OPINION: HOT ISSUE - Has face-to-face fundraising reached a saturation point?

Face-to-face fundraising is a successful way of recruiting donors, but reports in the press suggest that it is unpopular with the public. The number of face-to-face fundraisers is increasing with three new companies opening in the past three years. But are charities exhausting the fundraising medium's potential?

Stephen Lee, director, Centre for Voluntary Sector Management - YES

I'm a great believer in face-to-face as a fundraising medium but without appropriate regulation, particularly self-regulation, there is a danger of saturation which could lead us to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

The sector faces a quandary: on the one hand this is a very effective form of fundraising recruitment but on the other it is seen by many people, particularly non-donors, as an intrusive form of recruitment and one that at the point of solicitation is not targeted.

If you put together intrusiveness and an untargeted approach in any form of marketing practice you have a recipe for high levels of cynicism and public avoidance.

Agencies and charities are seeking short-term gain rather than long-term development of the medium. Consequently, the enormous benefits of street fundraising are in danger of being muddied and lost in favour of cynicism and avoidance.

Cathy Anderson, fundraising and marketing director, Greenpeace - NO

Greenpeace introduced this method of fundraising to the UK from Europe in 1997. Since then face-to-face has seen very little development across the sector.

Unlike other fundraising techniques such as direct mail or inserts, where testing is seen as integral to the technique, the sector has been too willing to accept what was on offer from agencies with very little testing and development.

Face-to-face fundraising does not suit every charity, and the way it is implemented right now (teams of young people on high streets) suits even fewer.

The high streets of the UK are over-saturated, and the new Public Fundraising Regulatory Association (PFRA) scheme of site allocation is essential to sustain this as an option in face-to-face recruitment.

At a basic level, a conversation with a person has the potential to be much more powerful than any other medium (yes, even TV). We need to work with that starting point, then develop everything else around our brands, rather than what is on offer from the agencies providing services in this area.

Aneesha Moreira, head of fundraising, Scope - NO

I don't believe that this fundraising medium has reached saturation point nationally, although certain areas are being over-used and face-to-face fundraising needs to be carefully regulated if it is to be a sustainable activity.

Street fundraising allows us to talk to the general public about our work and is an invaluable way of attracting new supporters who we would not necessarily reach using more traditional media.

It is particularly effective for charities like Scope which don't have the spend to counter the increasing dominance of the very large charity brands and whose cause is generally less popular. In addition, we find the level of satisfaction of supporters recruited in this way is often higher than those recruited through direct mail.

If face-to-face fundraising is to have a future, charities need to take the lead in ensuring this type of fundraising is not overused. In the short term, this will mean accepting that there could be a limited number of opportunities to recruit which may mean a lower volume of recruits. But we must look to the long term, and self-regulation is perhaps the only way we can sustain this valuable type of fundraising.

Simon Denegri, assistant chief executive, The Alzheimer's Society - NO

Street recruitment has become the most successful form of donor recruitment across the charitable sector.

From an Alzheimer's Society perspective it is enabling us to target younger donors who have previously been difficult for us to reach through other fundraising methods. To date we have limited our street recruitment activities to London. But based on our experience there over the last year - where we have recruited more than 4,000 new donors and excellent returns - we have decided to expand it into other areas of the country.

This method of recruitment is still unique in that we only pay for what has already been recruited. We also feel it is an attractive method of building relationships with donors. From the outset they are able to ask questions of the charity, something that is of course not possible with mailings.

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