EDITORIAL: If we don't act on face-to-face the Government will

Lucy Maggs

Face-to-face fundraising presents a real problem for the voluntary sector. It's a very successful way to raise money - according to the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association, it generated 690,000 new supporters for charities around the country last year. It also picks up the elusive and desirable donor group of the under-35s.

But it is also extremely unpopular, as recent media coverage has shown.

The Times ran a front-page article this week attacking street fundraising and highlighting the profits made by fundraising companies working for charities. A recent item on Radio 4's Moneybox claimed that less than 10p in every £1 pledged through face-to-face fundraising goes to charity.

Charities argue that because face-to-face fundraising works it can't really be that unpopular, but it is possible to be both successful and disliked - as the congestion charge proves. For every one donor who stops and signs up, there might be another 99 who are turned off by the approach from a street fundraiser.

The voluntary sector needs to address the problem of face-to-face before criticism escalates and the sector finds its fundraising activities regulated by government (see page 4). Organisations such as the Charity Finance Directors' Group and the Institute of Fundraising have criticised the way the media has treated face-to-face, but the sector needs to address the heart of the issue, which is the public perception of charities, and how they work.

The public still think charities should be run by volunteers and feel ripped off when they discover that street fundraisers are actually being paid. Anyone working in the sector knows that in order to raise money you have to spend it, and to run an efficient organisation you need to attract and pay good staff. But the sector needs to educate the public and the media as to what it really takes to run a professional, efficient charity.

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