the sake of establishing a relationship and not directly asking for money. It’s a scary prospect for an operation that measures conversations in terms of financial returns and it will take some commitment and guts from charities.
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