Isabel White | October, 15nd 2013
Walk down any high street in the UK and chances are you will be propositioned by someone trying to get you to donate your hard earned cash to charity. Before this form of fundraising was regulated a few years ago, those who practised the art of face to face collection on the street were known as “chuggers” a portmanteau word meaning “mugging someone for charity”.
Is this a good way to raise money? What are the risks to your charity and its reputation if you decide to adopt this method of fundraising?
First let’s look at the upside…
The regulatory body in the UK, the Professional Fundraising Association (PFRA), estimates that donors recruited through this method make a combined donation of approximately £130 million to charity each year.
They also state that about 18 per cent of all donors who are currently giving to charities through direct debits or standing orders were recruited through this method.
Charities are looking to recruit long-term supporters who will give to them each month for five years or more. Although about half of those who sign up will drop out in the first year, those that stay beyond 12 months tend to be around for quite some time.
There are companies around that (for a fee) can do the fundraising for you, so that’s less work for your team.
Next, you are capturing people who will not have made a considered decision to support your charity so they really are new (additional) donors – ones that you would not have captured so cost effectively by any other means.
They will be giving small amounts – amounts so small in fact that it is too much hassle for them to cancel the direct debit payments, so they just let it run and run and you keep on collecting. Happily, though the amounts are small, their donations will add up over time to a reasonable sum and there will be enough people giving this way to make it seem worthwhile.
Although cost is an issue, on balance, for every pound that charities spend recruiting by this method, they will get about £2.50 back, maybe more.
Sounds good so far, so what are the downsides?
First of all, the charities that do best out of this method of fundraising have the strongest appeal to the type of person giving – mainly young professionals who have little time to decide which one of the millions of competing causes is most deserving, though in principle they think it is “a good thing” to give.
The charities that are most successful tend to be household names; causes such as “extreme knitting for cats” are therefore unlikely to have the same emotive appeal.
If you don’t use a reputable company (one that signs up to the PFRA Code of Practice), then these methods can attract some bad publicity and in some towns, restrictions are now being placed both on the location and time available to charities to fundraise on the street.
Still, overall, my colleagues tell me it’s a good thing.
Trouble is, I have a brain and I need to engage it before parting with my hard earned cash. I simply can’t make my mind up about a long term commitment to “save the armadillo” on the basis of a conversation I have had with a jolly young person on the street. I suspect that the majority of those giving are not as committed to the cause as those recruited by conventional methods. I want to see more research done on the extent to which these donors in particular are moved up the giving pyramid to become the high net worth donors of tomorrow giving to THAT CAUSE. I want to know if they can be bothered to set up a new direct debit if they move their bank account or if they have to cut back on their giving when things get tough.
Call me an old curmudgeon if you alike, but I’m still not convinced.
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