New look face-to-face comes in from the cold

New experiments with face-to-face fundraising suggest that charities could treble the amount they raise from the technique by moving off the streets and into private locations such as shopping centres and train stations.

In a groundbreaking initiative pioneered by the NSPCC, interactive stands set up in shopping malls and staffed by specially trained campaigners were three times as productive as street-level face-to-face fundraising.

The new 'private site' technique overcomes many of the problems presented by traditional face-to-face. The common complaint that face-to-face is aggressive and can alienate potential supporters is easily overcome.

"When people see an interesting stand they are naturally inquisitive and tend to approach it themselves," said Stuart Case, managing director of Push, the agency working with NSPCC on the new technique. "The environment is more relaxed too, so people are less threatened if they are approached."

There is also much more scope for using images and multi-media displays.

On the street the only visual is the tabard worn by the fundraisers, but in private locations charities can use advertising hoardings and set up computers showing their direct response TV ads. RNIB is even considering a sensory stand to show people what it is like to be blind.

The 'private site' method also frees charities from the legal constraints that mean they can only promote direct debit committed-giver schemes when on the street. In private locations they can also accept credit cards and promote legacies.

The method is proving successful despite the fact that some private locations choose to levy a fee for using their site.

"We are charged to set up our stands in shopping centres, but Push has negotiated some good rates," said Su McLaughlin, face-to-face co-ordinator at NSPCC. "There is always an investment up front, and we are measuring that to make sure that we can balance costs. As the campaign rolls out, it will become more profitable."

After the success of several trials in December and April, the NSPCC now plans to run a full nationwide campaign.

"There are 90 charities using face-to-face on the street, so pavements are becoming saturated with different charity brands," said McLaughlin.

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