Face-to-face 'stabbed in the back' by the fundraising community, says Aldridge

Face-to-face 'stabbed in the back' by the fundraising community, says Aldridge

Face-to-face 'stabbed in the back' by the fundraising community, says Aldridge9

Fundraising | Celina Ribeiro | 30 Sep 2010

Face-to-face fundraising is sick of being “constantly stabbed in the back” by members of the fundraising community and needs charities to stand up for it, Public Fundraising Regulatory Association’s chief Mick Aldridge has argued in a stinging attack on the sector’s reticence to defend the practice.

Aldridge launched a passionate attack on what he called a lack of support for face-to-face fundraising from the sector at the Institute of Fundraising’s first-ever conference on the method in London today.

The controversial Newsnight 'expose' on the costs associated with face-to-face fundraising, where the British Heart Foundation was the lone charity voice defending the practice, was, said Aldridge, an opportunity to get the public onside that was “squandered by the sector”.

“At some point, someone senior at some charity, somewhere, must put aside their simple charity-specific cost/benefit analysis and be prepared to speak on behalf of the entire face-to-face sector,” he said.

“Many senior fundraisers possess a moral authority. They can argue for F2F in a way that the PFRA cannot. Burying your head in the sand or refusing to comment and hoping all the bad publicity will go away is not a sustainable strategy.”

He called for a “charity face-to-face champion” to step forward and be prepared to defend face-to-face when it comes under attack, but admitted it will be a “thankless task” and one which will be directed towards fellow fundraisers.

Aldridges’ attack wasn’t limited to the sector’s reluctance to defend face-to-face, but also centred on the “intolerable and hypocritical... ‘slagging off’ that face-to-face receives from some of our so-called colleagues from other fundraising disciplines”.

“That is rank hypocrisy and it has to stop,” he said. He noted that direct mail recruitment costs “are many orders of magnitude higher than for face-to-face” and challenged advocates of that medium, and others such as digital, to publish figures on RoI and costs for general viewing.

But the PFRA chief exec (pictured) attempted to end on a high note, suggesting that in the face of dramatic public spending cuts, charities have an opportunity to show the public that fundraising is an essential investment.

“This is the time, right here, right now, when the fundraising community has to draw a line in the sand and say, with one voice, we are the cause: without us, not a penny is raised and not a jot is achieved.” This is critical, he said, because “One day, the media will tire of face-to-face and they’ll come after another methodology instead.”

charity volunteer
1 Oct 2010

It wouldn't be so bad if these people confined their activities to town centres but they also do door-to-door selling of their campaigns in the suburbs in the evenings.

I've lost count of the number who have pestered me on my own doorstep this summer, even though we have a "no cold calling" sign on a lamp post thanks to trading standards officers.

I really object to this because one of the recent chuggers was from a cancer research charity and an elderly neighbour had recently buried her husband due to this illness. She is exactly the sort of person who might feel pressured to sign up on the doorstep.

I certainly don't want my first year's "donation" going to pay a fundraising firm either, thanks very much. I find the whole chugging experience an ordeal when I'm shopping and I think a great deal less of charities which use this fundraising method than those who don't.

I know I'm not the only one.

Stephen Pavey
Brighton West Pier Trust
1 Oct 2010

I live in an area of a city centre which is a favourite location for F2F canvassers.

Frankly my heart sinks when I regularly walk down to the shops and see up to six F2Fers on my route. I try and look away/don't catch their eye/say no etc etc, but it IS intrusive to be continually approached on the street like this.

I end up making a mental note of not giving to charities that use the technique - and I can't be the only one.

Ged Simpson
1 Oct 2010

Priceless opening line :

'Face-to-face fundraising is sick of being "constantly stabbed in the back"'

Rarry Revan
1 Oct 2010

Forget whether the rest of the sector "trusts face-to-face", the reality is that all the big players are throwing their budget at F2F as direct mail continues to fail, raffles become swamped, payroll giving wallows in its own faeces and online fundraising continues to be elusive (see the difference anyone?).

F2F is a reality - say it loud, we chug and we are proud.



p.s. Are you having a nice day Simon (hope I haven't just spoiled your day)

Simon Hebditch
1 Oct 2010

I can understand why Mick feels outraged - being hung out to dry on Newsnight is not pleasant! But he forgets there are continuing problems with face-to-face fundraising. I am not talking about cost/benefit analyses - charities will quickly ditch the practice if it is not working for them!

My concern remains that it is often an over-intrusive form of fundraising and I object to being waylayed on the street by a persistent person trained to smile brightly and ask whether I am having a nice day! I was - until I met him or her.

Mick Aldridge
Chief Executive
1 Oct 2010
Response to [ Simon Hebditch]

Dear Simon

With the very greatest of respect, this is a classic - albeit it very mild! - example of just the sort of intra-sector 'slagging' I was referring to. Who, especially among people who call themselves 'charitable', can reasonably object to being 'smiled at brightly'? What possible harm is being done? Are you quite incapable of 'smiling brightly' back and just passing by? Does it not occur to you that for some people, a random 'bright smile' from someone just might 'brighten' their day (if not yours)?

And what about 'waylaying': are you actually aware of the dictionary definition ( for example)? Has a fundraiser really ever 'ambushed', 'attacked', or 'bushwhacked' you, or 'held you up' and 'set upon' you? Do you believe that a 'bright smile' really constitutes any of these behaviours?

Even at the milder end of the definition, do you really assert that a fundraiser has ever 'accosted' you, 'swooped' on you, or 'pounced' on you? Are you really so incapable of just saying "No" (with or without a 'bright smile')?

By all means opine that you don't like it, or that you don't get it, or that it bemuses you how it can possibly work: but that's just your experience. Take a pause for thought, and don't then - by implication - belittle and devalue the 600,000+ people a year who DO stop, DO engage, and DO make a charitable commitment, whether that's for one month or 10 years. Please.

Jonathan Sillett
7 Oct 2010
Response to [Mick Aldridge]

With the very greatest of respect, this typifies the F2F advocates' refusal to take people's concerns seriously. People do find F2F annoying, whether their reasons may be rational or not.

Rather than telling people how they should feel about street fundraisers, surely it is time to ask them what they dislike and whether that affects the esteem in which they hold charities more broadly.

Not everyone is as gregarious as those in the fundraising community and we need to accept that many people dont like being approached on the street, even in a mild way. Perhaps we as a sector can afford to annoy people and still attract their donations, but there doesnt at present appear to be any sort of evidence upon which to base our assumptions.

1 Oct 2010

Maybe if the rest of the sector trusted face to face more, then they might support it. However, through personal experience of being approached by chuggers as well as media reports, it will take a long time for me to be able to do that.


30 Sep 2010

I understand the anger, but it's just naive to think that individual charities will volunteer to damage their brand by appearing on their own to defend face to face on national TV.

That said, I agree something must be done.

Why not make it a condition of PFRA membership for the biggest 10 users of face to face fundraising and/or the biggest 10 charity brands using it, to take it in turns to promote face to face to the media?

I'm afraid the carrot is obviously not working - bring out the stick!


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