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Quantity vs Quality: Can we have it all?

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 excessive 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 we see considerable validity in this argument, we are 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 we've said in previous articles, we should be careful of viewing fundraising trends as ‘laws of physics.’ We don’t pretend to have definitive answers to the above questions, but we are inspired to think that F2F is a nimbler and more adaptable medium than it is usually given credit for. We 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), we wholeheartedly applaud the spirit of collaboration this initiative represents. We are convinced that we are only going to achieve substantive change by working together – in whatever form that may take.

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 on holding our first online webinar in May and will keep you posted once dates are confirmed.

  • If you haven’t already, please head to the ‘Irregular Giving Project’ website and register your interest there.

  • 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!

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