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It’s time to reinvigorate the role of a F2F fundraiser

Written by Josh White

13/06/2022| Blog

The phrase a “new normal” has been used frequently when talking about how we see the world post Covid-19. Any professional in their role will have had some kind of impact on their day to day because of the pandemic.

Take my local village pub. Pre Covid it was just that, a boozer where the only thing you could eat would be scampi, fries or a pickled egg. During lock down 1.0 the land lady started rolling out takeaway roasts on a Sunday and now in lockdown 3.0 they have food on 4 nights a week with a different theme for each night. I’m happy to report the food is really popular and will be part of the pubs business when they can welcome paitrons back.

There are so many examples of these kind of pivots from businesses showing innovation to stay relevant in their space and in a number of cases simply to survive and to keep their staff employed.

Staying relevant in face-to-face

Anyone associated with the fundraising industry and specifically face-to-face will be aware of the amazing strides taken by charities and businesses to ensure vital funds make their way to where its needed most.

The pandemic has highlighted cracks In our society like never before and the need to address these imbalances are staring us right in the face. In response fundraisers (and fundraising!) has had to adapt to stay relevant and there is plenty of examples of this innovation in our industry.

From utilising face to face fundraisers to work on other direct dialogue fundraising streams such as telemarketing, to pushing a new stream building relationships through direct messaging via social media. The evolution of the donor experience has also received a massive shot in the arm in the form of new contactless payment options at point of contact, new experiential tech for fundraisers to use and the evolution away from the traditional direct debit payment relationship to name just a few.

The fundraising sector effectively showed its resilience and ability to still provide new engaged long-term donors in the most challenging of climates. I have written an article “The Evolution of the Face-to-Face Fundraiser” last summer (shameless plug!) which talks about these new innovative ideas coming into practise across the global markets. It was very much from the point of view of how all these great new behaviours and ideas benefit face to face as a fundraising stream and sector moving forward.

Evolving the appeal of face-to-face for fundraisers

Another angle I’ve thought about recently whilst helping to establish Bright Future Fundraising is how with all these new innovations we can continue to evolve the appeal of the face-to-face fundraiser role.

This sector typically sees a high churn of fundraisers, and often because of the lack of variety the fundraiser role traditionally offers. Combine this with poor training as witnessed in the past, it’s easy to see why staff get disengaged. I must stress this is a generalisation of the wider industry. I know there are campaigns and operations that have been championing improving their staff retention and are seeing great results for their people and performance.

It now makes sense for a lot of operations to train entry level fundraisers on multiple channel direct dialogue campaigns. Maybe not from day one but certainly in the first few months of their service. This changes the proposition straight away, rather than the traditional face-to-face job ad the employer can go into detail about the professional training offered across 2 or 3 fundraising streams. I’m not a recruitment professional but I’m optimistic recruiters would be confident that the added varity to the role would drive more traffic than the traditional approach.

Creating new opportunities and building careers

Changing how we advertise our roles is a good start, but as an industry we need to make sure we deliver on this new stimulating direct dialogue fundraiser role.

New starter training for entry level fundraisers would set this tone by covering the content needed to build that initial commercial awareness. This could include training modules on factors that drive ROI on different campaigns in more detail, talking about the structure of the industry (why we have in-house and agency operations), why some charities use face-to-face fundraising and others don’t.

We should be encouraging fundraisers to be individual members at the Institute of Fundraising to help develop careers and networking opportunities. Moving forward I feel induction training needs to cover where a face-to-face programme sits as part of an individual giving strategy and within a charities wider fundraising programme. This will enhance the message that there is a tangible career path in front of new entry level fundraisers. This is the kind of message we need to champion and push!

There are some amazing examples of face-to-face fundraisers who now sit as directors of fundraising, head of individual giving or global fundraising specialists for some of the biggest charity brands going. These individuals are great examples of what’s possible to achieve when you start life in the face-to-face industry.

However, in reality the vast majority of in-house managers who are responsible for face-to face-programmes (along with other IG campaigns) have no practical experience. This is a clear indicator we can do more as an industry to develop our fundraisers, their career and elevate more of our people into these positions and beyond.

Its about building on the reason people become fundraisers in the first place

Just to be clear, as fundraisers our bread and butter will always be the causes we represent. Its at the heart of everything we do and it drives pretty much all decisions we make in our roles. It is and always will be the main reason why people gravitate towards the industry, its our biggest pull and rightly so! The points I’ve covered are not to replace or even compete against the charity focus element of the fundraiser role.

But looking at long standing trends its clear there is something missing, contributing to this sectors high staff turnover and our attraction to job seekers as a market. The cause driven charity element alongside the positive wage possibilities is not enough to keep people around and see them progress, I feel we can do more.

Moving forward the industry and the organisations within it have such a great opportunity to change the way a face-to-face fundraisers role is perceived. By embracing innovation, creating a more stimulating fundraiser role and championing the career opportunities fundraising has.

A tangible part of our success should be seeing our people moving on and developing within the industry, playing our part in progressing the face-to-face fundraisers of today, to become the fundraising directors of tomorrow.

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