Street fundraising August 16, 2011Posted by Jeff Riley in : Charities, charity, international development , add a comment
Some people avoid street fundraisers some may have a conversation and even set up a regular donation. What we don’t tend to do is think about what it takes to work in what is often seen as one of the worst jobs in the world. We spoke to Amy Oberholzer who helps run Future Fundraising, a consultancy that includes Fundraising Vision; the arm that recruits and trains street fundraisers, as part of its work with the third sector.
How does Fundraising Vision & Future Fundraising work as a company? We work in partnership with Future Fundraising to run street, door & private site fundraising campaigns for third sector clients. We charge all our clients on a ‘cost per recruit’ basis – ie for every person that agrees to become a regular supporter. This means that the fundraisers aren’t attached to getting a specific amount of money from the donor. What we are more concerned with is enrolling supporters who freely decide to make a manageable donation on a regular basis. There are a number of organisations competing in this market and we differentiate ourselves through our ‘attrition guarantees’ and campaign analysis. This means that we guarantee that after three months a much larger proportion of your supporters we sign up will still be engaged & supporting your cause. We are 100% transparent and continue to communicate with donors after they sign up to make sure they are happy with the arrangements and to find out if they need any more information.
How do you train your staff? Well the first thing is we recruit the right people. People who can engage with others freely and get them interested in the charity. We test this very early in the recruitment process by getting them to have a short conversation on the street with a member of the public. We find that applicants can be good at normal job interviews but on the street they wilt and hide behind the charity material. We recruit people who we can train to be fantastic communicators. Often these conversations flow from what we call ‘objection responses’ – those typical reasons people present initially for not being able to set up a regular donation. Things like ‘ too many bills’ or ‘I’m worried about my own job’ or ‘I’m not too sure right now’. It is really amazing the kind of information people divulge when you open up a conversation in response to these objections – we can get people who share their life stories. As I said earlier we are interested in people who can create authentic connections and create a genuine commitment to their regular donations. We know that people get switched off very quickly if they sense the fundraiser is really only interested in guilt-tripping them to sign up.
The two day training also includes a day spent at the charity who the campaign is being run for. This way they get to know the charity inside out so they can deal confidently with any questions they get on the field and to create a genuine sense of connection. Our style of working means that fundraisers will stay with the campaign through to the end which is typically three plus months, rather than representing different charities on different days.
What makes someone good at this job? A capacity to sympathise and relate to anyone, no matter who they are. Someone who is naturally able to deal with being ignored on the street or even dealing with some tougher encounters and not taking it personally – we do focus on dealing with this during the training course. So whether you get ignored or shouted at you can still deal with things with grace and use resilience to keep your focus and wish a nice day for people and respect their decisions. We also need people who are passionate about the third sector. It really does take enthusiasm to keep engaging with people especially when the weather is bad and you are at the end of a tough day. Our people work in small teams of four and they do support each other during the day. If someone has had a difficult encounter the team leader might just take them off for a break and a chat. Likewise if someone has a success they might get the team together to acknowledge it and use it to generate some energy. Finally we also need people who can speak English very well.
What do fundraisers get out of it? Well we pay an hourly rate between £7 to £12 per hour, depending on experience. We would expect to get a minimum of two sign ups a day on the street and one a day knocking doors (i.e door-to-door fundraising). If people are thinking about doing this kind of work they should check out what the targets are because it makes a difference to the work culture. A lot of students work for us but also people who are getting back into work after a break. Students particularly do it because it’s a straightforward way to earn money but a lot of people who work in charities have previous experience of this kind of fundraising. Fundraising is an important part of charities work and our fundraisers do have to engage with the issues facing the charities they are working for. This can help them if they want to break into the sector.
Why do charities use this method because it does seem to annoy some people? Well over the last 20 years it has proven itself to be a really good way for charities to build up a long term stable source of income. Even if people don’t sign up it really helps keep the charities profile high. What I would say is we train our fundraisers to be a light presence on the street and we do take care to make sure there aren’t too many fundraisers in one area. I would ask people to recognise that they aren’t being forced to engage with our fundraisers if they don’t wish to. At the end of the day fundraisers are human beings, like you and I, so even if you aren’t going to donate you can just say ‘hi’.
How do people apply? Visit our website & upload your CV and contact details. www.futurefundraising.co.uk
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