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#87 Taking the Mystery out of Shopping

In 2017 we started Mystery Shopping and Door to Door Shadowing F2F suppliers and inhouse teams. Some charities would employ our services when they felt there was an urgent issue and others as a permanent fixture to maintain the levels of oversight required to run a compliant and effective campaign.

In the last three years we have learned a lot. Here are some top-line lessons and recommendations from the last 100 Shops and Shadows.

Firstly, in general, the fundraisers representing your cause are honest and want to do well by you. However, their idea of success and yours may vary wildly depending on who trained them. Some believe that ‘selling’ to anyone they can whether it is for a week, a month or a year is an amazing thing to do and believe that it makes you money. They have not been told why it is bad and would stop in a heartbeat if they were told the truth.

Secondly, you don’t always need the ‘mystery’ in Mystery Shopping. Because most of the fundraisers are following instructions from their managers/owners they believe they are doing it right. They will openly tell you to cancel in a month and give you the phone number to do so because they were trained on ‘soft selling’ or, as I like to call it, fraud. The teams in the field have no idea that their contract states that they may only sell ongoing donations where the donor has agreed to give for at least two years and don’t realise the impact of their tactics.

The most common versions of this fraud I’ve heard recently is “it’s just month-by-month – like Netflix, and you can cancel whenever you want” and “just try and do it for up to two years and let us know if you need to stop”.

Thirdly, inhouse is not necessarily better than supplier. The highest scoring Shops we’ve completed are from a subcontractor. I must also add that the majority of lowest scoring Shops are also from the subcontractors. This demonstrates that the management of the campaign is much more important than the model.

Fourthly, you don’t need to be an expert to Shop your teams. So, yes, an expert is very useful and we 100% recommend using Fundraising Partners for all your Due Diligence needs, but don’t rely solely on us. Get out and visit your teams. Ask them questions, buy them coffee, take photos, learn their names, and train them to be better. We can work with you to create a survey to complete when visiting the teams and even provide a framework for you to record the data.

Finally, if you don’t report the errors and celebrate the successes immediately with your teams they will never improve. Speak with the owner/manager of the operation and show them the positive and negative impact of their actions. Insist on running extra training, give them the time to change, and treat them like brand assets not liabilities.

As a tool to improve supplier relationships and donor retention, the Fundraising Partners Due Diligence products are hard to beat. With Mystery Shopping, you see how fundraisers interact with donors and represent your cause whilst Door to Door Shadowing provides all of these plus real insights into how your fundraisers feel about the job and your cause. They can ask you questions and get the real-time feedback they need to perform at a higher level.

For more details on running a successful F2F campaign, please contact us at and look out for us at the upcoming F&P Fundraising Forum where we will be presenting alongside Ally Murray of The Wilderness Society on how to rebuild a face to face fundraising program in a post-COVID world.

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