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Why it's good to talkDominic Will

by Dominic Will, Joint Managing Director


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Why it's good to talk

The world around us is changing rapidly. Advances in technology offer a host of potential opportunities for the fundraising sector, with innovation driving new giving channels, contactless payment solutions and dynamic social media campaigns in an increasingly interactive environment. We support these opportunities and work with new technology to help bring greater intelligence to what we do, yet ultimately digital interaction cannot substitute for genuine one-on-one conversations.

Face-to-face channels offer huge equity for charities and present donors with a real experience, which cannot be replicated in today’s digital environment. This is particularly true for door-to-door fundraising, which can play an important part in a charity’s donor acquisition strategy.

Why is it so important? Certainly, it’s one of the most effective ways of reaching and engaging large numbers of supporters, but the rationale goes further than that. A personalised face-to-face ask is not just about communicating a charity’s work, its needs or those of its beneficiaries. It goes further; it allows supporters to ask their own questions, to raise any concerns they might have and to gain a far deeper understanding of the charity’s work. Crucially, it gives fundraisers and charities the chance to respond directly to supporters’ individual needs and creates huge potential for an ongoing relationship.

Although there has been increased emphasis on tailoring the donor experience across all channels, the fact is that people are much more responsive when they are asked face-to-face, rather than via other more distanced approaches. Indeed, in a recent US and Canada-based study1, people who were asked face-to-face to fulfil an action (in this case, completing a survey) were as much as 34 times more likely to comply than those asked over email. Essentially, if we want people to listen, engage and take action – or perhaps to give their consent for future contact - we can never underestimate the importance of face-to-face communication.

But it’s not all plain sailing. The concept of a fundraiser knocking on doors isn’t something that works for everyone. Still, we find that the reality of a well-delivered doorstep fundraising experience is usually very different. Feedback about our fundraisers is typically very positive. And, recent research suggests that we’re not alone.

Commissioned by the Institute of Fundraising, research from fast.MAP2 (2016) goes on to show that supporters are engaged with door-to-door fundraising, (much more so in fact than charities might anticipate) and that they are responsive to it. The research, which interviewed almost 3,000 adults and over 100 fundraisers, identifies the main characteristics of door-to-door as being a highly personalised, welcomed and authoritative channel. It also performs well above the average fundraising channel in terms of generating a response.

Now with two years of comparative data, door-to-door is seen to have gained favour with a 34% increase to the personalised index score from 2015 to 2016 and a 28% increase to the welcome index. The survey results for donating now/immediately also increased by 7% during that time.

Findings also show that while fundraisers predict it to be most engaging for the over 55 age group, it is those aged 35-54 who are most engaged by the method. Contrary to some commentary, it is welcomed by potential supporters due to its ability to reach time-poor, socially minded people to engage with and support causes that they identify with. And that’s why our work focuses on helping charities make personalised, one-on-one connections with supporters.

Why go to door-to-door? From our perspective, it is about creating a positive – sometimes life-changing – encounter or experience that leaves an individual feeling engaged with and inspired by the charity’s work. After all, a truly inspirational conversation can last in people’s memories for many years to come.

1Source: Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 10 October 2016

2Fundraising Media DNA 2016/17, fast.Map

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