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

Written by
The Commission on the Donor Experience
March 25, 2017

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. Today tablets are common place, and the ability to show videos and content to prospective supporters is enhancing the experience and engagement for the donor. Ken Burnett alluded to this in his article of fifty ways that face to face can be improved:

Yet one of the simplest examples of involvement devices working well for face to face, was on the first campaign Sense ran in 2003. Tim Longfoot, now at Open fundraising developed three simple props for fundraisers to use on the street. When supporters stopped, fundraisers were able to explain the difficulty for parents forming a bond with their babies when they are born deaf and blind. As the baby is unable to see or hear a parent approaching to lift them out of the cot for feeding, or to simply have a cuddle, the teams explained how a soft cloth is placed in the babies’ hand with some of the fathers’ aftershave, or mothers perfume on it. After repeating this action every time before picking the baby up, there finally comes a point at which the cloth is placed in the baby’s hand, and the baby opens up their arms welcoming the cuddle. Having this story to tell meant supporters were momentarily in the world of the beneficiary. 

UNICEF used a doll that all members of the public that stopped would be asked to hold. The doll weighed the same as an average baby born in the western world. As the fundraiser spoke to the potential supporter about the dangers of malnutrition in the countries where they work, they were asked to hold another doll, weighing far less, representing the weight of a child born in such conditions. The ability to simply compare-and-contrast the unfairness of the situation, through the doll, helped to demonstrate the importance of supporting their beneficiaries.

In 2006, Action Aid ran a street campaign through the agency Gift Fundraising. When training the fundraisers at the agency, the charity brought in sachets of Plumpy’Nut to demonstrate how simple the problem of malnutrition could be solved. The teams were eagerly eating their way through the sachets as the charity presented their training. Sadly, due to reasons of hygiene, Plumpy’Nut never made its way on to the streets for the teams to use with supporters! Although it did make it’s way in the national press; 

Virtual Reality (VR) goggles now provide an immersive way to bring the supporter closer to your cause. These examples come with the caveat, that, if you haven’t already started to develop your VR device, then the novelty of this technology will begin to decline, as it is predicted that more and more of us shall be using them in our homes in the coming years. But the impact that Greenpeace have had through their teams use of them has improved the experience for supporters, and enables the charities face to face fundraisers to transport potential donors to the arctic:

UNICEF, Save the Children, and Amnesty International have all entered the world of face to face utilising this powerful tool, demonstrating that VR can improve the experience that a donor has when engaging with their teams. One of the best examples of this was Amnesty International’s use of virtual reality headsets, which allowed members of the public to stop on a London street, and then be transported to the war torn streets of Aleppo in Syria. It was recently awarded the Third Sector Digital Innovation Award for 2016. The cost was £31,500, and the headsets have been worn and used by over 100,000 people. The increase in numbers that signed up was 9%. You can read more here:

Investment can be hard to achieve, so the props don’t always need to be costly, as highlighted by those that Sense used, and by those by the charity Mines Advisory Group (MAG). Louise Wells explains here how they used stickers that looked like real mines in the street, in the hope that passers-by would step on them and get them stuck to their shoes, thus creating a prop to help stop. However, it didn’t quite go to plan:

“The stickers mentioned were first used during MAG’s pitch at the Financial Times – we had a day to lobby staff in an attempt to win the staff vote and become charity of the year. Sadly we weren’t successful but the stickers were a talking point. The idea was to scatter them, face down/sticky side up, in all areas where we permitted. Staff would come along, stand on a sticker and go to remove it and then see that this could have been a landmine. 
 “We’re not a well know brand so we wanted something to disrupt staff and encourage them to ask what was going on but it took people a while to realise what we were there to do – especially as people were arriving for work at 8am. Although the stickers stopped people we had scattered so many that we were bordering on annoyance. We also struggled with our message – it was “vote for MAG!” - ignoring the impact their vote would have in freeing people from the fear and danger of landmines and unexploded bombs. 
 “Shortly afterwards we launched a small street fundraising campaign. We dutifully briefed the fundraisers, kitted them out in uniform and sent them out onto the streets. The agency (the now closed P2P) reported back that sign up rates were much lower than average and that this may be because too few people had heard of MAG or knew the landmine issue was still present. We discussed ways to overcome this and this is where the stickers were revived. The team tested using the stickers on the street and found more people stopped but still struggled with sign up rate. Although a good talking point they struggled with moving the conversation on from annoyance. 
 “They were also practical issues with using something on the floor – it could be seen as littering so only 1 or 2 put down at a time, no good in wet weather and not possible in sites with the biggest footfall and crowded pavements. They began using them more as a prop, rather than on the pavement. 
 “Although we didn’t use the stickers in our f2f campaign with a new agency last year, we tried to develop a similar tactic that created intrigue and encouraged people to stop but use it with a tighter, clearer message. We tried a few things which evolved during the campaign period, our fundraisers ended up wearing long red socks and using photo books (we have strong images) to demonstrate the problem. They also had postcards featuring a selection of images used in the photobook so the supporter could choose the one they wanted as a take away, complete with a handwritten thank you from the fundraiser on the back. We also improved our follow up communications, making sure that the supporter received consistent messaging and a proper thank you. Our agency also lent us a couple of the street team to come to our office and make some thank you calls before Christmas. This meant some supporters were contacted by the fundraiser who signed them up on the street some month before. 
“We haven’t managed to crack this yet but will continue in our next campaign.”

Face to face fundraising has traditionally taken place on high streets that have been licenced for that purpose or on people’s doorstep. Over the last 5 years, there has been a move to private sites. Shopping centres, railway stations, Ikea stores, WH Smiths, and supermarkets are providing face to face with another platform. The danger here is that the annoyance of face to face is just moving location.

DAR’s ran a report in 2013 claiming that the no Show Rates of the private site recruited donors was a cut above the street and doors:

Click on the image below to view project 11f in full - PDF format.

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.

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