Facing Up to Face-to-face
Stopping passers-by in the street and asking them to sign up, there and then, to a monthly electronic payment to your nonprofit may, on the face of it, seem the quickest possible way to lose friends and irritate people.
And so it is. Fundraisers worldwide may have found face-to-face fundraising stunningly lucrative — in the short term, at least — but they’ve also contributed to general resentment and dislike of the way charity fundraisers do business, and probably to quite a few future bequests being scrubbed from wills. In many main streets and shopping malls of the United Kingdom, Europe and elsewhere, potential donors are routinely crossing the road to avoid the fundraisers they see waiting in ambush ahead, clipboards and EFT forms at the ready.
But North American fundraisers can’t afford to ignore this proved form of cost-effectively recruiting large numbers of regular, committed donors. Greenpeace International, which started this trend in Europe and then rolled it out around the world, now collects more than $150 million per year from well over 1 million donors recruited in this way.
It’s up to the creativity, ingenuity and imagination of fundraisers to implement face-to-face in ways that donors will find inspirational rather than irritating. Remember the history of direct mail, still viewed by most of our prospects as junk mail. It has to be possible for fundraisers to learn the lessons of history and realize that it’s not the method or means of contacting donors that is flawed or matters most -- it’s how well or how badly fundraisers do it.
* Practice thinking about this and all other contacts from your donor’s viewpoint.
* Train your askers carefully and personally.
* Be different. The beginning of success is to be different, the beginning of failure is to be the same. Try street theater, or telling a story, or using something tactile and tangible to intrigue and engage passers by.