My past role as a F2F global specialist provided me with a really unique position to be able to monitor, review and advise on the impact of Covid-19 across international markets.
As the UK market emerged from its original pause, we had insights from relaunches in Asia and other markets in Europe. This global insight provides a wealth of knowledge and learning we were then able to share with other colleagues who were not as far down the line as more established post-Covid markets.
Initially the 3 points of safety, public reaction and brand integrity dominated the discussion. As we are aware the feedback in the vast majority of cases in relation to these 3 points are very positive so now the narrative has progressed to the fundamental discussion of performance expectation and recruitment capacity moving forward.
Very few programmes, campaigns, teams or markets will be operating anywhere near their pre-Covid budgeted capacity levels (across in-house and agency partners) and will not be for some time. This poses the obvious issue of income levels being significantly down on expectation.
This issue is predominantly being tackled by increasing capacity on telemarketing (TM) and using in-house F2F staff to undertake the campaigns where possible. I’m sure it comes as no shock to anyone that this arrangement is working very well with conversion % stacking up nicely compared to benchmark TM agency and in-house team performances.
This then opens up a further conversation about the potential diversity / fluidity within the F2F fundraiser role and indeed there are now programmes in Europe where fundraisers are being recruited and trained on both TM and F2F. This allows the organisation to channel their work into whatever channel they deem them to be most beneficial at the time and provides protection for the supporter recruitment numbers when external factors block the activity of one channel (for example a global pandemic!).
It allows your head to wander to a potential reality where 1 fundraiser could recruit a donor via a F2F channel, welcome call, thank you call and even upgrade. A lot of hoops to jump through until then but I can see this conversation gathering pace in the next 12 months.
Back to reality and the ever-present issue of data is the immovable barrier which prevents TM operations being a viable like for like replacement for F2F. As the Covid situation crept up on us all so quickly, individual giving teams were left with the reality of not enough data to cover their new expanded caller capacity (F2F staff) for the then indefinite amount of time F2F was off the table.
This initially led to the F2F teams being handed data pools that where generally speaking “very cold” and typically wouldn’t be touched by the TM teams. Once it was clear that staff where able to achieve a workable conversion rate these bundles of data that were previously lying dormant are now becoming an asset and source of income for the organisation (when it needs it the most!).
As easy as it is to focus all the success on the durability of the F2F fundraiser in this situation, you have to give huge credit to the TM teams and their managers. Taking on this mass of extra capacity overnight giving training on the systems, campaigns, regulations and doing this all remotely is some undertaking. In many situations it’s been the skills and resilience of the face-to-face manager working with their fundraising director to get these teams of staff functioning (and profitable) on completely different fundraising channels.
Speaking more broadly, I appreciate a lot of NGOs will not have at their disposal the amounts of data organisations like Amnesty (where I worked), Greenpeace, Save the Children etc have because of the consistent campaigning the organisations undertake.
Campaigning gives a fairly consistent incoming stream of warm data. Other organisations do not have this luxury and during Covid times have turned to lead generation campaigns through traditional methods and social media.
This has presented another chance for the F2F fundraiser to show themselves as an asset away from street, door or shopping centre. The new term ‘Digital Facers’ started to get dropped in meetings and email. Needless to say I was intrigued as we know the principle of generating leads through social media is not new. However, communicating to those leads through the chat function or via a scheduled zoom meeting by trained professional fundraisers is certainly an innovative move.
I was aware of an in-house operation in the UK trialling something similar to this idea with their face-to-face staff pre-Covid and has presumably under the circumstances continued testing. Early indications are showing a positive conversion % however these leads are not abundant and the process from original contact to first interaction with the fundraiser is timely. I do believe that if conversion rates continue to be solid, we will see more time and rescores assigned to the digital facer concept.
From my observations, moving F2F staff and capacity to other IG channels during this pandemic proved very beneficial for the organisations who have been able to take that step. Principally it’s going some way to plug the income deficit that F2F has left, but also presented some really interesting conversations around the F2F fundraiser role and how it could be utilised more effectively.
By investing in F2F fundraising staff and training them on multiple channels, campaigns and products we will see a better value from staff. This will come from more stimulation in the role and a better commercial understanding of individual giving fundraising, and therefore better-quality work being produced. Additionally, retention of staff would improve and could see turnover levels align with other fundraising roles (saving more time and money!).
As mentioned, having a staff pool who could be flexible to change channels quickly and effectively would protect the income and individual recruitment of the organisation. We could arguably see a better ROI because of the durability of fundraisers to still generate new donors during external factors that would have previously caused an issue for a F2F team.
The unlimited number of new donors available to recruit through F2F is what makes the channel such an amazing activity for organisations to invest in. These observations are not a like for like proposal to move away from that but to utilise the versatile staff in the channel has to make it an even more lucrative fundraising stream for a charity. To the heads of agencies wondering how all this could apply to them? Imagine how much of a better proposition you would sound to a potential charity partner in the current climate with these options available on your campaigns.
The face-to-face industry must adapt in so many ways post Covid 19 to ensure our staff and the public we interact with are safe. But one sizeable adaptation that maybe isn’t as obvious but could radicalise the landscape of the industry is how operations utilise their F2F workforce ensuring the durability and longevity of the industry. Watch this space!