We’d like to change, but how…?

By Paul Tavatgis MFIA

In the last week Fundraising Partners started a conversation about the opportunity we have to change face to face fundraising for the better in Australia and New Zealand. More than 40 people from across fundraising have already joined in the conversation, including those from charities, agencies and consultancies.

There seems to be general agreement that something needs to change, and a range of suggestions for how this might be achieved. From the beginning we’ve said that Fundraising Partners don’t have all the answers (if only we did), but what we can do \is to suggest a framework for how to best “arrange” the good ideas that are flowing in.

Levels of change

We think there are four “levels” where action is possible, and some illustrative examples of what could fall under each heading.

 

1.      Personal

Changes that an individual can make to their own approach to face to face. Perhaps setting personal standards for the work they do or the partners they choose to work with (as discussed by Dr. Peter Coleman in his recent article).

 

2.      Organisational

Actions that an organisation can make to their face to face fundraising. For a charity this could be setting new minimum standards for their fundraising. For an agency, this could be deciding only to hire sub-contractors that have proven quality standards.

 

3.      Collaborative

This would include organisations working together to develop new solutions. This could involve charities developing joint solutions or business models together. The Australian F2F User Group is already an example of collaborative work; but is there scope to maybe use this existing structure to benchmark agency quality or pool best practice? Is Rippling a prototype for collaborative change?

 

4.      Whole of channel

Channel-wide approaches involve every participant in face to face fundraising to set higher standards or to cooperate in changing the way we all work. Perhaps the best approach to this level of change is through sector bodies such as the PFRA and FIA. Could the PFRA set new standards for face to face that include the quality and effectiveness of fundraising as well as compliance?

 

Which level should we prioritise?

We at Fundraising Partners would like to suggest that meaningful change can only happen if we work at all four levels. Although personal or organisational change will be essential, there is a limit to what a single person or organisation can achieve individually.

 

If a fundraising manager convinces their charity to choose to only work with high-quality agencies, it will be difficult to do this if there are not enough high-quality agencies offering services, or alternative business models on offer to allow real innovation and choice. These sorts of changes can only come about through weight of numbers – as we saw when the PFRA took on the challenge of improving fundraiser behaviour and the public reputation of face to face.​

 

What You Don't Change, You Choose

By Peter Coleman Ph.D

It’s been an exciting week here at Fundraising Partners with the launch of the ‘Irregular Giving Project’. The response so far has been great and it’s heartening to see the appetite others in the sector share for this initiative. We wait in anticipation to see how it will grow.

Many of us have shared concerns over recent years about the state of F2F in Australia and New Zealand. As attrition rates steadily rise, as ROIs push out further into the future, as the term ‘chugger’ becomes more widespread - there is a shared sense that something has gone awry. What was once such a sort after commodity has seemingly become less desirable, less ‘viable’ and less laudable.

How did we end up here and what, if anything, can be done to stem the tide?

The question of how we landed in this situation is undeniably complex. There are so many stakeholders, so many driving forces involved, it would be hard to trace the genesis of this issue without kilometres of red string and a chart to rival that depicted in A Beautiful Mind.

At the same time, the question can be answered very simply: problems arose for F2F because we chose to let them (and by ‘we’ I mean charities and suppliers alike). We chose, for lack of any better ideas, to allow a certain entropy to set in which has steadily eroded F2F’s place in the marketplace. We chose to let F2F diminish because we didn’t take the necessary measures to alter its trajectory. How do we know we chose it? Simple - we didn’t change it.

I don’t say this in the spirit of recrimination, but in the spirit of opportunity. We can’t change things we can’t control. If we take shared responsibility for allowing things to get worse, we acknowledge our shared power to make things better. All of us, from the fundraiser standing on the street corner to the Director of Fundraising at a major charity, have our part to play in making positive change. The key is to seriously consider what is worth choosing, and what is worth changing.

For reasons nobody would have wished for, F2F is currently on hold. As unwanted as the circumstances are, now might be the opportunity we needed to reflect, collaborate and originate.

The purpose of the Irregular Giving Project is straightforward; we want to find solutions for how to change F2F for the better. We want F2F to be sort after, sustainable and discussed with glowing pride. We want F2F to truly serve the best interests of everyone involved; donors, suppliers, charities and beneficiaries alike. We want F2F fundraising to be the incredible channel we know it can be.

 

Quality vs Quantity: Can We Have it All?

By Peter Coleman Ph.D

To misquote Jane Austen: ‘It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a F2F industry in possession of high volume, must be in want of quality donors.’

In speaking with industry leaders about the ‘state of F2F’ in Australia, there is a widely shared understanding that one of the key drivers of diminishing returns has been the over-demand for volume in the sector. The argument is that this over-zealous demand has done two things:

  1. It is has asked too much of too many donors, disenfranchising the Australian donor community; and

  2. It has allowed fundraising suppliers with poor quality practices to thrive.

 

It is easy to draw an environmental analogy. Because of over-reliance on the regular giving resource, F2F has become a form of mining that takes too much from the ecosystem and does so in increasingly destructive ways. As is the case with the environmental crisis, these unsustainable practices do not work to anyone’s advantage. Too many charities have asked too much of F2F as an acquisition channel, and now they’re paying the price.

In this argument there is the tacit understanding that high volume necessarily leads to poorer fundraising practices and poorer quality donors. It is a difficult argument to counter. It would certainly seem to have been the trend to date. The evidence strongly suggests there is a ‘tipping point’ where the demand for ‘quantity’ directly off-sets the capacity for ‘quality’. Where this ‘tipping point’ is exactly is hard to say, but all indications are that the Australian F2F market passed it years ago.

While I see considerable validity in this argument (it’s an argument I’ve made myself more than once!), I am compelled to ask the question: ‘is this really the whole truth?’ Are quantity and quality inherently at odds with one another, and if so, have we really passed the point where they part ways? Are there really too many charities vying for their piece of the F2F pie and does this necessarily lead to dubious suppliers getting greater market-share?

As a wise man once pointed out, we should be careful of viewing fundraising trends as ‘laws of physics.’ I don’t pretend to have definitive answers to the above questions, but I am inspired to think that F2F is a nimbler and more adaptable medium than it is usually given credit for. I struggle to believe that we simply cannot meet much of the demand for F2F revenue in Australia and New Zealand without also maintaining high standards of quality.

Prior to the freeze on F2F, it was exciting to see Canteen, Starlight, the National Breast Cancer Foundation and The Australian Committee for UNICEF launch the ‘Rippling’ initiative. While the viability of this new model is yet to be demonstrated (they simply haven’t had the chance), I believe a collaborative approach lies at the heart of giving more charities greater access to better F2F fundraising. 

This is why we at Fundraising Partners decided to start the ‘Irregular Giving Project’ – we wanted to open a forum for collaboration and creativity to support the flourishing of F2F in Australia and New Zealand. We want to test the validity of our assumptions and see what possibilities might yet be untapped. All of us, from donors to supplier to charities to beneficiaries, deserve an excellent F2F fundraising sector supporting a wide array of causes. Our hope is that when it comes to quality vs quantity, maybe, if we try really hard, we can have it all …

 

Get Involved

 

We are planning the first online webinar 14 May and will keep you posted once times are confirmed. 

If you haven’t already, please register your interest here.

 

Once you’ve done that, please head on over to the Irregular Giving Project Facebook page and join the conversation.

If you know of any colleagues or friends who would be enthusiastic to participate, please refer them on. The more, the smarter!"