The number of people signing up to give to charity through face-to-face fundraising, comprising both street and door-to-door activity, hit its highest level last year, according to the latest figures from the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association.
A projected 680,000 donors were recruited in the year to the end of March 2009, up 16 per cent on the previous year. All but a few hundred of that figure are confirmed cases.
The total, which will be announced at the PFRA's annual general meeting on Wednesday, is the highest since the PFRA started collating figures on face-to-face sign-ups in 2003/04.
There was a similar increase of 16 per cent in 2007/08. The previous year, however, had seen numbers fall dramatically after the collapse of fundraising agencies Fruitful and Push.
Mick Aldridge, chief executive of the PFRA, said this year's increase was a welcome surprise and attributed much of the growth to door-to-door fundraising. "Organisations are taking a fresh look at this area," he said. "They have learnt from mistakes and are now taking a much more measured look at door-to-door," he said. The figures proved face-to-face could defy the recession, he added.
Jonny Wright, head of membership at the RSPB, said the charity had invested in door-to-door fundraising because traditional methods such as direct mail were becoming less cost-effective. He added that professional suppliers of face-to-face services were helping the technique thrive while traditional channels were struggling.
Sanjeev Gupta, head of fundraising UK at Concern Worldwide, said its street fundraising sign-ups were exceeding targets. He said the growth in face-to-face sign-ups was attributable to more training, better targeting and a more altruistic population.
"I think in times of recession some people are more inclined to give because they see causes in great need," he said.