Friday, May 23, 2008

Pressure selling techniques and charities

I've posted before about the sales-people on the streets trying to hit you up to make monthly contributions to various charities.

This morning I was approached again by a young woman who was collecting for the Red Cross.

I like the Red Cross and have a good friend who has spent significant time in war zones in the Baltics and more recently the Sudan. They do fabulous work and deserve support - like most charities. This post is not about whether you should support a charity, its more a question of how is this money raised.

I can't help but think that this style of recruitment is not really the way to go.

I decided to ask a few questions of my fundraiser today to get a handle on how this works.

She is employed by Cornucopia, a fundraising organisation in Australia and NZ that targets young travellers on their OE as casual fundraisers. It seems they receive a minimum payment per day as well as a payment per person signed up.

I don't like this - in effect the first donation that I make to these organisations goes to pay the person who is collecting on the street. The second one probably goes to Cornucopia. If I decide to pull the pin on my donation after a couple of months, the charity of my choice probably doesn't get the money. It explains a few things
 - why you are encouraged to donate for a year 'to make a real difference'
 - there is no option for me to take away information to review in my own time (surely this is bordering on breaking the Door to Door Sales Act, although I do note that there is a cooling off period)

If I can summarise the disadvantages, it goes like this

1. The person representing the Brand for the charity is not aligned to the charity - they are doing it for personal gain. Hard to build a connection with this.

2. It is a high pressure sell which does not connect the donator to the charity

3. My estimate is that at roughly 15% of the first year's donation is considered 'Cost of Sale' and does not go to the Charity. Hopefully there aren't residual payments.

So its downside for the charity and downside for the donator. Upside for Cornucopia and the collector (although my guess is that they spend a lot of time for what money they do get).

There has got to be a better way.

The charity needs to look at the connection it is making with its supporters and try and connect them together in a way that makes sense. If you support a particular charity then chances are you have a shared set of values with others who do that - that is something that is pretty powerful.

They also need to make the money that comes from their supporters stretch as far as possible. That means not using professional fund raising organisations. What it will mean is leveraging their network of supporters much more for fundraising - effectively part of the support for the charity is to encourage others to be supporters.

While we think about how to do this, I would encourage you to use the direct methods of donation available to most charities and avoid the fresh faced sales people in the street.

How would you encourage supporters to donate to your charity and keep them connected?

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