Innovative fundraising can be perilous

Innovative fundraising can be perilous

Innovative fundraising can be perilous

Fundraising | Celina Ribeiro | 19 Aug 2008

When a man with the build of a boxer comes up to you, holds a potato in your face and tells you that “We don’t do potato throwin’ here”, you could be forgiven for being a little scared.

You also know that it’s probably time to explain your somewhat left-of-centre fundraising techniques.

Such was the tumult I experienced when hanging out with Friends of the Earth street fundraisers last Friday as they took a short play about the dangers of farming for biofuels to north London.

Titled ‘Don’t be bio-fooled!’, the play, produced and performed by Arcola Theatre, featured three male actors playing a Farmer, a Politician and a Businessman fighting over a crop of potatoes. Not just fighting over them, but throwing them.

Throwing enough of them to draw the ire of the stocky site manager at the Sheldon Square development in Paddington, who looked ready to man-handle any potato-related person in the vicinity. When the peaceful souls of Friends of the Earth and the theatre company explained that they had permission to perform on the site, he retreated. And chuckled.

At the campaign’s launch at the Innocent Festival on the previous weekend, FoE street fundraisers scored huge sign-up numbers, increasing their average daily rate from two per fundraiser to five by signing up a total of 52 donors - despite poor weather on one of the days.

Last Friday morning’s efforts, however, did not bode so well. Summer had failed to grace the team with its presence and the result was a barely inhabited courtyard in the centre of a business park. After the potato throwing threats, the team, having not signed anyone up, decided to get back on the barge they had hired for the day and ride up to Camden Lock.

We rode on the barge, cold and damp. After being chased by a drunk fisherman, we finally disembarked at Camden where the actors promptly began performing.

They drew a crowd. People were interested. People listened. And people, just a few of them, signed up. One new supporter I spoke to said he had never signed up with a street fundraiser before. He had stood around to wait for the performance and, having sat through it intently, was more than willing to speak to a fundraiser who had spotted him from the wings.

Although they didn’t sign quite as many new supporters as they had at the Innocent Festival - I was still impressed with their feat.

Innovation means having good days and bad days, and not being frightened of the latter. Their event motivated individual street fundraisers and attracted the curiosity of the public, making them less inclined to keep on walking when approached by a stranger with a clipboard.

I’m new to the world of charities and fundraising, but even I can see that if you can present your cause in a way that inspires both your staff and potential supporters – even on a rainy Friday afternoon – you might just be on to a winner.


[Cancel] | Reply to:

Close »

Community Standards

The community and comments board is intended as a platform for informed and civilised debate.

We hope to encourage a broad range of views, however, there are standards that we expect commentators to uphold. We reserve the right to delete or amend any comments that do not adhere to these standards.

We welcome:

  • Robust but respectful debate
  • Strongly held opinions
  • Intelligent relevant discussion
  • The sharing of relevant experiences
  • New participants

We will not publish:

  • Rude, threatening, offensive, obscene or abusive language, or links to such material
  • Links to commercial organisations or spam postings. The comments board is not an advertising platform
  • The posting of contact details for yourself or others
  • Comments intended for malicious purpose or mindless abuse
  • Comments purporting to be from another person or organisation under false pretences
  • Gratuitous criticism, commentary or self-promotion
  • Any material which breaches copyright or privacy laws, or could be considered libellous
  • The use of the comments board for the pursuit or extension of personal disputes

Be aware:

  • Views expressed on the comments board are left at users’ discretion and are in no way views held or supported by Civil Society Media
  • Comments left by others may not be accurate, do not rely on them as fact
  • You may be misunderstood - sarcasm and humour can easily be taken out of context, try to be clear


  • Enjoy the opportunity to express your opinion and respect the right of others to express theirs
  • Confine your remarks to issues rather than personalities

Together we can keep our community a polite, respectful and intelligent platform for discussion.

Celina Ribeiro

Celina Ribeiro is the commissioning editor of Fundraising Magazine and contributor to Civil Society News.

Follow Celina @Celina_Ribeiro_

Celina Ribeiro (37) Niki May Young (22) Kirsty Weakley (17) Jenna Pudelek (9) Michael Naidu (7) Andrew Chaggar (7) David Philpott (7) Leon Ward (7) David Ainsworth (7) Emily Corfe (7) Less +++ More +++

Times are changing for civil society

1 Oct 2015

Outgoing Charity Finance editor Andrew Hind raises concerns about threats to civil society's freedom of...

When The Sun and the FT accuse you of being inefficient in the same week, it’s time to explain yourself better

28 Sep 2015

When newspapers as diverse as The Sun and the Financial Times both get their facts wrong about charities,...

A charity world as colourful as Camila Batmanghelidjh's party dress

3 Sep 2015

Ian Allsop sums up what’s been happening in the charity world during the summer break.

What we learned from the Labour Party Conference

2 Oct 2015

Following the conference earlier this week, Alice Sharman reflects on some of the themes emerging in Brighton.

Who is to blame for inequality in the charity sector? Answers from some of the sector's top women

30 Sep 2015

The charity sector is one of the most female-friendly sectors. But women still aren't getting the top...

Society Diary: The curry preference service, monkey selfies, and the great shadow charities minister mystery

25 Sep 2015

Our weekly round-up of interesting and outlandish information, collected from the corners of the charity...