Debate: Will door-to-door fundraising become more prevalent than street fundraising?

Our recent poll found opinion was split, but what do the experts think? We asked three fundraising gurus

Adam Rothwell, director, Intelligent Giving
Adam Rothwell, director, Intelligent Giving


"Both have their pros and cons"

Street fundraising has been huge for more than a decade. It is a fantastic way for charities to recruit new supporters. Door-to-door fundraising has also been going for a long time, but on a smaller scale.

Both have their pros and cons. Door-to-door can be more targeted in terms of audience, which can result in lower attrition, and it may be possible to target fundraising products better. But fewer supporters can be recruited per hour. There are also areas where it would be effective to do street fundraising but door-to-door would not be viable: you would need massive teams of fundraisers to achieve anything like the same number of sign-ups.

Shelter's experience is that the return on investment is similar for both, so there is currently no commercial imperative to prioritise one over the other on that basis. However, we are currently expanding our use of door-to-door fundraising to diversify and spread risk.

Our view is that door-to-door fundraising will become more prevalent, but not more prevalent than street fundraising.

- Alan Gosschalk is fundraising director of Shelter


"Door-to-door could easily become ubiquitous"

It depends what you mean by 'prevalent'. My battered old dictionary gives 'extensive', 'successful', 'popular', and 'ubiquitous' as some definitions.

Door-to-door fundraising is far and away more 'extensive' than street fundraising: PFRA research showed that door-to-door accounted for more than 55 per cent of all face-to-face sign-ups in 2007, and that upward trend is still strong. Street activity, though not declining, seems to be plateauing.

Door-to-door has the potential to be more 'successful'. Done well, it can be highly targeted demographically, but it is questionable whether anyone is yet employing that degree of sophistication.

'Popularity' depends on many factors, including complaint rates and cost-effectiveness. Door-to-door is actually far less controversial than street fundraising, but that could change if deregulation spurs a dash for capacity that isn't managed well.

If we apply self-restraint and clear commitments to self-regulation, door-to-door fundraising could easily - and deservedly - become 'ubiquitous'.

- Mick Aldridge is chief executive of the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association


"Both methods are rude and counterproductive"

Street fundraising is on the way out. Attrition rates are terrible, chuggers give charities a bad name and it costs a fortune to run a street campaign.

But we should be cautious about welcoming door-to-door fundraising as our saviour. Although complaints about it are low at the moment, that's probably because it isn't widely used. As the technique becomes more popular, we should expect more complaints - lots more complaints. Although door-to-door agencies can pick out likely donors in a way chuggers can't, that doesn't mean those lucky householders will actually welcome fundraisers to their doors.

Shoppers can spot a chugger approaching from 50 paces - and avoid them; but there's no escape from someone who knocks on your door.

Both street and door-to-door fundraising are, in other words, rude and counterproductive. Both involve accosting members of the public and making them feel bad about not giving. Fundraisers who truly want to recruit long-term, interested donors should look for other methods.

- Adam Rothwell is director of Intelligent Giving

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