Major charities are reporting declining results from established fundraising methods such as street, direct mail, door-to-door and telephone fundraising, according to a new report from the charity think tank New Philanthropy Capital.
Rob Abercrombie, director of research and consulting at NPC, makes the observation in the introduction to the report, Fundraising Perspectives: Donor Segmentation & Money for Good UK.
He writes that the public dislike many of the direct marketing techniques used by charities, which is bad for all charities in the long term because it undermines trust.
Although fundraisers know this, he argues, it is not apparent what alternatives they have, especially when the existing methods do produce a return on investment.
Abercrombie told Third Sector: "Fundraisers face a real dilemma – they’re between a rock and a hard place, because they know that some of the methods they use are not popular with the public, who perceive them as intrusive."
Rather than spending too much time focusing on refining established techniques, fundraisers should be seeking "breakthrough innovations" such as those pursued by Solar Aid, he said.
Solar Aid reported a 100 per cent increase in funding income in 2013 after it launched an online platform where supporters could the charity to their contacts. It also put more emphasis on communicating the impact of the charity’s work.
Abercrombie said that understanding donors’ attitudes and motivations was important. "The better we understand people, the better we can communicate with them," he said.
The report says that fundraisers – as charities’ most public-facing staff – are partly to blame for the public misunderstanding of the sector and of issues such as chief executive pay and the right of charities to campaign.
It cites Comic Relief’s pledge that every penny it raises goes directly to the cause as doing a "disservice" to other charities by maintaining the myth that administration and staff costs can be avoided.