Today, all over the world, thousands of ordinary people will decide to start doing something amazing. Every month, they’ll give their hard-earned money to causes that they may never have heard of before, to help people they will never meet or protect places that they will never visit.
Increasingly, more and more of these donors are recruited by face-to-face fundraisers, as they go about their normal daily activities. Whether it takes place on the street, the doorstep, at work or while shopping, what makes F2F unique is that it enables NGOs to form a strong personal connection with new donors that can touch their emotions in a way that other channels find hard to match.
The success of this approach is indisputable. F2F is now used by all the major INGOs in over 40 countries worldwide and local charities have taken it up to raise regular funds from a targeted audience. In an era of increasing austerity with growing competition for both funds and donors’ attention, F2F is providing charities of all sizes with an essential lifeline of regular income to work with and plan for the future.
But, in fundraising as much as anywhere else, with success comes the danger of complacency. It’s widely accepted that many people who sign up to a regular donation on the street will never complete their first payment (up to 40% in some countries). It’s accepted that F2F donors are younger and more volatile, so attrition rates as high as 50% in the first year are often seen as normal – and that’s just from the donors who we manage to process!
It doesn’t take a genius to realise that this represents a huge chunk of badly needed income. Every fundraiser using this approach has a responsibility to be asking themselves what they should be doing to improve these results. That’s going to be the question that I’ll be looking at next week at the International Fundraising Congress. Or, more specifically, I’ll be discussing just how new technology can help charities using F2F to bring more donors on board and keep them for longer.
Digital communications are just as much a part of our donors’ everyday lives as they are a part of our own. By next year, more people will use mobile devices than desktop devices to access the internet. Over 1 billion people already own smartphones and tablet sales are rising almost as quickly as their prices are falling. So, what can this deliver for F2F?
More donors: Early test results have shown that fundraisers can raise their productivity when using tablets instead of paper forms (by up to 37% in a recent UNICEF test). In addition to this, fewer potential donors are being lost before their first donation, which magnifies this effect even further.
More speed: It’s no surprise that digital technology can help process new donors more quickly than the traditional paper-based methods. This can mean that NGOs start seeing a return on their fundraising investments more quickly: who would turn down 13 monthly payments in year 1? Increased processing speed also enables NGOs to start communicating with new donors straight away, which is vital in building a strong relationship with them and can have a real impact upon early attrition.
More content: Technology can help bridge the gap between the potential donor and the impact of their donation. It’s never going to replace the communication skills of a great F2F fundraiser, but it can support these by delivering engaging content in a format that donors are familiar with. This doesn’t just impact upon the donor either – it can also help keep fundraisers motivated by bringing them closer to the cause that they’re out there working for.
Increasingly, F2F managers seem to be aware of the benefits that new technology can bring to their operations. But the most common reaction is to watch nervously to see when their closest competitors will adopt it, while placing it in the ‘too hard’ or ‘too expensive’ categories for their own programmes. In reality, it is usually neither. There are very simple models of online sign-up that can be straightforward to implement. There are also agencies and providers who can offer more sophisticated options for a competitive cost. And there are a growing number of examples to show how quickly this investment can pay for itself and offer real benefits for your donors, your fundraisers and your income.
So it’s time for F2F to stop waiting anxiously for the right moment to catch up with the rest of the world. Take a deep breath and start testing: it’s much easier than you might think!
This year 101fundraising is the official blog partner of the International Fundraising Congress (IFC), the world’s leading conference on fundraising. This blog post is part of a special IFC Blog Series, where we give IFC speakers a chance to share their wisdom before the conference. Attending crowdbloggers will get a chance to share their views after the conference!
Participating IFC speakers are Bernard Ross, Derek Humphries, Chris Carnie, David Cravinho, Maia Kahlke-Mikkelsen and Lucy Gower!