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09 Apr 14

What Skills Did You Learn As A Street Fundraiser?

Last month we launched our Streets Ahead career path project to map the transition from street fundraiser to mainstream charity fundraising. We’ve already had a fantastic response with over 80 participants to date and the project has been covered by Civil Society, Guardian Voluntary Sector, UK Fundraising and more.

Early analysis has revealed some really interesting findings to suggest that time spent working as a street fundraiser is incredibly beneficial to subsequent office-based roles.

The emerging trends are clear and here are a few highlights:

Asked to rate, on a scale of 1 to 7, how useful their stints on the street were to their subsequent fundraising roles, survey respondents gave this an average score of 5.59. The most useful skill they picked up – rating 6.0 on this scale – was the confidence to ask for a donation.

There is also a lot of consensus among former street fundraisers that they would recommend street fundraising to people considering a career in the third sector. One respondent said: “I would say definitely go for it. It can be tough at times but it’s so worth it. You learn so much and you work with and meet some amazing people. It’s really taught me so much and made me into who I am now. It’s allowed me to have the job I have at the moment, so if you work hard then there is so much room for progression.”

These findings support our long-held belief that street fundraising can serve as an ‘unofficial apprenticeship’, where it is possible to pick up the skills that will set you up for a career within charity fundraising.

Stay tuned to our newsletters and social media for more findings! The survey is still live so click here if you would like to participate. Feel free to tweet your feedback to @flowcaritas using the hashtag #StreetsAhead.

Street fundraising set me up for a broader fundraising role – it can do the same for you.

In the first of a series of guest blogs, we asked Sam Butler, Acquisitions and Communications Manager at St John Ambulance, how the skills he learnt as a street fundraiser prepared him for an office-based role.

“I started my fundraising career as a street fundraiser. At the time – about 13 years ago – I was an actor, and being a street fundraiser offered me the flexibility to combine my acting jobs with a more regular income.

I hadn’t intended to become a charity fundraiser. But I discovered that I was good at it. If you’re good at something, you find it easier to do it each day. I met some of my closest friends whilst working at the fundraising agency I started at, and the sense of community that we had amongst ourselves – fellow artists and musicians, fighting for good causes everyday, was as important as being good at what I was doing. Street fundraising became a springboard for me to launch a career in charities.

I don’t know how many of you have become street fundraisers because you are looking to build a career in charities, or for how many of you, like me, the realisation is dawning that charity fundraising is where you could now build your career, even if that wasn’t your original intention.

For all of you that do want to achieve the transition from the street into office-based fundraising, I can offer a few words of encouragement.

Face-to-face fundraising gives you the essential fundraising skills that you can drop into many areas of the profession.

The main skill I learnt from my time as a face-to-face fundraiser was the ability and confidence to talk to a particular demographic about a particular cause. We would do that 10 times an hour on the street. You could be talking to someone 65 or older – which is the right demographic for direct mail. Or you could be talking to someone in their 30s or 40s; which is the target demographic to respond to a DRTV campaign!

You would also often talk to someone who wanted to sponsor your charity’s work through their business, so you take their card and pass it on to the relevant person at the charity, and this would often lead to gaining an insight and understanding of how corporate partnerships can be vital to the charity’s fundraising efforts.

When you are in your early 20s, you’re probably not aware of all the strategies charities use to fundraise, but working in F2F gives you that understanding and you start to think about all of them together.

One of the many things it teaches you is the ability to convince someone to commit to the charity for the long term, which is a valuable commodity in charities – to be able to outline and explain a change you want to bring about and bring people round to that.

Being able to achieve this is down to what I learned as a street fundraiser, and the simplicity of presenting: problem – solutions – asks. The more the donor can gain an insight into how their generosity can be the solution, the stronger their relationship with the charity can become through your representation of it.

I would strongly recommend starting as a street fundraiser. I don’t see any difference whether it is street, doorstep or private site, or between in-house and agency, although with in-house you would have closer ties to the charity and might be able to build closer personal contacts.

Street fundraising taught me to be resourceful more than any other job I’ve had. It gave me so much insight in to fundraising in general; including direct marketing and communication. It really stood me in great stead for a broader role, and helped me to quickly gain promotion internally at St John Ambulance.

There’s no reason why it can’t do the same for you too.”