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Your Definitive Guide To Face-To-Face Fundraising

Please click here to get a PDF of Your Definitive Guide to Face-to-Face Fundraising sent to your inbox.

Face-to-face has been a great way to find new supporters and raise money. But is ‘face-to-face’ monthly giving acquisition a worthy strategy beyond 2017?

First, let’s get our definitions clear. I’m referring to the mass acquisition of monthly donors by canvassers approaching strangers in the streets, at events, or door to door.

Like these wonderful UNICEF fundraisers I met in Brazil…

Picture1

These canvassers are NOT asking for cash or a one-off gift. They usually only accept ongoing, automatically debited donations. Nowadays, they are often using iPads or something to enter data straight away.

For a long-time, face-to-face has dominated monthly giving acquisition in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, UK, Hong Kong, Singapore, Philippines, Ireland, and many more.

But things are changing…

New channels challenge face-to-face

For Pareto Fundraising – the full-service agency I co-founded in Australia – digital donor acquisition to monthly giving has been growing.

Sister agency, Pareto Phone, makes phone calls on behalf of charities to ask people to become monthly givers. A huge proportion of these calls are to people who responded online or through SMS to online and offline media advertising. This is growing in volume dramatically.

Thai charity Soi Dog Foundation has generated nearly all its thousands of monthly givers directly online (mostly through Facebook) or online, followed by a phone call.

In other countries, there is a new big thing. And this big thing is huge in the UK. Fundraisers are acquiring monthly donors in a two-step process. They use outdoor, digital, and TV advertising to drive people to send text messages (SMS). Then, they call these lovely people and ask them to start an automatic monthly donation.

Bad press for face-to-face

The media loves to spin a yarn about how bad face-to-face agencies are, with stories of inappropriate training, simplistic views of how much goes to the charity, and more. It’s mostly just yarn-spinning, exaggeration, and selective facts.

But there are some real issues. A couple of face-to-face vendors in Australia were caught by labour or tax laws. I know one made a genuine mistake and moved quickly to rectify. But this is not something charities want to associate themselves with.

Any charity thinking of hiring a face-to-face agency should check references and ensure the agency has been audited and complies with all laws.

But despite competition and the odd bit of bad press, face-to-face still provides the most monthly givers in Australia, NZ, and probably everywhere else it is practiced.

But is it still worth it?

Sean doing F2F

Me canvassing for Mind in the 90s. I was the marketing and fundraising director at Mind, a UK mental health charity. I thought I would go through the training and get out there myself. I was not very good. The guy I am chatting to was French, and we couldn’t get non-UK credit card holders to sign up. But we had a good chat.

A look at the data on face-to-face

Every year, loads of the largest fundraising charities in Australia (over 80 in 2017) get together to share information, so they can understand the market and maximise efficiency.

It’s an amazing collaboration. They do not share any data that could compromise an individual’s privacy, but they can look at millions of transactions.

Pareto Fundraising’s Benchmarking looks at a decade of data, which includes monthly givers acquired by all channels, and the volumes are huge.

This is truly how donors behave, not how they say they behave.

Slide016 Round 14 Scale

Nearly $1.4 billion of donations from individuals are included in the Pareto Benchmarking study. And you can see from the circle above, just under half comes from regular (that is, monthly) giving.

Face-to-face has achieved something no other fundraising channel has: getting younger people to donate in meaningful numbers. (And by younger, I mean under 60.) Before face-to-face, the average age of a donor was around 70.

Face-to-face brings in donors with an average age in the early to mid-40s. This is remarkable, and the volumes have been huge.

The cost of face-to-face

Most canvassers don’t work directly for the charity. They work for agencies that organise the mechanics of canvassing.

Many passionately believe in the cause and love that they can make a living and do good at the same time. Some canvassers may work for several charities, exposing them to different causes.

But face-to-face is expensive – travel, salaries, materials, databases, follow-up systems, SMSs, email, videos, welcome packs, welcome videos, admin processes and systems, stamps… none of these are free.

Like any marketing, expensive doesn’t mean bad. The question is whether it’s effective in achieving its purpose.

Is it working?

Let’s define ‘working’. For me, it means you make a net return in a reasonable time frame and not cause damage to the brand of the charity.

Net return is obvious, but damage to the brand is harder. Looking at a charity’s impact (the work it does) and its overall income – beyond face-to-face and over many years – is the best objective measure.

Also, ‘working’ would be influenced by how well it ‘works’ compared to other fundraising channels, such as digital, mail, phone, outdoor, TV, radio etc.

So, let’s start with volume. In 2016, around 380,000 regular givers were acquired by the charities in the study. And nearly 300,000 were through face-to-face.

Slide088 New RG recruits

These numbers are so massive, it’s clear that, if you are serious about growing regular giving, you must do face-to-face.

But do these donors stay with you?

When we look at 2010 to 2015, we see that about 52% of the donors acquired by face-to-face were still giving 12 months later.

Slide105 Year 1 RG Attrition from starters by channel

But how does retention of face-to-face compare to other methods? You can see in the chart above that face-to-face has the worst attrition.

It seems obvious – non-face-to-face methods are better than face-to-face!

But look at the volumes. Losing 48% of 300,000 leaves us with more than 155,000 people giving every month, twelve months later. All the other channels add up to about half that number, despite their low attrition.

Why does face-to-face have the worst attrition?

Age is key. I am sorry to tell you this, but generally, younger people don’t give as well as their older counterparts.

Face-to-face has younger people giving in strategic volumes. But when they give, they are less ‘loyal’ than older donors.

Because face-to-face gets younger donors, it has a worse attrition. However, although half of those younger than 60-year-olds are not giving a year later, half still are.

The chart below (from the 2016 benchmarking report) shows a massive difference in attrition by age. Older is better.

Slide126 RG attrition by age F2F BM13 2016

Okay, you believe me – face-to-face works in terms of the number of sign-ups. But we need money, not just sign-ups, and you probably still prefer those lower attrition non-face-to-face donors.

The chart below shows the rise in income for charities over the past ten years, driven mostly by face-to-face.

Slide086 RG Income by channel

Clearly, the big income driver is face-to-face.

Another way of looking at the quality of a relationship with donors is to look at the proportion of people who stick with their payments but increase their contributions.

The chart below shows face-to-face donors are about as likely to upgrade over the years as any other method.

The phone is better, but if you consider that upgrading is best done on the phone, you can imagine the contact rate of people acquired by the phone is much better too; we know they are phone responsive.

Slide118 RG Upgrade rate by channel

So, face-to-face gets the volume. It has good (but not great) retention. It has good upgrade rates. And it provides lots of income.

What should you do?

The right plan is to acquire as many regular givers through non-face-to-face as you can. Then, top up your targets with face-to-face.

Just keep an eye on net revenue: Face-to-face donors are worth about $750 each over five years, but non-face-to-face donors vary between $600 and $1,750. Make sure your costs make sense against your estimated value.

But what about brand damage?

Seriously – Greenpeace, Heart Foundation, Amnesty, World Vision, WWF, Red Cross, UNHCR, Oxfam …  these are all major users of face-to-face. Damaged brands? No.

Most have been doing this for many years, with no negative impact on the brand, donor relationships, or their ability to do good.

Is face-to-face fundraising worth it for your charity? Yes, but only if you have good, tight automated admin, a need for money, good communication systems, and a great monthly proposition (offer).

Should you start face-to-face?

It depends. As you can see, face-to-face donors are the worst type of monthly donors. But they provide the largest volume.

For most charities starting monthly giving programs, you should have a balanced portfolio that starts by converting your current donors to monthly by mail, phone, and online.

Then you may want to look at online – if you have good enough content and stories.

Only then should you embark on face-to-face. But when you do, you will need a big budget!

I hope that this guide to face-to-face is useful. Please share your experience with face-to-face, or your question by leaving a reply below.

Please click here to get a PDF of Your Definitive Guide to Face-to-Face Fundraising sent to your inbox.
If you are in New Zealand, Netherlands, or Australia, Pareto Benchmarking is up and running! In all other countries, if you are an agency/vendor or a charity and you are interested in getting benchmarking going, please check out the Pareto Benchmarking website here
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2 Comments. Leave new

  • Do you have any data on F2F for months 13-24, or beyond for continued retention?

    Also when you state donors are worth $750, what is the monthly give amount?

    Reply
    • Sean Triner
      May 23, 2019 5:25 am

      Hi the data in the article is based on long term retention and includes those donors. $750 is (was) the average 5 year value of f2f donors across dozens of charities with differing monthly gift amounts, retention, upgrades etc.
      The key point was about the relative values of the types of donors by acquisition channel.

      My old company, Pareto Fundraising measures this every year and will have more up to date data.

      If you work for a charity in Australia, New Zealand or Netherlands I thoroughly recommend you contact them and join Pareto Benchmarking where you will get the best, richest data set I know of in the world!

      Reply

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