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F2F Fundraising and Telemarketing in 2020

They say that only a fool would make predictions – especially about the future but let’s see how we went with last year’s forecast and take a stab at 2020.

Adam Watson MFIA:

Last December we predicted that 2019 would see the growth in inhouse F2F. Fundraising Partners certainly received a lot of requests for inhouse feasibility studies and a few charities have taken the first steps into this new world but we also saw the demise of one Australian INGO’s inhouse team as the challenge became too much for them to effectively manage. In short, inhouse is not easy!

We also predicted that the ‘Big 5’ suppliers would shrink to a Big 3 or 4. Fortunately no major suppliers have gone under but we have definitely seen a big drop in capacity from one or two of the larger agencies whilst the others are playing a game of musical subcontractors to compete on volume. For the sake of the sector, I hope that the suppliers in trouble can pull through but I fear my 2019 prediction will be true in 2020.

We said that fewer street team would be in operation due to the severe drop in quality. Whilst we cannot confirm this has happened, we can say that our clients are finding it hard to get D2D capacity as it has become the most popular channel. I can see this trend continuing in 2020 as the quality rolls from one cliff and drops off another.

Along with the reduction in street we had hoped that Shopping Centres with more innovative stalls would be present in 2019, but it appears that only World Vision have the, erm, vision to make this happen. They continue to dominate this space with eye-catching displays that grab attention. Most charities are still surviving on a pull up banner, tablecloth and a few welcome packs strewn on top. This is a huge opportunity for the right charity to step up their game and create a display that pull donors towards them rather than pushing them away.

In 2020 I can imagine further diversification away from F2F will be on the cards. Phone (see Pete’s section) will grow in importance and digital RG leads will form a larger part of the RG pie – although still comparatively small.

Some TM and F2F suppliers have already approached Fundraising Partners about conducting regular audits and Mystery Shops on their processes and teams to assure them that they are legislatively tight, and FIA/PFRA friendly. This trend makes me so very happy as it shows a real commitment to best practice by those we entrust our campaigns to. I can see a lot more of this in 2020.

My final prediction is less of an expectation and more of a plea. Suppliers and subs, please stop advertising for “experienced fundraisers and team leaders”! This is the end of fundraising. If you care about fundraising in a positive and professional manner that isn’t just cheap sales tricks and getting someone to sign a form without asking too many questions or knowing that it’s a long-term regular donation you need to train your own team with the culture and skills you want to see.

Recruiting the same fundraisers that skip from one supplier to another without reference checks who were terminated for fraud or poor attrition over again will lead to the same results- over again. A ‘gun’ fundraising may bring you pledges but can destroy your culture and sink your battleship overnight.

Paul Tavatgis MFIA:

In the immortal words of Vice President Selina Meyer and/or ex-Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, 2020 in face to face fundraising looks like including both continuity and hopefully change.

Continuity in that the main drivers of the face to face fundraising market will continue to be the dozens of small business “sub-contractors” that provide the vast majority of fundraising teams to fundraising agencies and through them to charities. Agencies that have previously directly employed their own fundraisers have largely been forced into the sub-contractor market so that they can attempt to retain their own fundraisers, and to get their share of the sub-contractor “pie” (recipe available on request).

2019 has seen fierce competition between agencies to secure market share from these sub-contractors, this has mostly been through a combination of offering a better financial deal and organisational culture and to a lesser extent, more “attractive” causes. The dominance of the financial incentive has made it harder for agencies to push back on sub-contractors when it comes to donor attrition and overall quality. This has the knock-on effect of making it harder for charities to negotiate contracts that include effective measures to improve donor quality.

Charity fundraising teams are under more pressure than ever to “deliver on the target”. Very often people don’t have the time or the resources to look beyond an offer of capacity. “Never mind the quality – just show me the volume and the CPA” is their battle cry, as they rush 10 minutes late into their 23rd meeting of the day.

So, in 2019 donor attrition has not improved, and it has possibly worsened. The cost of recruiting new donors has also increased. This is the worst possible combination – as it inevitably decreases ROI and LTV. So it’s all bad news then..?

Not necessarily – there have been signs that leading agencies have recognised that “business as usual” is not a sustainable option for them and they are starting to make changes to improve culture, systems and significantly – billing models, despite being on tighter margins than before.

Many smaller agencies show fewer signs of this, and their race to the bottom in terms of quality does not seem to have stopped. Key message to charities – stop hiring charlatans! Check on these people – are they worthy of your love (and your money, and your reputation, and your career)?

Is there any reason to think that 2020 will be different? What changes might we see – or perhaps, what changes should we be trying to bring about?

Sub-Contractors aren’t going to go away. Australia seems to be the only market where this level of business has such a firm grip on face to face fundraising capacity. They can’t be regulated away by government, and self-regulatory bodies seem not to have the appetite to address this situation beyond the very positive step of registering individual fundraisers.

Collective action is in the air. Charities are starting to talk to each other about how they can come together to increase the commercial sustainability of face to face fundraising. This could be through informal minimum standards, pooling best practice or sharing better information about suppliers (did someone mention sub-contractor benchmarking…?).

Shared services didn’t develop in 2019 although there was a lot of talk about this. Rippling is not yet operational, and offerings of hybrid agency/in-house models didn’t find any takers. Is there a chance that 2020 might see more discussion about how charities can collaborate to share services, reduce cost and improve quality?

Something has to happen seems to be the vibe of the thing at the moment. Regular giving trends across channels and not only face to face are heading in the wrong direction and there is a real need for higher quality in nearly every area. There are only so many ways that charities can engage with potential donors – it would be a self-inflicted disaster if one of the best becomes financially unviable as a high-volume channel and we did nothing to change that.

Peter Coleman Ph.D.:

As charities are finding F2F increasingly difficult to leverage, many are looking to TM as an alternate source for regular giving acquisition. 2019 saw this trend continue. The TM agencies achieving the most success are those with the nimbleness necessary to adapt, diversify and deliver. In real terms, this has meant continuing to provide competitive results while leveraging a wider array of lead sources to meet volume demands. This is a time for 'evolution' and those agencies firmly entrenched in 'old ways' are fast being left behind.

The attrition of regular giving donors acquired via TM is an issue that forward-thinking organisations should be paying close attention to in 2020. In days gone by, there has been the assumption that regular givers acquired via TM perform consistently better than those acquired via F2F. However, there is a growing number of charities who are finding that TM cannot always be relied upon to deliver significantly better donor retention than F2F.

It would seem that the shift away from F2F towards TM has brought an accompanying shift in donor drop-off. What further complicates the issue is that there are more 'moving parts' than with F2F. The question of where the problem is 'originating' is difficult to determine - is it the lead sources, the lead provider, the TM agency, the charity, or all combined?? With so many stakeholders in play it easy to fall into the 'blame game', with nobody willing to take ownership of a deteriorating ROI.

In 2020 it will be important for all stakeholders to work in cooperation to proactively address donor attrition. Given the complexity of the issue, transparency, reporting savvy and 'out of the box' thinking will be essential for all involved.

Final thoughts:

Finally, I’d like to extend a massive thank you to everyone who has supported Fundraising Partners throughout the last few years. We appreciate every client, every reader of our blogs and articles who challenge or share our thoughts, and every friend of the FP family who has offered a kind word. Thank you.

Speaking of thanks, I would be remiss if I forgot to mention the three most important people to our cause. Genevieve, our Head of Finance and wonderful wife for being the most over-qualified person to ever send an invoice and for delivering a world class services to all of us. Finally, I’d like to thank our new partners, Paul and Peter for bringing an embarrassingly large wealth of knowledge and a huge amount of joy to my working life. You are the wings above my wind.

Stay tuned for a massive 2020 in the Fundraising Partners’ world of Regular Giving.

Happy Fundraising

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