The brave new world of face-to-face

Dominic Will

Dominic Will | 23 February 2018

It’s time to step back and look at face-to-face afresh, to widen the lens and review each channel within a broader fundraising context.

The marketplace, indeed society and how we communicate has changed hugely over the past few decades, and we need to ensure that we are looking in the right direction to determine success.  

What does a successful fundraising programme look like in 2018 and how does face-to-face (street, doorstep and at private sites) fit within that new fundraising and societal landscape? 

The fact is that the days are long gone when the singular success measure for fundraising campaigns was its return on investment (ROI). Without a doubt, campaigns have to be financially viable. But we are now in a bold new world where the emphasis has rightly shifted well beyond price alone – on to meeting and exceeding donors’ expectations, interests and building genuine engagement. Or to put it another way; creating relationships with potential. 

With this in mind, we have to accept that the short-term returns are unlikely to be as high as they once were, but this is far outweighed by the longer-term benefits of attracting and nurturing a committed supporter base. As Daniel Fluskey said in his recent blog, “people give to people” and you can’t get more donor-focused than a personalised one-to-one ask. 

Of course, ROI is important, but it’s not the only part of the equation. What good is a cost-effective recruitment campaign, if donors are quick to cancel and they don’t feel a real sense of rapport with the organisation? Instead we need metrics that recognise not only recruitment of supporters and cost-efficiency, but overall reach, long-term engagement, supporter satisfaction and donor care. 

When we visit people’s homes, there are some who choose to give regularly but don’t necessarily want much ongoing interaction, while there are others who want, need and expect a far deeper level of engagement once we have provided the opportunity to give. If they want more, what contact suits them best, how do we capture their motivations and meet their needs? 

As we adapt to GDPR, face-to-face encounters are likely to become even more important for recruiting supporters and gathering feedback, and also to secure the crucial consent for future contact. This is our opportunity to listen to supporters, record their perceptions of the charity, feedback from the approach and any other suggestions they might have. This is one of the only chances that charities get to gain informed buy-in and engaged consent from members of the public that really do want to hear about the charity’s work. 

In an increasingly digital world, the power of conversation has never had greater resonance. And, utilising technological advances, we have a fantastic opportunity to enhance this experience with instant and secure data capture, faster processing and to bring charities’ work to life.

In this new era, successful collaboration is critical; between charities and agency partners, with commercial participators and others. This might include the development of new face-to-face products like lotteries, further incorporating mobile communications or technology like virtual reality into fundraising delivery, or the expansion of charities’ outreach programmes to build awareness of charitable services. As with any strong partnership, this will mean setting out the right terms clearly at the start of the relationship and making it clear how progress will be monitored. 

While it remains the most effective way of recruiting supporters, arguably the biggest evolution in face-to-face is the potential to diversify and enhance the encounter in line with supporters’ interests and understand donors better from the point of sign up. Bearing in mind that potential supporters and beneficiaries are often one and the same, face-to-face fundraisers are uniquely placed to promote services in the area to those in need, to connect people within the community with others who have similar needs or concerns.  

It is an exciting time for face-to-face channels in today’s marketplace, offering so much more than the straight up recruitment model of the past.  Gearing up fundraisers to respond not only to the fundraising potential but the broader interests of the community presents a huge opportunity for developing a deeper level of engagement.

Find out more about the changing world of face-to-face in Dominic Will’s session at the Institute of Fundraising’s Face-to-Face Conference on Monday 26 February 2018. 

Dominic Will, Joint Managing Director of HOME Fundraising and IoF Trustee


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