Whenever a charity commences a F2F program they are warned that it can be a beast. It can encroach into every fundraising space and force itself upon unsuspecting stakeholders. All of this is true, but I think we sometimes forget to prepare our newcomers to the realities of the channel when dealing with suppliers.
If you ask Charity A about their experience with CRM X, they may say that it is terrible. If you ask Charity B about the same CRM they may give you the polar-opposite response. The difference is usually down to the CRM management and the training that Charity B have undertaken to use the tool. The same can be said of F2F suppliers.
There are sinister reasons for a poor relationship. Fraud, deceit, ignorance of messaging, refusal to reasonably amend volumes to meet goals (budget is cut, and you need to slash acquisition), numerous PFRA breaches and supply-chain compliance are all valid reasons to give a poor reference or end a relationship.
However, a bad experience with a supplier can be due to differing communication styles, a poor understanding of the role of the supplier, a board with no experience dealing with a channel like F2F, or the one I find most commonly, the misunderstanding of targets.
Blame for this misunderstanding can sit with both parties. The performance expectations are usually set-out in an SPD at the start of a campaign and can include month-on-month acquired volumes. Both parties need to know that there is a 100% chance these won’t happen.
An agency that projects 1,000 per month every month for one year will not get you 1,000 per month every month. They may come close to the total, but usually your organisation should assume that they’ll come in 20% above or below.
Furthermore, in Agencyland, any figure between 900 and 1,100 is equal to 1,000.
This is because the agencies understand their business better than you, but don’t always communicate that knowledge effectively. Agency managers know that each month will have differing numbers of working days, and that each season poses different threats and opportunities to staff numbers. They also know that staff numbers are the key driver to volume.
If you attempt to hold an agency to account for missing their weekly target of 1,000 by 50 pledges, they will laugh to each other after your call because, to them, they have hit it. If you ask, “what will you do to improve the numbers?” they may feed you a line that keeps you quiet because the difference of 5% is out of their control.
By all means hold them to account, but not to the decimal point. If you need more pledges, ask for more fundraisers.
So, as a warning to all newcomers to the world of F2F, if you don’t feel comfortable with your agency you should not work with them. Don’t take another client’s opinion as fact, as there is always more than one side to every story. “Never work with this supplier” should act as an alarm, but check the data.
Be clear in your communications, have regular WIPs and don’t be afraid to ask for external help. The F2F User Group is a great option (I can get you in touch with them), and so is a consultant.