Oxfam has ended its door-to-door fundraising programme because of poor returns, according to Tim Hunter, its director of fundraising.
The international development charity had a long-standing relationship with the door-to-door agency Home Fundraising until the end of last year, but decided to curtail its investment in the medium after concluding that it did not meet its performance requirements.
In 2014, Oxfam’s acting fundraising director at the time, Andrew Barton, described door-to-door as an important fundraising channel for the charity. Between 2009 and 2014, Home Fundraising alone recruited 63,000 donors for the charity, raising £6.5m in regular gifts.
But throughout 2015 the medium proved a "challenging area" for the charity in terms of performance, Hunter told Third Sector. "While we worked to try to improve it, we couldn’t get the performance we thought was appropriate," he said.
Hunter said the negative publicity around fundraising over the past year was not the main factor behind Oxfam’s decision – although this might have been particularly critical about door-to-door, he said, all areas of fundraising were affected.
Oxfam curtailed its street fundraising operation in 2009 in favour of door-to-door but has since revived its street programme, launching an in-house operation in 2014. It has expanded this over the past year.
It has also used agencies including the now defunct Future Fundraising, The Street Academy and Urban Leaf to do street fundraising on its behalf, but it ended its contract with the Street Academy last June after a Mail on Sunday investigation reported that it was using high-pressure donor recruitment tactics.
Commenting on Oxfam’s decision, Dominic Will, managing director of Home Fundraising, said he believed Oxfam had taken stock of many areas of its fundraising activity at the end of last year. "Naturally we hope to have the opportunity to work with them again in the future," he said.
Rupert Tappin, the co-founder of street and door-to-door agency Future Fundraising, which went into administration last year, told Third Sector that it was now difficult to run a profit-making door-to-door fundraising operation.
He said they needed to be very well run in order to be successful and he respected the three market leaders – Home, PFS and Appco – for having managed this. But he said one of the main ways to ensure profitability was to pay fundraisers on a commission-only basis.
Oxfam’s move comes after it emerged last week that face-to-face fundraising levels had fallen to their lowest level since 2009/10, with doorstep revenue declining from an estimated £83m in 2014/15 to £70m in the year to March 2016.
For more from Oxfam, Future Fundraising and others on the future of fundraising agencies, see this month’s feature, Uncertain times for fundraising agencies.