Make the most of your face-to-face team

Make the most of your face-to-face team

Alex Xavier | 6 March 2018

If there’s one thing that came across when listening to the Meet the Fundraiser panel session at this year’s IoF Face-to-Face Conference, it’s that face-to-face fundraisers love a good conversation.


By this, I don’t mean that they love talking at people; they love to engage, to really listen, to find out what people think, what makes them tick. And if they can encourage them to connect with the charity – as a supporter, volunteer or even a beneficiary – that’s even better. Their energy and passion is infectious, and it has given me a great sense of optimism for the future of face-to-face fundraising and the role the IoF can play in supporting it.

We talk a lot about best practice in fundraising and that will always be critical, but what is it that really motivates face-to-face fundraisers and how can charities get the most out of their teams?


Offer a broad range of training

Whether they are knocking on doors, standing on the street or at events, face-to-face fundraisers come from a wide range of backgrounds, with varying skill sets and experiences. Some will work in-house and others at agencies. While fundraisers all need to know what they can and can’t do and what constitutes best practice (as set out in the Code of Fundraising Practice and the Rule Books), they also need to know what it takes to engage successfully with the public and to thoroughly get to grips with the individual nuances of the charity’s work.

For each fundraiser, this might mean something different. Amelia Scott-Stelle, Face-to-Face Fundraiser at Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), said, “Resilience training really transformed my entire fundraising experience. Positivity is key, but you also need to recognise and acknowledge that you can’t be positive all the time and it’s so important to learn how to manage that”.

Ciaran Milner, Co-Street General Manager at One Sixty Fundraising, highlighted how important it was to know how to recognise signs of vulnerability and what to do in those circumstances.

And, while Sasha Howells, Deputy Fundraising Manager (Newcastle) at HOME Fundraising, agreed that training around vulnerability is really important, she underlined the importance of teaching the art of conversation.

“It’s the hardest thing to teach but it’s also what’s most important; having a real human conversation. Talking at people will never work. You need to listen, to be human,” Howells said.

Be creative with the incentives you offer

While there was much debate about whether fundraisers should be paid on commission among charities and delegates, it was clear that financial rewards were by no means the be-all and end-all for fundraisers themselves.

All fundraisers on the panel emphasised the importance of celebrating success and commitment to the job. Just a quick phone call to pass on some positive feedback can make a massive difference to their motivation and fundraising performance.

“Knowing that each and every gift would make a real difference can be a strong driver in itself, particularly when you really connect with the cause,” Milner said.

“Financial incentives are important, but money doesn’t buy happiness for every fundraiser,” Howells added.

“We have a range of different incentives to appeal to different fundraisers, including a wall of fame to celebrate those that have done well, regional awards and so on. Some are motivated because they want to be the best; others by what they can achieve for good causes. Success also brings the opportunity to progress.”

Indeed, many fundraisers that started out on the doorstep are now senior managers within HOME Fundraising or have taken up senior fundraising roles at charities; it can be a strong foundation for a career path.


Build closer connections between fundraisers and charity field workers

Whether working in-house or in an agency, having a close connection to the cause is critical. Throughout the conference, speakers highlighted the importance of moving away from silo thinking and bringing fundraisers and those involved in delivering charitable services closer together. This is not only a case of building mutual understanding and appreciation, but growing recognition that they are all part of the same team. That any charitable services are heavily dependent on the work of face-to-face fundraisers.

Scott-Stelle said, “The best thing for us at MSF is that the barriers between offices, people in the field and our fundraisers are completely down. Every away day that we go to brings us together with people on the front line. This started on my very first day when it was the Executive Director who delivered our training and spoke of her experience in the field”.

Agency fundraisers agreed, saying that the more charities engage with their fundraisers the better, seeking closer and more regular interaction with the charities they work with.

Don’t shy away from talking about it – celebrate face-to-face

There’s no doubt that face-to-face gets a tough press. For years, it has taken the brunt of criticism from the public and media, and it is not uncommon for fundraisers to be shouted at or spoken to rudely, just because they asked for a few minutes of someone’s time. Particularly at this time of year – with the ‘beast of the east’ biting at the fingers and toes of even the hardiest soul – it can be an incredibly tough thing to do. Time and again during the conference, speakers referred to the remarkable resilience of face-to-face fundraisers.

As fundraisers themselves testified, it can also be one of the most rewarding jobs, particularly when they get to meet so many enthusiastic and committed charity supporters along the way. But what would make the job all the more inspiring is if charities were to be more open about the fundraising methods they use and celebrate the work of their face-to-face fundraisers. Where charities have taken the decision to fundraise face-to-face, it can make a huge difference if they are willing to stand up and explain why, showing support for and celebrating their fundraising teams. This might include a webpage like this one from MSF or an advert in the local press to inform residents that door-to-door fundraisers are in the area.

As Enda Muldoon, Senior Team Leader at Concern Worldwide, explained, “It would be an awful lot easier if there was a consistent back-up by the media - the tone-setters”.

But for this to happen, the sentiment in the room was that the sector needs to be more open about face-to-face. Continued and regular messaging about why charities go face-to-face, its impact and how this is different from any other approach, is essential.

Let’s remind ourselves that in 2017 alone, more than 750,000 donor relationships were initiated in this way and countless more positive conversations were had, showcasing the vital nature of charities’ work. As someone relatively new to the IoF, I already have no doubt in my mind that face-to-face fundraisers, whether on the streets, going door-to-door or on private sites will continue to engage positively with prospective donors, and I’m personally looking forward to playing my part in supporting them – come snow, rain or shine!


Alex Xavier, IoF Director of Membership, Compliance and Professional Development


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