Editorial: Changing times for face-to-face

These are interesting times for street fundraising, says deputy editor Andy Ricketts

Andy Ricketts
Andy Ricketts

The news that Gift Fundraising, the UK's largest face-to-face fundraising agency, had gone into administration caught many off guard. Its demise, with the loss of 300 fundraising jobs, will send some charities scrambling to find other agencies to carry out their face-to-face fundraising activities and leave something of a hole in the market.

It comes at an interesting time for face-to-face fundraising. The indignation from those who take offence at being approached in the street by cheery chuggers seems to be growing and councils, keen for easy wins with their voting public, have lent them a sympathetic ear.

Liverpool, Manchester and, more recently, Burnley councils have all drawn up agreements with the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association limiting the number of days street fundraisers can operate in their areas to three days a week in Liverpool and Manchester and two days in Burnley.

Wolverhampton City Council, meanwhile, made threatening noises about fining "nuisance" fundraisers up to £500 before sitting down with the PFRA and signing an agreement limiting activity to three days a week.

Despite this, many charities remain committed to the activity - even if they are reluctant to say so publicly - and the figures show an industry in rude health. The annual returns for 2010/11 showed street and door-to-door sign-ups among PFRA member organisations had risen by more than 100,000 on the previous year to 730,269 - the second-highest level in the PFRA's 10-year history. Before Gift's closure, the most recent figures for this financial year were up by an encouraging 10 per cent, according to the PFRA.

The PFRA itself is also in a time of change. The newly appointed Paul Stallard, its first paid chair, is yet to put his mark on the role and is in the process of recruiting a new chief executive. With Lord Hodgson making it clear that he wants evidence from charities and the public on the regulation of fundraising as part of his review of the Charities Act 2006, further change could be afoot. An intriguing few months lie ahead.

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