THINKPIECE: Face-to-face fundraising is really justified

Cathy Sullivan, chief executive of Caring Together

Face-to-face fundraising is often criticised. But charities of various sizes, both local and national and not just big brand names, enjoy considerable long-term and tax-effective income generated from this type of activity.

Why is it that no one ever raises concerns over direct mail budgets, fees earned by direct marketing agencies, lawyers, accountants and every other paid staff member or service provider to a charity? These overheads are often not directly related to income generation.

Direct marketing campaigns regularly lose money, or struggle to break even - not so with face-to-face where a professional fundraising organisation's income is directly related to its ability to perform. It has become an Aunt Sally because it's an easy target, sadly burdened by confusion over a regulatory framework that is far from clear, not because it is inherently bad.

Furthermore, charities openly acknowledge this as their most cost-effective method of fundraising because of the long-term income stream it produces.

Critics of face-to-face fundraising claim the one-off service fee comes from a donor's first year of contributions, which is a gross distortion of the facts. Fundraising budgets are pre-allocated to various techniques and campaigns, also taking expected income into account, as part of a charity's annually planned strategy and expenditure.

Professional fundraising organisations are used because they are cost effective. Their management and other service-driven overheads are covered across many charities ensuring cost efficiency for an individual charity.

Professional fundraising organisations are also required by law to make a statement of how they are remunerated and this is done during the discourse with a potential donor and prior to bank mandates being signed. Although similar rules apply to other fundraising techniques, they are most rigidly applied in face-to-face fundraising where the practice is also a requirement of the Public Fundraising Regulatory Authority and the Institute of Fundraising codes of practice.

But the sector does need to dramatically improve its communication with both the general public and other interested parties, illustrating exactly why face-to-face campaigns and other external resources are cost effective.

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