So a couple people have been reissuing myths on twitter lately, casually, about how fundraising must be a hard job because nobody wants to talk to fundraisers, and nobody's got the money to donate, &c. Or the more pervasive myth that fundraisers are just plain annoying. Er, cheers. If you think I am, fine, but please don't assume that everybody does. That's what we call projection, honey.
So we stop someone in the street. High-energy stop attempts tend to get more reaction, so some fundraisers (yep, me) dance around the street, calling everybody sugar/honey/my love and coming up with bizarre lines like "random beard inspection!" (*wave hand vaguely near face*). I can see how some people might find that irritating, really, I can. And often you find that fundraisers can tell when there's someone who really won't appreciate that, and they don't direct it at those people. Sometimes they get this wrong. Shocking, I know - that someone's whirling around, likely on a massive caffeine and/or sugar high, literally trying to stop *anyone* who goes past, might not be able to tell from studying your demeanour for a fraction of a second that you dislike their approach. Uh, yeah. By all means, don't be the person who stops. There are plenty more people on the street.
Ooh - so we've stopped you. Some little joke we've told has drawn you in. And the likelihood is, even if you're somewhat sceptical about fundraising in general, you realise we're actually pretty interesting. We're good at making people like us, whether you've stopped because you're just our kind of person* or despite your misgivings - and yes, sometimes we see the little sigh as you realise you've been "caught". If you really think that, we might even throw you back. Depends how we're feeling at that moment - we like to connect with people who like us, you see. It goes both ways.
*there are various styles of fundraising out there, and fundraisers may even use several of them in one day. It's almost like we're human beings with normal fluctuations of energy and emotion.
Let's talk about bell curves. An awful lot of things can be described by this curve:
In this instance we'll think of the vertical axis as the amount of people, the units being unimportant, and the horizontal axis being how nice they are to fundraisers. On the far left we have the arseholes, who will always be horrible, and on the far right we have the angels, who will pretty much sign up for anyone. The arseholes aren't just snippy or rude as we try to stop them, they're the people who stop and try to ruin our day - I'll go into their methods shortly. The angels, on the other hand, might recognise the charity and have sympathy for them, or might have been promoted at work recently and thought about giving to charity but not got round to picking one, or might for religious reasons be looking for someone to give 10% of their wage to (although more usually religious people already have their charities picked out). Sometimes an angel genuinely can't afford to donate, but stops to chat with us and can absolutely brighten up our day - for instance Pudding, who works as a carer in Warrington, has blonde hair with a bright pink streak and make-up to match, is learning BSL, and has an enchanting young son whose name I utterly forget. We discussed life, love and Seeability and she went on her merry way, and I danced about light-hearted once more, looking for someone with more cash.
The people who aren't arseholes or angels are the people we have to be good fundraisers for. They're the people who need our passion to grok how amazing the charity is; who need our humour and intelligence and compassion because with such a wonderful representative, the charity's gotta be doing good stuff, right? And they need us to really know what we're talking about, because there's very little we can get across in the time we'll be talking to you, and you need to be behind it. If I chat about Bangladesh and its cyclones, you need to get a vision of it, understand why it's something we care about in this country even though it's miles away! Get a sense of how our actions there are representative of our ideals and motivations everywhere. If we can create this image, this enthusiasm and passion in the normal people we talk to, we're good fundraisers.
Let's talk about sales tactics. A lot of people have this impression that fundraisers are manipulative, that we guilt people into giving money they can't afford, or use sales tactics to pressure them into buying. Uh, well, we don't. I'm not saying there aren't fundraisers who do use sales tactics out there - some are ex sales people, and these folk tend to pass on "tips" to their colleagues - but if it's pure sales, it doesn't work. For starters somebody who uses tricks imperfectly will be spotted, people will think they're sleazy and won't buy for them. Then if they are taken in and sign up but can't afford to keep going (or leave the focus of the fundraiser and realise they don't actually care about the charity), they'll cancel. The amount of people who cancel their direct debits* within a measured period is called a fundraiser's attrition rate and fundraisers can be fired if theirs is too high. It means they aren't making quality sign-ups, people who truly believe in the charity and are committed to donating long-term.
Sales tactics that I know of include the Joneses effect (a lot of your neighbours said xyz, presumably from the phrase "keeping up with the Joneses"), getting people to do you small favours (on the door this might mean asking for a glass of water) so they're more likely to sign up *for you*, and general body language (again on the door you might look over someone's shoulder, they'd get the hint and invite you in)... I'm sure I know more but can't think of any right now. Anyway, I try not to use them for the above reasons, and also because it's horrible to be manipulative even if you *are* doing it for charity.
*some fundraisers don't set up direct debits on the street/door, they just take contact details, and for them we'd talk about a conversion rate and want it to be positive, rather than an attrition rate which wants to be low.
In brief, most fundraisers aren't salespeople. They don't want to be salespeople - they could make a lot more money selling anything else, believe me.
So I was saying about long-term donations, right? Now why's that important? The myth is that the first three months, or year, or whatever, of the money you donate goes to paying the fundraising company. That's kind of bollocks. I mean, obviously the fundraising company gets paid, and so does the fundraiser, because everybody needs to eat (I'll get into lifestyle and pay later). But the fact is that all charities have an admin budget - most that I've worked for, it's around 16-20% - and part of that is a fundraising budget. I've heard various figures but the most conservative said that face to face fundraising raises £4 for every £1 spent on it. Yeah, that might be over the space of a few years, but don't you think those charities know it's worth it? So, again, a good fundraiser looking for quality sign-ups is looking for long-term donors (Our ideal sign-up is over 35, a happily married man in a job. Yeah, I know. I signed up lots more armyboys, lesbians in their mid20s, and middle class ladies than my fellows tended to). Also, the benefit of having an agency train your fundraisers is that it's fucking* cheaper for the charity, with a lot less risk. You don't pay for the fundraisers having bad days - the agency does, and it's up to the agency to either fix them or get rid of them.
*I get a bit aggressive when people accuse me of costing charities money. I don't know how many £thou I've raised but it's a good few. Oh, side note? At least one of the companies I've worked for occasionally spends a day fundraising for a charity which can't afford their services. Even if it's only one team, that's a several thousand pound donation, plus a hell of a lot of good press for the charity.
Having explained this in a charming, hopefully entertaining and above all brief way to my already-motivated potential sign-up, let's get onto some other common objections, from the understandable to the arsey. Let me say that one of my favourite sign-ups was a gentleman reaching retirement age who gave me a bundle of about four of these at once, who I listened to politely and agreed with, then expressed my position that I was just doing what I could in a hard world.
I can't afford to give to charity.
We get told this all the time, so we like to make you think about it - we're asking the price of one pint a week. Less than ten cigs, about the same as a bacon butty and a cup of tea from Greggs, or the price of a costalot coffee. We ask that you give it on a monthly basis. You can pick a date, usually from two, three or four, that's convenient for you. Would it really make a difference to your life? Some fundraisers will ask you to think about how the money could help the recipients of our charity. On the other hand, perhaps you genuinely can't afford to donate. I probably oughtn't to myself, although I arrange things so that I can. Fundraisers have to believe that everyone can afford to, in order to help some people understand that they can, but their job is not to make life difficult for you. If it's going to put you into your overdraft and give you bank charges, that's no use to anyone, and if it even gives you the fear of bank charges, you may well cancel within a few months. No use to the charity, no use to the fundraiser - if you really want to give a one-off or donate your time we'll direct you to the website (or sometimes those text services).
There are so many charities, how do I choose one?
Yeah, there are about 200 000 registered charities in the UK, although I don't know how many are small things like St Helens Youth Brass Band (yes I am totally plugging my old band, in fact, here's an old link which has me in the photo) which don't really work in the same way as the charities we fundraise for. I completely understand that you would like to know which is the most worthy. I'm not gonna be the final arbiter of that, but hey, you stopped to talk to me, man. You saw my t shirt and/or jacket, we've been chatting, you know what our charity does. If you want to wait until you've researched every single one of those 200 000 charities that catches your eye before you start giving to a good cause, uh, be my guest. Or you could step up and help somebody, accept that you can't do everything all at once, but do a bit. Maybe do what a lot of people I've met do, and donate to one charity for a few years, then switch to another good cause. Many naturally charitable folks have three or four causes that they've committed to, and that's fine. We like to be the ones who set them up, because we can save you time with the forms, plus get a little deserved credit for spreading the good word.
Will you though? Will you really? Something ridiculously small like 1% of regular donations come from web setups. I'm not saying you're lying to me, but it's easy to forget, or get distracted, or try and research every other similar charity ;) also, I'm working here, and while I'm not personally particularly motivated by money, it would be nice if the good work I'm doing gets recognised by the charity and they keep putting their fundraising budget where it's used best. Related - check out this piece on how websites could be better.
I don't give out my bank details.
Um, okay. I respect your need to feel safe. In truth though, what we're asking for is your account number and sort code, which come on your bank statements and cheques and can safely go through the post; all I could do with those is put money into your account, so it's your signature on this Direct Debit guarantee that's important*. If anyone's asking for the long number off your card, or the three digit code on the back, they're scamming you. But hey, if you don't trust me by now, by all means go on the website and put in the long number off your card and the three digit code on the back. Totes safer ;)
*some fundraisers prospect, or two-step, which means only getting contact details, and get to skip this bit entirely :)
I only give to UK charities/international charities/animal/human/cancer/wevs charities.
Okay, keep up the good work, and have a nice day.
We've given so much in international aid already and nothing ever gets better!
Ooh, the intellectual approach. This one really pisses me off for its aggressive pessimism - not only are YOU not going to give, I should stop convincing OTHER people to give too! - so I'll just pass you this handy little mythbuster page which I love dearly.
The money I give will only go to corrupt govts, not to the people who need it.
Uh. Right. So, we saved Xmillion lives last year, that was CLEARLY BY WILLPOWER ALONE.
...This is the kind of argument you only get about international charities, leading me to suspect it comes from *ahem* racist xenophobic close-minded fuckwits, but no matter. Some charities do pay bribes, apparently. I've never worked on behalf of one so far as I'm aware; the charity I most recently fndraised for was British Red Cross, and one of the many lovely things about the Red Cross/Red Crescent is that when they pass money to other countries they do it directly through the Red Cross/Red Crescent. Much less scope for corruption.
YOU GET PAID!!! ZOMG YOU SHOULD DO THIS FOR FREE!!!!
This usually comes the minute you try to stop somebody, though occasionally it slips their notice until you've had a fantastic little conversation, which is always upsetting (though often easier to fix their misapprehension once they've decided you're nice). Let's break it down. Most charity fundraisers get paid a basic wage*, and have to hit a certain target. IME once they hit that target they can start getting bonuses, sometimes dependent on their attrition rate. Charity fundraisers are human beings who have to eat, often have bills such as rent/council tax/utilities to pay, and generally spend a fair whack on transport (even if it's returned later by their companies). Charity fundraising is a skilled job. Would you genuinely give up your time, day in, day out, to stand in all weather and talk to all sorts of people**, and convince them of your passion for a cause they may, even if they're with you in spirit, actually refuse to do anything about? The worst charity I worked on behalf of was The Children's Society, because they are SO fucking amazing and I am so wholeheartedly behind what they do that every rejection was a blow. That was at the time that I was working for, oh about £140 a week and paying £90 in rent, not including council tax and the aforementioned utilities. Soooo, the idea that fundraisers have money to blow is, um, amusing to say the least. Unless they're amazing and can sign up at least twice the numbers I can, or perhaps they work street teams for one of the roaming companies who put them up in accommodation week by week, so they don't have to pay rent (many of them do anyway). I've done roaming, it's intense. You live with your team, so your entire life is one whirligig of fundraising. You train in the evenings. Perhaps you drive? You'll be driving a couple of hours every day then, except on Sundays when you'll be driving More than that in order to get to your next patch (some companies even meet up in the "middle" of the country each week before heading out). Did I mention you'll be working long hours? You'll be starting at 9, maybe 10, working until 6, or maybe 8 if your team wants to pull in a few more sign-ups. And you think this shouldn't be paid. Right. Tell me how I'm supposed to afford the coffee/energy drinks/sugary treats I need to keep going, and I'll work for free. Pay for the petrol and food for the week, and I'll work for free. The system just does.not.work.that way.
*I'm ignoring people who work for Cobra and similar companies right now, not least because if I say what I think of them I'm likely to be sued. It's commission-only there, that's probably all you need to know.
**I'm not going to use the cliche of "be abused by the public" because it's just not true, see bell-curve graph above.
And one I've only come across recently:
I'd do a standing order but I won't do direct debits.
So some people have claimed to me that because direct debits are asked for by the charity rather than sent out automatically by the bank, they have previously had them come out on the wrong date or for more money than agreed, which fucked them up financially. Obviously this is wrong and shouldn't happen. It's possible that an unethical fundraiser changed their forms, which makes me sad; most companies now make you get the sign-up to initial any mistakes on the forms, which probably helps a bit. But yeah, I've got no defence against that; I totally respect it, and will go talk to someone who hasn't been scammed.
I was with Xcharity and they kept ringing me up and writing to me asking for more money
Yep, charities'll do that sometimes. Hopefully not the one I'm fundraising for, but I'm not gonna promise (unless there's a ticky box on the form for NO CONTACT). The thing is, it's easier to get someone to donate who's already donating (similarly see @charitychap on how to get volunteers), so as annoying as you and I might find it, it's worth their while overall. I suppose you've asked them not to call again? Yes? Oh how rubbish. Terribly sorry about that.
Charity begins at home.
That doesn't even make sense!
Also, you're misquoting your own holy book.
Also, see above re: I can't afford it.
What gives you the right to harass people on the street/in their homes?
Flip answer: Well, this badge I have here is not just identification, you see - it shows my company has a permit to work in this here area, and that they're contracted by the charity to ask for help on their behalf.
Pointedly calm answer: I'm not harassing anyone sir, I merely asked you to stop for a chat. Thankyou so much for taking this up with me, sir, but our team leader is over th- more than one of us has tried to stop you? That does not surprise me, sir, because as you can see the street is quite busy, and when we get involved in talking with people it can be difficult to keep track of what our colleagues are doing*. You say one person walked across a road before speaking to someone? That's not prohibited sir, we're allowed to work anywhere along this street, and even if she did have someone in mind, as long as she didn't take more than three steps AFTER ATTRACTING THEIR ATTENTION SIR, please don't interrupt me sir, she's within her rights, sir.
Basically, if you hate us, we're not gonna sign you up. Shocker. No need to try to intimidate us - what exactly are you looking to get from this complaint?
*short form: well you've got such a friendly face! can't hide those kind eyes from me!
Also, a rare argument against charities in general came from @mediocredave who I have a lot of respect for, and the gist of it was that if charities work well, it takes the pressure off governments to make things right in their countries and give foreign aid. I think that's a really pessimistic view, but hey, not everyone's as sunny as me. So, he's an anarchist, and as I understand it that means he trusts in people to organise on a small scale to help one another, right? That's cool and all. Where do you think organisations like the Red Cross sprang up from? ...they make the world significantly better and if you don't want to help them financially, that's cool. Please don't preach against them :)
EDIT: apparently this misrepresents mediocredave's views, I apologise, also for implying he doesn't give to charity - last I heard he gave to several but was considering cancelling them.
Also to clarify, that last comment was more generally meant, not directed at mediocredave particularly.
So, to explain some slightly different fundraising roles - I've mostly been talking about street team, direct debit fundraising, but I also spent a long time working door-to-door, and I've tried my hand at prospecting/two-step fundraising. They're different challenges. On D2D you walk or run from house to house, trying to knock 150 doors in 5 hours, and your team keep up their spirits through banter, singing and generally boosting each other between doors. You have time to think, in between answers, and that can be good or bad depending how well your day is going or, if badly, how positive your reaction to that is. You can fall into traps of stereotyping neighborhoods, which drove me nuts. Street teams are overwhelming at first, especially if you've come from D2D, because you do.not.stop talking to people on a busy street. You turn around and stop the next, and the next, and the next. Breaks become the structure of your day, as well as time for a caffeine and sugar fix. Your team teach you stopping lines - especially important to have funny lines if you're in a shopping centre, where people have to come to you. Two-stepping is both easier and harder; your target is nearly ten times higher, so even though you're "only" getting contact details, you've to have a way with people.
Fundraising. Fucking complicated, right?
So why do it? Fundraising companies I've worked for claim that only around 1 in 8 people can. I mean, has the energy, the passion, the charisma, the optimism, to go out in all weathers and speak to absolutely everybody about something they love. And be turned down repeatedly, and not take it personally, because you'd go nuts.
Why do it?
..because we want to help out some vague undefined way, because we don't have the skills to build houses or be medics, because we *do* have the skills to fundraise, because we love new people, because we love the passionate people we work with, because we want to be optimists and for us that may mean helping others to be optimists, because there's nothing better than a sign-up in a thunderstorm, because we don't want to be salespeople, because we're not millionaires but what we do have is energy.... because we can, and we love it.
Oh, and as you may have noticed, fundraisers are generally quite quirky. Some are superstitious; my thing for a long time was that if I ate a Greggs iced doughnut before a day's work, I wouldn't "doughnut" (zero). Yeah it worked. This was when our office was directly opposite a Greggs, and I swear down that office keeps that Greggs in business. Many fundraisers have a thing for hats. Many of them drink a *lot* on weekends. I've known fundraisers who wear pyjamasuits from Primark all day, usually their off days. Their fashion is affected by one another and by what's cheap, practical and easy to transport - so, layers, and for ladies, mostly some kind of leggings/small skirt/long top combo. They often have fascinating hair. I find them, on the whole, to be really interesting people.
If you don't like fundraisers, that's fine - we're not looking for you. Move on. They already have. But if you feel like randomly abusing someone today, well, don't.