CDE project 11f face to face: section 8 — public relations
- Written by
- The Commission on the Donor Experience
- March 22, 2017
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. Knocks on the door during an evening meal, a request to stop when rushing to get the children from school all lead to furthering the disgruntled experience of being asked to donate. Through the experience's your supporters have with the teams, through to the experiences that teams themselves have, we need to give a realistic level of insight as to why people will respond negatively in any given moment. Training teams to have a level of emotional intelligence towards how to react in such circumstances will help to reduce potential complaints from being generated. This is key to building a sector wide brand that is trusted, respected, and continues to encourage potential supporters to engage with them.
Oxfam and Amnesty International, among other international non-governmental organisations with a presence in multiple nations, have set-up a global, social media network through Facebook. This allows the fundraisers to share in their colleague’s success and feel part of a far broader team. It has also allowed for individual fundraisers to transfer to other countries. This benefits the organisations by retaining staff from a workforce that has always wanted a transient lifestyle. Most recently, many supporters enjoyed watching the cycling team of face to face fundraisers that Oxfam had travelling the UK. This was a great use of social media, as it brought people out to meet them, and engage with the charity, as the team cycled from town to town on their face to face cycling tour. The tour involved a dedicated team from the Oxfam UK in-house team cycling from town to town, arriving to site on their bikes, and building a sense of achievement within the team, and gained a good level of traction on social media. It celebrated the dedication that the team had to the cause really well, creating a bench-mark that the wider Oxfam team could aspire to.
Cases of agencies being scrutinised in the press are common place now and gaining a real sense of risk amongst senior management and trustees. The agency Wesser, working with St John Ambulance were targeted in 2015. The regular auditing of the agency by the charity meant that they were able to provide evidence during an investigation, which was followed up by the former regulatory body, the Fundraising Standards Board. This meant that the agency and charities partnership was able to continue: https://www.civilsociety.co.uk/news/st-john-ambulance-suspends-fundraising-agency-to-investigate-sun-story.html
But there are a far greater number of stories that have not resulted in such a happy ending. You must be aware of the risk of these, and have a planned response to mitigate against the damage to your brand that such sensationalised journalism can have. These have all happened since the summer of 2015, here in the UK and abroad, so for those of you with an international face to face operation, learn from the past, and make sure that you are well prepared for the future:
Face to face has faced attacks from the media way before the recent bad publicity the Olive Cooke case has generated. Agencies in particular have been on the receiving end of such stories since the noughties, and the sector has not been united in coming out to defend it, often leaving it down to a an agency spokesperson to do so: https://fundraising.co.uk/2005/08/21/face-face-again-media-spotlight/#.WQBTgVKZO-o
With the level of attention that the sector has had in recent years, following the political narrative from the Etherington Review, the Olive Cooke story, to the establishment of a new Regulator, the most public facing model of fundraising that is face to face, must adapt accordingly to help turn the tide of public opinion and the decline in trust:
The Charity Comms group is helping to change the narrative, but all of those involved in the face to face world need to collaborate to make this happen. This is not a new call to action and has been highlighted before:
Returning to the idea that all face to face fundraisers be seen as life savers, by being trained in first aid, and being equipped with defibrillators, seems a practical and simple way of adding a philanthropic element to their presence one every high street. The value of such an initiative can be highlighted in the article here:
The above story is a great example of how PR teams can work with their fundraising teams internally, to help support the teams and agencies bringing vital funds in to their charity. Sending out press releases to local papers, informing them of the presence of door to door or street campaigns that will be in the local area also helps to bolster the trust. When asking10 charities currently using door to door agencies, by far the most common reason for a member of the public getting in touch with their supporter services team, was to verify that the fundraiser at their door was a genuine fundraiser.
For good measure, and due to the first message left in the articles comment sector, this article from 2012 also highlights the benefits that good PR can have for face to face, but more importantly, the good impact that face to face can have on the charity: