How to... Make the most of your face-to-face fundraising

Face-to-face fundraising has attracted a lot of negative publicity, but its defenders say it is a valuable means of collecting donations and boosting awareness.

"It presents a great opportunity to engage with our supporters in a personal way," says Mark Foster, supporter acquisition manager at Scope.

The Public Fundraising Regulatory Association estimates that about 500,000 supporters a year sign up through face-to-face fundraising (including those recruited by door-to-door techniques) and assumes the average gift to be at least £5. This equates to a pledge value of at least £30m per year before Gift Aid, although the total sum might be less, depending on attrition rates.So how can charities ensure they benefit from this large sum of money?

1. Interact

Face-to-face fundraisers tend to be a bit wacky. But they should remain professional. "You can't be too showy or salesy," says Gordon Michie, director of development at fundraising consultancy Relationship Marketing.

The job of a fundraiser is to enthuse passers-by to become donors. "They must be able to talk with real commitment about what their charity does," says Michie. "That means holding in their heads stories about their cause, their beneficiary group and what their charity has achieved."

The PFRA warns that fundraisers must also stick to the facts. "Don't make stuff up or exaggerate," says Mick Aldridge, chief executive of the PFRA. "If you say 'I don't actually know, but you can go to the website and find out', it's more convincing. You can see someone bluffing from a mile off."

2. Campaign

Charities can also campaign and inform with face-to-face, according to Jo O'Neill, head of marketing at the League Against Cruel Sports.

'It's often difficult to place our messages in the media," he says. "But being on the street talking to people is a way to communicate."

The charity uses face-to-face to recruit campaigners who seek to influence politicians and decision makers. It offers new recruits alternative ways of supporting the charity, such as volunteering or campaigning, either directly or online.

3. Follow up

Charities often hand over giveaways at the point of recruitment, but these should be relevant and convenient to carry, says Aldridge. "I consider it essential to follow up rapidly with a personal contact," he points out. "Telephone is traditional, but charities are increasingly using email and text."

The League Against Cruel Sports phones new supporters as soon as possible after the initial meeting to ask them how they would like to get involved.

It records the ways supporters want to help - whether people want information, to make donations or to get involved in another way.

Those who sign up to Scope receive a welcome pack and a badge that symbolises the charity's fight for equality for disabled people.

"The key is to continue that dynamic conversation with supporters after they have signed the forms and walked away," says Foster.

Newsletters are designed to reinforce the message that supporters can make an impact on charities' work.

4. Target

There is often too little planning when it comes to choosing a fundraising site. Sometimes it entails little more than sticking a pin in a map. But targeting can be improved by identifying sites where prospective donors live and work.

"If you are a baby charity, stand outside Mothercare or a pet shop," suggests Michie.

Once at the site, fundraisers should also be more selective about who they approach. For example, charities that appeal to professional males aged 35 to 50 should ask their fundraisers to approach these people.

"Sometimes there is the thought that you just approach the person who is most likely to stop and talk," says Michie

Scope's fundraisers often use their environment to highlight the barriers that disabled people face - for example, on the high street, where many shops are inaccessible to wheelchair users.

5. Law

Professionals have to disclose the 'notifiable amount' they are paid under the amended 2006 Charities Act. Face-to-face fundraisers should also comply with this law. Government guidelines will take effect by April.

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