Does “face-to-face” donor acquisition work? A look at the facts

by guest blogger Sean Triner, founder of Moceanic.

Face-to-face. Street fundraising. Chuggers. Does it work?

Let me show you some facts. Then you can decide if it works.

For a long time face-to-face has dominated monthly giving acquisition in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, UK, and many other places. Here in Australia, we’ve gathered an amazing amount of data about face-to-face fundraising. Here’s what we know:

  1. Face-to-face has achieved something that no other channel has: getting younger people to donate in strategic numbers. By younger, I mean under 60. Face-to-face brings in donors with an average in the early to mid 40s.
  2. The volume is huge. In 2016 around 380,000 regular givers were acquired by the charities in Australia. Nearly 300,000 were through face-to-face.
  3. About 52% of new regular donors acquired by face-to-face, were still giving 12 months later. For monthly givers, that’s bad — the worst attrition among monthly donors. But compared to most non-regular donors, it’s great!
  4. Face-to-face donors have about the same likelihood of upgrading over the years as these acquired by any other method.
  5. Despite what some claim, face-to-face does not harm an organization’s brand. Seriously: Greenpeace, Amnesty International, World Vision, WWF, Red Cross … would you call them damaged brands? Most have been doing this for many years. With no negative impact on brand, donor relationships, or their ability to do good.

Digital, phone, mail and broadcast acquired donors are better donors. There just aren’t as many as them.

Face-to-face gets the volume, has good (but not great) retention, has good upgrade rates, and provides lots of gross income. Does that make it right for you?

Maybe. You must have good, tight automated admin, a clear need for money, good communication systems, and a great monthly proposition (offer).

For most charities starting monthly giving programs, you should have a balanced portfolio which starts by converting your current donors to monthly by mail, phone and online. Acquire as many regular givers through these other channels as you can. Then top up your targets with face-to-face.

When you do, you will need a big budget. But it could be a powerful source of revenue!

To read a longer and more detailed version of this post, visit the Moceanic Blog.

If you’d like a downloadable and much more detailed PDF version of this, click here.


Comments

2 responses to “Does “face-to-face” donor acquisition work? A look at the facts”

  1. Great post Jeff! Just another bit of information from my time at one of those charities mentioned above. If you use a premium incentive to acquire those monthly donors face to face that 52% attrition jumps up closer to 70%+. For most nonprofits any sort of premium incentive usually isn’t worth it when you look at the 12 month values. If you want to test it, try not fulfilling on the premium for at least 90 days and make it clear to the donor on the timeline. That way to have a better chance of recouping your initial investment.

  2. Great post Jeff! Just another bit of information from my time at one of those charities mentioned above. If you use a premium incentive to acquire those monthly donors face to face that 52% attrition jumps up closer to 70%+. For most nonprofits any sort of premium incentive usually isn’t worth it when you look at the 12 month values. If you want to test it, try not fulfilling on the premium for at least 90 days and make it clear to the donor on the timeline. That way to have a better chance of recouping your initial investment.

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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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