The news that Gift Fundraising has gone into voluntary administration took a lot of people by surprise.
As they were one of the largest and longest established street fundraising suppliers in the country, then alarm bells must be ringing across charities and agencies who do face to face fundraising, both on the street and door to door*.
I'm a big fan of street fundraising and want to see it survive and flourish for the foreseeable future.
However, with more and more site access agreements being struck between councils and the PFRA - which inevitably restrict the days that charities can fundraise on their streets - and with evidence that it is becoming more expensive to recruit donors, then what can we do to try and rescue this method that has recruited so many new donors over the last 10-15 years?
Well, to begin with I'd like to see charities take up more of the 50 ideas suggested to improve face to face fundraising in this article by Ken Burnett.
More controversially, I think there is a natural plateau for face to face and we are either close to, or have already, exceeded it.
Over the years the costs of recruiting people via face to face have steadily increased (direct mail faces a similar problem) and there comes a point where the marginal cost of recruiting the next donor is so high that it becomes uneconomical.
However, to try and reduce the cost and to make it economically viable again, then we would need to introduce a cap on the number of recruits. If no charity was allowed to recruit more than a certain number of donors a year (be it 5,000, 10,000 or 20,000) and the sector as a whole committed to only recruit 700,000 donors via face to face (around 730,000 were recruited in 2010/11 according to the PFRA), then perhaps we can make face to face fundraising more cost effective and less subject to aggressive hate pieces, like this one that was in the Daily Mail recently.
The big challenge would be convincing charities (especially the larger ones) to sacrifice their short term gain for the long term benefit of the sector as a whole, but the danger is that if we don't act as a sector then face to face might just get regulated, and/or ignored by the public, to extinction, and that would be a shame.
* Although Gift were a street fundraising agency, I fear the street fundraising 'backlash' will shortly spread to door to door fundraising.