Above, is the first and last time that the ‘C’ word will be written by me.
Every journalistic piece written about charity fundraising will include this term and inevitably be followed in brackets by (charity mugger).
So, is it deserved and if not, what do we need to do to lose this word from our vocabulary?
Journalists in the UK and Australia write stories every six months to denigrate the work of these street heroes using clickbait such as ‘Hate Ch***ers? This is how you can get rid of them’ or ‘The secret life of a ch***er: most of us are motivated by money, not charity – anonymous’.
The reports suggest that there are two main issues with this method of fundraising:
the public don’t like being asked to help charities in this way
the public don’t trust us (we’ll keep the money for ourselves)
As well-researched as these pieces are, the journalists do not have access to the complaints logs of the charity partners involved. Charities receive complaints around persistence, aggression and misinformation concerning the terms of the agreement.
Every fundraiser, whether they are F2F, DM, TM, appeals, bequests, events, corporate or community, knows that people do not like being asked to donate to charity. Individuals say they prefer to make up their own mind in their own time, but the number one reason why people give is because they were asked to, so where do we draw the line? What is too aggressive? What is too often? What is too manipulative?
So, considering the aggressive or manipulative tactics that some fundraisers are reported to take, do we deserve this cynical moniker? Awkwardly and uncomfortably my answer will have to be “not as often as it is used”. Yes, there are some disreputable agencies and fundraisers but these are the minority. Most people who do this job care deeply about the cause and take great pride in the work they do. These people need to be publicly celebrated not disparaged.
We cannot please all the people all the time, and we know that people have their personal preferences. I like face-to-face and phone when done well, but am not a fan of direct mail or DRTV, but I am just one man. Charities have got better at personalising their donor communications according to the feedback they receive from their existing donors, but we cannot personalise a cold-f2f-call… can we?
The simple answer is yes, we can. All we need to do is read the body language of a potential donor better. If we see a negative reaction to our presence we should always let them walk passed without interjection. Secondly, if the person says ‘no’ as they walk toward us, we say nothing, we do nothing, we simply let them walk on by. This would lower our risk overnight.
Whilst I have your attention, if you belong to one of the following groups can you please do me and your fundraising and marketing teams a favour? Please stop using this ‘C’ word.
If you work for a charity that utilises my channel you must support the fundraising activity by using its proper name, face-to-face fundraising.
If you have never had an interaction with a representative from my channel, you should use its proper name, face-to-face fundraising.
If you have never had a bad interaction with a representative from my channel, you should use its proper name, face-to-face fundraising.
Once we get this sorted we can move to phase two: changing the ‘C’ word. Here’s my suggestion:
plural noun: cheroes
1.1. a person who is admired for their courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities whilst fundraising for charitable causes. "a street chero"
synonyms: champion, inspirational person, winner, lionheart, white hat, Jedi knight, Chedi;