CDE project 11f face to face: putting the prin­ci­ples and actions into practice

Written by
The Commission on the Donor Experience
March 19, 2017

In-house and agency teams have been vocal in looking at a face to face fundraiser licence scheme. This would have to be initiated through the regulator, or an official body like the IoF, but would allow all those recruiting for face to face fundraisers to ask to see the individual licence. Points could be added to fundraisers licences, allowing all to have sight of those that break aspects of FR's code of practice. This would allow face to face fundraising to protect the reputation of fundraising and regain public trust in those who do it. The body that picked this up could also act as a contact point for those wishing to report bad practice or flag individuals that attempt to steal money through the pretence of being genuine charity collectors. Reporting this to the police and assisting them in their investigations could be a key part of your policies and processes. The scheme would also pass a level of accountability to the individual face to face fundraiser. 

We have to give relevance to the recent charity climate and increase our accountability to show that we have an audit trail on the processes in-house or third party agencies follow. A record of what you have trained individuals in and the manner in which they have been instructed to fundraise is of the upmost importance. Listen telephone fundraising is now filming all their fundraiser training sessions and are a brilliant example of how this can be achieved. Through compiling this document, agencies and in-house teams have worked collaboratively on sharing their best practices and so have strengthened their individual operations by uniting their skill sets. This needs to happen more, as many of the agencies spoken with have found getting their clients to work with them very difficult. 

Welcoming the supporter and further communication.

The way in which you allow supporters to have a choice in how your charity connects with them is key to maintaining their support. FastMap have been doing some valuable research in to permission statements. They’ve shown that an opt-in process that is legal, but written in plain English and relevant to your cause can increase take up. Maintaining an open dialogue through their chosen method of communication will enable them to be happier as donors, but most importantly feel the benefits of giving to your beneficiaries. Digital marketing on social media, or via email, paper and telephone will all enhance their experience of donating.

According the fast.MAP MarketReach survey in 2015, over 70% of over 55s only agreed to opt-in to receive marketing less than 20% of the time. Additionally, 90% of them stated they feared their details would be passed to a third-party organisation. Getting your permission and Data Protection statements right, and offering donors reassurance, is key to being able to communicate with them once they enter in to your supporter journey. The frequency of this, be it by direct mail, email, or telephone (such as welcome calls, which are a great retention tool: is also a key issue. 83% are concerned they will be contacted too frequently. With many of our donors supporting more than one cause, the time to listen and back off from simply throwing uninspiring and irrelevant communications at supporters has come. The idea of continuous donor choice outlined in project 13 can help here. If your communications are relevant and inspiring, then donors should welcome them, especially if they know they can control the frequency and channels they receive them through. 

The work that Ilja De Coster at Amnesty International Belgium (Flanders) implemented and the following work that he is now developing with Donor Voice is proving to be a brilliant way of welcoming supporters. It integrates ongoing development of staff, their training, donor feedback and then further informed communications that a supporter receives. This interesting piece of insight work has over 14 months of data as evidence. Amnesty International Belgium’s board and general assembly agreed to a heavy fundraising investment program, but with a strong recommendation that face to face fundraising had to perform much better than previously. 

The first step was speeding up the data processing of face to face fundraising and collecting more data about the recruitment than usual. The team then set up a feedback asking process questioning all new supporters by email survey within 4 to 6 days after recruitment. This includes an individual supporter care follow-up in case of dissatisfaction expressed by the donor. These survey questions are designed to gain the level of commitment that the supporter feels towards their cause and their satisfaction with the interaction that the face to face fundraiser gave them at the point of signing up. As all this data is collated and the team is able to provide insight in to how each individual donor’s experience impacts on the supporter’s retention. This helps to influence the stewardship content and methods used to take them on their supporter journey. But of equal importance, is the manner in which it gives insight in to individual face to face fundraiser’s performance. 

By measuring the length of time each supporter stays with the charity and assessing that against the feedback that they gave on their commitment you can begin to compare fundraisers not just on their sign up rate, but also by the quality and satisfaction of the donors recruited. Amnesty International’s fundraising team is still learning how the interaction between data insights and training of recruiters can help to increase their individual performance and overall donor retention, but the potential of this new way of working becomes more and more clear. 

Even more, using a predictive analytics algorithms, the team is now able to predict, what individual donor will stay or leave within the next three months. Those predictions gain an extremely high accuracy level of 80%. In the near future the fundraising team will explore more on how to use these insights to even more tailor retention efforts distinctively for those predicted to leave and those predicted to stay. 

While this is still a work in progress, with ongoing tests for which it is too early to conclude, Over the last 14 months, Amnesty International Belgium (Flemish) section has achieved an average first 3 months retention rate of 80%. This compares to only 60% before the changes were made.

A full webinar around the commitment modelling work by The DonorVoice and the implementation of it in face to face fundraising can be seen here:

St John Ambulance have developed similar criteria with Wesser for their data gathering. These two-way analytics benefit the agency staff and retention of them (it has increased 50%, from 3-5 weeks to 8-10 weeks) and the retention of supporters and their communication. By asking the supporter the area of the charities work that they are most interested in, the content for the stewardship journey is broken in to 4 segments. These variables are then used to dictate the messages and stories around the work in the newsletters that they supporter receives. The program has not been running as long as the Amnesty International example above, but 6-month retention has improved by 8% across all supporters. Even more impressively, in the segment on lobbying and aligning their campaign work with the financial ask has a 6-month retention high of 85%.

Médecins Sans Frontiers (MSF) have seen their retention increase due to reducing their upgrades from 12-18 months to 24-30 months. Their approach has been to steward supporters recruited through face to face with regular updates, but not to ask for more on a frequent basis.

Upholding Good Practices

When a donor contacts you to express a wish to cancel their donation, the supporter team that is dealing with their call must also have been trained to be able to try to rescue some form of continued communication, or financial support no matter how small it may be. This increases the sense of value that you have of them, and can be the difference between seeing a high level of attrition, and spending more of the donor’s donations to reactivate their support, or increasing their loyalty, and maintaining it. Kyla Shawyer CEO at the Resource Alliance wrote an amazing blog on a need for transformative change within fundraising, and how she was able to give senior management an understanding of the importance of their donor’s experience, and gain support to invest and improve in it. The full article can be found on the 101fundraising website,

but these paragraphs give great insight in to how a greater understanding can be achieved across all management, and help to break down internal barriers:

“Non-profits that offer the right kind of leadership enable supporters to feel connected to the cause. Poor leadership tends to have the opposite effect. It can manifest in short-term, transactional fundraising vs. longer-term relationship building with a shared value set developed between the charity and the donor.”

“In 2012 Blue Frog suggested that face to face fundraiser’s offer those that come in to contact with a face to face team a rather unique way of telling us what they thought of them. Listening to feedback is the beginning of the conversation. It gives you an opportunity to engage. The proposed model on how to start this conversation is here: 

“When was the last time you asked your donors why they support you or how they feel about being a part of your work? At a previous organisation where I served, we asked donors of all giving levels why they gave and faithfully recorded all their answers. We then brought everyone from the organisation — board and all — into a theatre, turned down the lights and asked them to just listen. It was immensely powerful to hear the words directly from our donors and helped the whole organisation truly connect with and understand their thoughts and feelings, to see donors as the integral part of the organisation that they are. When we were able to think about our cause and our impact from the perspective of the donor, it opened up internal communications, helped to unite our fundraising and programs teams and influenced our ongoing approach to donor communications.”

Two-way communication. Compromise. More thanks, less repeated asks. Complaints handled quickly and informatively. Checks on the fundraiser's understanding of the product that has been promised to your supporters is reaching them, are all key to helping your beneficiaries, and maintaining the donors experience is a positive one.

When welcoming new donors in, gaining information from them is important. Was what they were told by the face to face fundraiser on message with what the supporter has signed up to? Rating the conduct and experience that the fundraiser has given the new supporter, (when fulfilling welcome calls or sending out advanced notification letters) will engage your supporters in a feedback process. This can provide valuable you with valuable insight, and create a culture where your supporter base feels listened to. Begin a two-way communication with them, helping to embrace them in to your charities ethos and culture from the off. Let them know that the way in which they have been initially engaged with your charity is as important to you as it is to them.

“Getting an audience is hard. Sustaining an audience is hard. It demands a consistency of thought, of purpose, and of action over a long period of time”. Bruce Springsteen

When promoting the work that your charity is doing, be it an awareness campaign, a DRTV campaign, or through out-of-home-advertising, such as on billboards, remember that if you simultaneously have face to face fundraisers working on your charities behalf, then they will often be the main point of contact that the public can feedback on how the campaign has resonated with them. If any of it conflicts with the message that you are fundraising around, then it will undermine the impact of all that you are marketing to the public. Charities often have multiple campaigns and appeals that they are trying to promote to capture the minds of the general public. By having a campaign that can overarch the individual income lines, and not undermine an ask for £8 per month target on a face to face campaign, by having a £3 per month ask out on a DRTV campaign simultaneously. The face to face teams will just be met with the response form the public that they will sign up for the lesser ask that they have seen on the TV. 

A simple call to welcome them to your charity, clarify the terms in which they want to support you, and how they want to be spoken with in the future will help to establish a long lasting relationship. The way in which you ask, and ask again (reactivate) should be agreed with the supporter, and recorded through their choice in your solicitation statement. Stop the harrying. Continuously asking your existing supporters for more, is driving an unrealistic belief that growth within your supporter base has no limit. Generosity is finite. By listening to your supporters, giving them a solid overall understanding of the areas of your work, and providing them with the right options in terms of their consent to contact them in the future, are key to building a lasting relationship with them. 

Giving the fundraiser the chance to visit the projects that they are funding, meeting beneficiaries, and engaging with key members of staff CEO’s, Trustees, and SMT members can be a good tactic. Team visits. Seminars. Regular updates to your teams, PR/communications, successes in lobbying, and those that aren’t successful, help to steward the fundraiser in the same way that you want them to build a relationship with a new supporter on your behalf. By taking them on an experience that builds their confidence in your charity, you will enable them to do the same with the donors that they recruit for you.

Training on changes brought in by the new Fundraising Regulator and the code of fundraising practice is vital. If F2F fundraisers are not equipped with the right facts, and PR responses to any difficult questions that the media is asking of the sector, or of your charity directly, then they are not able to represent you appropriately, or to provide the right answers. 

No matter who the donor comes in to contact with at your charity, from a face to face fundraiser, through to the director of fundraising, the main aim has to be to give each donor a sense that the culture of the organisation is one where he or she is met with the same set of values and an experience that they want to be part of. There is nothing better than an amazing fundraiser that demonstrates a humble attitude to supporters and their colleagues, be they an employee, a volunteer, or a fellow donor. 

This will require the sector as a whole to put pressure on those at the top to insure auditing, best practice and engagement is followed through from SMT’s down. Fundraising teams have been undervalued for too long. The irony of this is that without them, where are the funds going to arise from in order for the rest of the charity to deliver? What would this mean for the beneficiaries? Collaboration and the removal of silos can improve income and improve the retention of staff and supporters. By adopting a more integrated way of working across all teams, (not just face to face and fundraising, but all the other teams involved in a charities messaging), this can improve. As Ian MacQuillan from the Plymouth University think tank Rogare explained in his article in The Guardian here:

If we don’t listen and adapt the model, then things will not improve. If we do take up a more innovative approach to a longish-standing model of face to face, then surely we shall at least take some learnings as to how the “golden goose” of fundraising can improve, can be utilised in different ways, and give other areas of fundraising a more public presence.

The need for face to face to change and adapt is long standing. In 2004, as the review of the charities act took place, The Guardian ran this article attempting to enlighten some of the talk that “chugging” was about to become extinct! 

Face to face offers you the chance to engage with people. These people will have contacts, preferences in the way that they like to donate, networks that might open up new revenue streams for you, and face to face enables you as a channel to explore. Technology has moved on so much in the last 16 years. 

Hypothetically, let’s say that for every one donor a face to face fundraiser recruits on to a direct debit for you, they speak to another 10 people that just don’t see this as a viable way to support you. But what else are we equipping that face to face fundraiser with, other than the process to set-up a direct debit? A recent article highlighted that a new CRM platform can open up a broader opportunity to collect the information of people that might want to do one of the following: run an event; support you through their workplace; introduce you to a network of high value supporters; or leave you a legacy. All 10 of those conversations could result in far more engagement than just the one direct debit! It could open up the floodgates to more support and income. 

Merging a traditional direct debit ask, with a prospecting model of worth. Allowing supporters that state that they like to run challenge events to be approached by the events team, and an individual that runs their own company to be invited to meet with the corporate team. Interestingly enough, the technology is called Floodgate. More on this can be found in the link below, but surely, it is time that we invested in improving the worth of face to face, not only for the charities we work for, but our beneficiaries, who are increasingly in need of our help under the measures of austerity that we face in the UK, and the causes that affect many across the planet. Isn’t it?

About the author: The Commission on the Donor Experience

The CDE has one simple ideal – to place donors at the heart of fundraising. The aim of the CDE is to support the transformation of fundraising, to change the culture to a truly consistent donor-based approach to raising money. It is based on evidence drawn from first hand insight of best practice. By identifying best practice and capturing examples, we will enable these to be shared and brought into common use.

Related case studies or articles

CDE project 11f: face to face

The following paper looks at the way the experience for face to face fundraisers, both within agencies or in-house operations, has a direct impact on the way a supporter then experiences their journey with you as a charity.

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CDE project 11f face to face: section 2 - agreeing the principles of your relationship

How to implementing a practical strategic process successfully. 

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CDE project 11f face to face: section 4 - recruitment and training

Recruitment of your fundraisers and/ or your external specialist agency.

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CDE project 11f face to face: section 5 - ongoing development

By investing more in staff over their initial induction period, you can keep more staff, and retain more of the supporters that they go on to recruit.

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CDE project 11f face to face: section 6 - involvement devices and props

In 2004, Gift Fundraising took Personal Digital Assistants to the street for the first time! Gone were the paper mandate forms, (unless the server was down), and the novelty of the personal data system was unleashed upon the face to face world. 

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CDE project 11f face to face: section 7 - location and integration

Over the last 5 years, face to face fundraising has been moving to private sites. The danger here is that the annoyance of face to face is just moving location.

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CDE project 11f face to face: section 8 - public relations

Celebrating face to face publicly and changing the perception of what a face to face fundraiser is should be looked at in earnest. Some members of the public simply find it an annoying interruption in their day-to-day lives.

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CDE project 11f face to face: section 9 - auditing and compliance

Auditing the agencies that fundraise on your behalf is crucial to gaining a full understanding of whether they comply with your policies, and those of our regulators.

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CDE project 11f face to face: appendix 3 - methodology

My approach to pulling this paper together was to firstly reach in to the depths of my own experiences over the past 16 years.

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