Fundraiser Retention: 5 Tips to Retain Your Top Canvassers
For many nonprofit organizations, face-to-face fundraising is an effective way to secure recurring monthly revenue. However, these campaigns are an investment, and when it comes to having a truly successful face-to-face effort, a strong program is built from the inside-out.
This is observable when you analyze the metrics that define success for a face-to-face fundraising campaign. For example, we’ve found that successful campaigns generally have less than a 1% non-severe negative feedback rate reported by donors (and an even lower severe feedback rate). This low rate is directly a result of effective and personable on-the-ground fundraising professionals. Effective canvassers can be a great asset when it comes to connecting with and securing sustaining donors for your organization.
Of course, we know that face-to-face fundraising has been significantly impacted during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. So, why are we writing about canvasser retention right now?
Well, face-to-face fundraising is one field of nonprofit operations that’s rife with employee turnover. Ineffective face-to-face programs can create a bad reputation for the field overall, creating the perception that canvassers are overworked, underpaid and not respected. Right now, as face-to-face fundraising slowly builds its momentum again, is the perfect time to revamp your canvasser recruiting and retention efforts to be prepared for your next launch.
We’ve taken intentional steps to retain professional canvassers on behalf of our charity partners. We’ve discovered a few key actions that fundraising managers can take to retain top canvassers throughout the course of a campaign and beyond. To retain your top brand ambassadors, you should:
- Recruit canvassers with intention.
- Provide top-notch training from the start.
- Provide incentives and upward mobility.
- Equip canvassers with intuitive technology.
- Prepare fundraisers with effective gear.
Are you ready to recruit and retain effective fundraisers for your charity? Let’s get started.
Recruit Canvassers With Intention
There is a misconception in the philanthropic world that face-to-face fundraisers are charity volunteers sent out into the public and equipped with a few branded brochures. That couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Face-to-face canvassers are professional fundraisers, which means they’re recruited, they undergo a rigorous selection process, and only the best are hired by your team. The first step to retaining quality canvassers is to recruit quality canvassers from the start.
At Globalfaces Direct, we conduct all of our recruiting/hiring in-house to make sure that each candidate hired has the best chance of success in the role. We recommend that charities take this same approach or work with a face-to-face fundraising vendor partner that does. This will allow you to discover those candidates who are:
- Truly interested and passionate about your cause.
- Enigmatic and engaging speakers.
- Friendly and welcoming to new faces.
- Effective at communicating the value proposition of giving to your organization.
Intentional recruiting ensures you’re only bringing in canvassers most likely to experience success. These are also those most likely to have a positive experience on your team.
Provide Top-Notch Training From the Start
As with any employee, a helpful orientation and onboarding process is crucial to launch an effective relationship between the canvasser and your organization. After all, we know that face-to-face fundraising relies on impactful first impressions between donors and fundraisers — why would the fundraiser/charity relationship be any different?
Onboarding is your opportunity to leave a lasting positive impression on canvassers, one that will both empower them to be more successful in their fundraising efforts and carry them through challenging days in the field.
Rather than a one-day introduction to your nonprofit, we recommend conducting a multi-week onboarding process to welcome new canvassers to your team. This extended onboarding affords you:
- Confidence that the canvasser understands your mission and the efforts you’re taking to further the cause.
- The ability to train the canvasser in your key phrasing and fundraising messaging.
- Time to get to know each canvasser as a part of your fundraising team and not just as another face in the crowd.
Beyond this, we encourage you to conduct ongoing training with each canvasser. For example, bi-weekly or monthly training sessions, in addition to daily check-ins, can ensure this initial training is always fresh on your fundraisers’ minds and that they consistently have access to the most recent and accurate key messaging points.
Provide Incentives and Upward Mobility
One interesting aspect that we’ve seen is that the success of door-to-door fundraising is built on repeatable, predictable donor impression metrics. By analyzing key metrics, it’s possible to predict how many potential donors will open the door and even how many will choose to give to your organization. This also means that the day-to-day life of a professional fundraiser can be somewhat formulaic.
There is a decent chance that your most successful fundraisers will, at some point, seek progression beyond these predictable day-to-day efforts. It’s natural to desire more opportunity and responsibility beyond one’s position, and that’s why we recommend providing incentives and mobility for canvassers.
When canvassers have something to aspire to, they’ll be motivated to stay with your charity and continue advancing in their careers. Consider offering the following incentives:
- Internal promotions. When you recognize stand-out canvassers, consider promoting them from within to have more responsibility within your face-to-face fundraising program. We strive toward 100% internal promotion, meaning that all of our managers and national consultants started out as entry-level door-to-door fundraisers. We even host annual retreats and quarterly events to reward our fundraisers across North America. This allows us to bring them together to celebrate successes and share insights.
- Incentives. Fundraisers are paid employees — that means a guaranteed wage as well as performance-based incentives. Consider providing financial incentives by way of performance-driven metrics, such as quality conversations, donor retention and averages. While we do not utilize or recommend a commission structure, one should consider incentive programs that drive the performance metrics clients need to see to enjoy a healthy monthly donor program for years to come. For a comprehensive dive into nonprofit employee compensation, check out this Astron Solutions guide.
While some of your canvassers may be hired into entry-level positions, treat them like any other employee — meaning, give them opportunities to continue growing in their position. This will make them significantly more likely to stay with your organization!
Equip Canvassers With Intuitive Technology
Canvassers are, effectively, remote staff. They’re out in the field, whether in businesses, neighborhoods, city centers or even at events. Because of this, we strongly recommend equipping fundraisers with technology in the field — something we do through our proprietary Insight tablet software. The benefits of technology in the field extend beyond your organization to your canvassers as well.
Equipping fundraisers with technology:
- Allows canvassers to quickly and effectively report on all of their interactions with precision.
- Empowers your charity to collect information about the entire donor/canvasser interaction in real-time.
- Gives you the tools to connect with donors after they’ve signed up to give, to thank them, welcome them and maybe even collect feedback about why they’re giving monthly.
- Sends all data surrounding your face-to-face fundraising efforts directly into your constituent relationship management system, preventing it from getting lost in the mix and ensuring that every donor enters into the proper donor journey map.
When you equip fundraisers with technology, you make the reporting process significantly simpler for your canvassers and empower them to be recognized for their wins. Further, you add an unprecedented level of transparency into your face-to-face process, removing some of the distance between your organization and canvassers.
Last, but certainly not least, provide fundraisers with all of the gear they need to be successful in the field. When they have everything they need right off the bat, they’ll have a better experience and be more successful immediately. This helps retain the fundraisers for the long haul.
This includes branded marketing materials (such as brochures) and a uniform that distinguishes them as an official fundraiser for your organization. Strong marketing collateral and canvasser uniforms go a long way in building the legitimacy of the canvassing program and instilling confidence with potential donors about supporting your cause.
More recently, however, this has meant equipping canvassers with the needed safety gear to safely return to the “workplace,” fundraising in the public. This includes, but isn’t limited to:
- Uniforms that encourage social distancing
- Hand sanitizer
- Door knocking tools
If you’re planning to send canvassers out into the field during COVID-19, it’s essential that you’ve crafted an effective pandemic fundraising response to ensure they’re operating safely. Thoughtful preparation will show that you care about the health and safety of fundraisers in the field, and they’ll appreciate that and remember it when choosing to stay with your organization.
A strong face-to-face fundraising program is built with the help of successful canvassers. It can be challenging to retain your organization’s top canvassers, but certainly not impossible!
With these five tips, your fundraisers will feel more appreciated and recognized by your organization. Being intentional when interacting with canvassers, as with these tips, will retain more fundraisers in the long run.
Globalfaces Direct is a North American direct marketing agency. They work with both large international (Plan International, UNICEF, Red Cross, etc.) and regional (Sick Kids Hospital, Calgary Health Trust, BC Cancer, etc.) non-profits across North America to build recurring donor files, primarily using face-to-face (F2F) fundraising and outbound telemarketing.
GFD is the leading F2F agency in Canada and currently has the capacity to acquire more than 150,000 monthly donors annually. Their field force consists of approximately 800 fundraisers spread across 50+ locations in Canada and 5+ locations (and growing) in the United States.