The number of donors signed up via street fundraising in 2012/13 fell by nearly half in what the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association has admitted is “by far the worst year” for street fundraising recruitment.
Some 125,827 donors were signed up via street fundraisers last year, compared with 238,273 in the previous year. The PFRA attributed about two-thirds of the fall to the collapse of Gift Fundraising which, with 30 per cent of the market share, has had a substantial impact on the sector.
The PFRA, which reports on yearly sign-up rates in its annual report, said it was not concerned by the figures. Ian MacQuillin, PFRA head of communications, told civilsociety.co.uk that figures for 2013 show that the recovery has already begun. Street fundraising sign-ups for April and May are up between 70 and 80 per cent on last year, he said. “We are seeing a bit of a recovery.”
A similar – though not as severe – decline in sign-up figures occurred after the collapse of Dialogue Direct in late 2009; the PFRA believes it will take a similar period of two years for the fundraising numbers to recover.
The height of street fundraising, according to PFRA figures, was in 2002/03 when 380,000 donors were signed up on the street. In more recent times, street recruitment has hovered at around 200,000 new donors a year, which MacQuillin suggested was a more sustainable figure.
In-house street fundraising up
With many street fundraising organisations reporting full books, the PFRA believe the issue is to do with supply, not demand.
Many charities are developing their own in-house fundraising teams to service this demand, with more than half of all street fundraising sign-ups now a result of in-house teams, compared with just one in four in 2011/12.
“With agencies not able to meet the demand, it seems that charities might be taking control of the situation,” said Nick Henry, head of standards at the PFRA. While speculating whether this trend towards in-house team will continue this year, Henry said: “If the recovery of the street market follows previous patterns after the closure of major agencies, we would expect to see street volumes approaching 200,000 new donors… by 2015/16.”
Doorstep fundraising and prospecting down
Doorstep fundraising recruitment was also down slightly, with 600,665 new donors signed up via the door in 2012/13, down 3.9 per cent on the previous year. Given the fall in street fundraising, door-to-door fundraising now accounts for four times as many new donors as the much more visible and talked about street. While it measures different things, the FRSB annual report, out earlier this month, found a two-fifths increase in volume of door-to-door fundraising, and a significant increase in complaints about the mechanism in its last year on record.
Meanwhile, prospecting – whereby individuals are signing up directly to a regular gift on the street – is down by more than a third to 3,516 sites used last year.