The organization’s renewed focus on monthly giving pushed it to find new ways to garner supporters. And find them it did, most successfully through its direct-dialogue operation.
The concept, which involves using professionally trained canvassers to do face-to-face fundraising door to door and to passers-by on city streets, was pioneered in 1995 in Austria by a company working for none other than Greenpeace. It was shared among the organization’s international offices, and Greenpeace now operates direct dialogue in about 30 countries, from Thailand and India, to Europe and North America, using a mixture of external agencies and in-house teams. It made its way to the United States in 2000.
Sherrington says the organization first tried the successful Greenpeace U.K. approach of having its telemarketing agency do direct dialogue on the street. Telemarketing professionals, after all, are accustomed to quick and motivational conversations, deal with a high rate of rejection, have a high degree of perseverance, and are able to manage a large number of staff. But as Greenpeace USA found out, applying those skills on the street is a challenge, and it failed for the organization.
Greenpeace USA then prompted the door-to-door canvass agency that it had been working with for four years to add sidewalk direct dialogue to its services. Last year, the organization decided to build its own in-house team, which currently operates on the streets of New York City, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Direct dialogue tends to recruit supporters under the age of 35, most of them new to charity giving and unresponsive to direct mail. Those signing up for monthly giving via direct-dialogue street-team workers simply fill out a form giving their contact and bank information. Signing the form authorizes Greenpeace to debit their card or bank account.
Greenpeace’s success with direct dialogue can, in part, be attributed to the way the program fits so well with the organization’s approach to its mission.