Is the street the right place for fundraising?

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Image: fhwrdh Flickr

A recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald scathed charities for engaging temporary workers to raise funds on the streets of Australian cities.

Our founder, Martyn Ryan, shares his thoughts:

This criticism certainly isn’t isolated to Australia. In the UK the public backlash has been so negative that it has spawned a new term for the urban dictionary: chugging, which hybrids the word ‘charity’ and ‘mugging’. Although ethically motivated, regulation compliant fundraising should be neither of these things.

No matter how thinly you slice anything there is always two sides. Charities would argue that street fundraising is an invaluable method of heightening brand awareness, and recruiting Gen Y donors is a high priority. Why? They will continue to give over a longer lifetime. Therefore, on the face of it, street fundraising makes obvious sense.

So why the negativity?

One British newspaper in recent weeks published a quite damning public sentiment: “Chuggers have been accused of aggression and the use of deceitful tactics. There appears to be a clear lack of knowledge of the cause mechanics and a refusal to listen to a person who doesn't want to stop. Furthermore, the use of sarcasm or other negative language intended to make a person feel guilty if they decline to stop.”

I personally haven’t experienced this harsh approach but unfortunately I do know people who have and it concerns me. We live in a world where ‘brand’ is everything and the charity sector is being forced to think more ‘corporate’ than ever before to remain competitive. So is street fundraising and the negative public sentiment it can bring a viable risk?

At a boardroom level, the answer is obviously yes, and while ROI is currently suggested to be 3:1, it may be a common sight on our streets for years to come. However I don’t believe the most ideal forum for fundraising is the street.

It is a fact that more people are giving and altruism is on the up. In fact US Today quoted in January 2015 that direct monetary donations to US charities over the Christmas period on a national level were up 17% on 2014, and 26% on 2013, with similar trends being seen in Australia.

I think that there is a great opportunity that is being missed by charities – people giving at work. Workplace giving is growing at a phenomenal rate and pre-tax donations are now becoming more and more commonplace, as is peer-to-peer fundraising efforts between workmates, and employee support for corporate charity partners.

Charities have opportunities like never before to work closely with the corporate community and their service providers, to facilitate donations and other philanthropic transactions.

Creating compelling stories through content is the key, and finding mediums to talk to business leaders and employees and understand where and how they want to distribute their share of wallet is potentially of a much higher yield, than randomly approaching individual strangers on the street.

We live in a rapidly developing world when it comes to decisions as people and businesses as to where and how we give. I have witnessed firsthand how the right approach to connecting with businesses and their employees can produce phenomenal results, whilst only building a charity’s brand equity, not diminishing it.

I have seen forward thinking charity CEOs take the time to understand organisational values, culture, product, service and those they serve and employ, whilst identifying innovative solutions to attract sustainable engagement.

The workplace is without doubt the future of giving. No longer is the primary beneficiary seen as the charity, but in fact now the employee and the business stand to gain equal value.

I appreciate that building corporate relationships can be time consuming for charities, but investment in this strategy now may just save some reputable brands from reaching a point where reputational damage is irreversible.

What do you think? Is street fundraising a necessary strategy for charities? Or is it time to change tactics?

Benojo matches those willing to give with those in need. If you are looking to connect your business with a charity then contact us here.