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Learning the lessons of F2F 2016-2023

The past seven years have been turbulent. Fires, droughts, floods, and a pandemic to name a few issues. The world of face-to-face (F2F) fundraising has had to learn, forget, and relearn many lessons during this time.



In 2016/17 the F2F fundraising landscape in Australia faced a crisis marked by poor retention rates and concerns about the quality of interactions between fundraisers and potential donors. Fast forward to today, and the industry has undergone a transformation, primarily driven by a change in donor demographics and a shift towards higher-quality engagement.


One of the most significant improvements has been the recognition that we needed to stop recruiting younger donors. Charities and suppliers have adapted their strategies to connect more effectively with this older donor base. Some fundraisers are trained to have more meaningful conversations that resonate with the experiences and values of these donors, resulting in improved retention rates.


The industry now has the data to show what we’ve always suspected, the negative impact of fundraising efforts in low socioeconomic status (SES) areas on retention. If charities and agencies redirect their efforts towards more affluent demographics, they may find that retaining donors from these areas is often more sustainable in the long run. This strategic shift has led those who have adopted this strategy to improved donor loyalty and better fundraising outcomes.


In 2020/21, the COVID-19 pandemic had both positive and negative impacts on F2F. On the positive side, it accelerated the adoption of digital fundraising methods like contactless pledges, making F2F campaigns more tech-savvy. Moreover, the crisis heightened awareness of social causes, prompting increased donor generosity. Alongside bushfires, droughts and floods, charities connected with these causes saw an even bigger bump.


There were challenges. Lockdowns limited in-person interactions, affecting F2F fundraising significantly. The economic downturn also led to financial constraints for potential donors. Concerns about public health and safety made F2F acquisition more difficult and less effective.


Overall, we are seeing a positive change in the channel. Whilst some of the bigger charities have pulled back since 2017, more small charities are looking to dip their toes in the F2F water. If they learn the lessons from the last five years, invest smartly in the right people and processes, and if our suppliers can keep up staff recruitment and retention, we can look forward to a successful summer of F2F.


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