'It's a return to tried and tested methods'

Fundraising guru Mick Aldridge tells John Plummer why face-to-face will be fundraisers' new weapon of choice.

When times are tough, organisations tend to fall back on proven methods of raising money. For charity fundraisers, this could mean a return to face-to-face.

It's a method of fundraising that has not gone away since it began 30 years ago, but it has shown signs of a slight decline recently.

It accounted for 580,000 sign-ups on the street or doorstep in 2003/04, when the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association, which regulates face-to-face fundraising, became independent. The figure fell to 500,000 in 2005/06 as charities sought more lucrative fundraising methods, but there are already signs of a revival. "We are predicting it will be pushing back up to between the 550,000 and 560,000 mark this year," says Mick Aldridge, chief executive of the PFRA.

Why is this happening? "Face-to-face gives a clear return on investment," says Aldridge. "In a recession, charities are likely to return to tried and tested methods. It's not like corporate fundraising, which has fallen through the floor, or legacies, which people are reconsidering. It's dependable."

The face-to-face market has changed, however. "When it was a new industry, fundraisers could sign up five or six people a day," says Aldridge. "Now it's two or three a day. But the average gift has gone up from £5 a month five years ago to £7.50 now, so it's still cost-effective."

Doorstep fundraising is particularly popular. Aldridge estimates up to 60 per cent of face-to-face sign-ups are achieved at people's homes now, compared with 50 per cent five years ago.

But is the recent rise in face-to-face merely a blip? Evidence suggests not. The PFRA recently emailed its 130 members asking how much they expected to use the method during the next year. "In most cases, they said they would use it the same amount, or more," he says. "I don't think charities with no face-to-face experience will rush into it, but those already using it will maintain or increase their interest."

When the inevitable complaints about intrusiveness arrive, the profession is better geared up to respond now. "We are forewarned and forearmed with arguments that have been well honed over the years," says Aldridge. "We can say that the need to raise funds for charity services is greater than ever."


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