How to do face to face fundraising

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This is part of the Islington stretch of Regent’s Canal in London. One of my favourite city walks. The other day as I passed by the stretch of the canal, I was approached by a fundraiser, working for the Canal and Rivers’ Trust. It was a lovely day, I was in a good mood and not in a hurry so we chatted for a few minutes and I left having signed a direct debit for the charity. And with a nice book of canal and river walks.

We hear a great deal in the press and also form within the sector of how awful face to face fundraising is and how much damage it is doing to charity reputations. Well this was an example of how, done well, face to face can not only recruit supporters but actually create a really good donor experience.

Why was this good? Well the fundraiser (sorry I didn’t catch his name) was excellent. Personable, well briefed and not at all pushy.  The time and place happened to suit me and he correctly spotted this. The process was smooth and hassle free. But what really worked was relevance. When you are actually enjoying, for free, the amenity the charity is there to cherish and protect, refusing to engage with the fundraiser is that much harder.  The case for support was literally all around you although the fundraiser had to be there to point out that this wasn’t being paid for by the government and our canals and rivers have to survive on voluntary donations.

What are the lessons? Well, all forms of fundraising have their place. Face to face conversation will always be one of the most powerful forms of interaction with supporters and this works for good or ill depending upon how well it is done. The fundraiser from the Canal & Rivers Trust was a staff member not an agency employee and this may have helped the approach to be considered and right for the audience (me), although there are very good fundraisers working for agencies too of course.  Having a proper conversation rather than following a script is important.

But above all, how can you make the approach as relevant as possible to the person you are approaching.  Your charity might not have canals to fundraise on but there will be ways to better relate your cause to the target audience and some more time spent reflecting on these would probably pay off.

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