COVID 19 forced fundraisers around the world to reimagine face to face fundraising. For a moment, most of the world stopped, and so too did face to face fundraising.
Face to face is arguable the largest, most successful fundraising movement of the last 30 years. Imagining a world without face to face fundraising is like imagining social media without Facebook. Millions of donors had been recruited this way globally.
At the time we went into lockdowns in 2020 OmniRaise had a field force of just over 200 fundraisers across 3 countries in Asia – but overnight. We did all we could to repurpose our teams to other channels – digital, telemarketing – but we ultimately needed to plan for them to return to the field.
Nothing beats human connection, so we knew that face to face would still play a big role as we mobilised teams again after lockdown. I don’t think any of us ever doubted there would continue to be a place for face to face fundraising.
The big challenge was how we would engage in a safe way – ‘ social distancing’ became the norm so we had to consider ways to reduce physical contact in the face to face interaction. Was touchless face to face really possible?
There were some great innovations during this time – Evergiving quickly built a platform that would provide an alternative way for fundraisers to signup. Rather than handing over a grubby iPad, fundraisers were able to give a QR code to the donor to scan with their phone and push the control to the donor to input their credit card details into their phones. The back end of the process was clearly sorted, but what about the front end?
Fundraisers had always in the past used something tangible to stop donors. Whether it be a sticker, a pen, or prop to participate in an activity, stopper tools, as they are commonly referred to, were a key part of the engagement process in a pre-COVID world. As people became concerned with COVID-19, we had to assume people would be reluctant to take anything handed to them, and it might be harder to engage donors.
We had to be prepared that people would be less likely to want to stick around and have a long conversation. What if people stopped but didn’t want to speak?
We began to consider if lead collection might be a better way to approach face to face again, as we could then make interactions short and finish our conversations with donors over the phone. In the past NGOs have successfully run field marketing 2 step campaigns where a team of face to face fundraisers would typically generate leads on the street and then telemarketers would be solely responsible for conversion. But repurposing our teams for lead generation seemed risky at a time when the “risk” levels were already high.
But we asked ourselves the question – could we do both lead collection and sign people up? In the past lead collection had been done at the back end of the conversation by many agencies but we decided we should bring it to the front this time, so that if donors felt uncomfortable sticking around for a 5-10 min chat, we wouldn’t lose the chance to speak to them about our partner’ amazing work and could offer to give them a call later on.
OmniRaise quickly developed an online solution where donors could scan QR codes at the very start of their conversation. The process was simple – fundraisers would start their conversation by asking the potential donor to scan a code and take action. We had one client use a petition, another use a survey, and another had a free e-book download. The potential donor would be asked to key in their details quickly after taking action, and then the fundraiser would continue to present the work of our partners if people had time to chat.
Using the leads generated from the QR codes, we later conduct telemarketing calls to convert the donor to regular giving. If the fundraiser did not have the opportunity to present to the donor, because they were busy or uncomfortable continuing the conversation, they could be called immediately. If prospects had listened to the conversation, we kept the data for 3-6 months before again reattempting conversion at a later date. We built the system in such a way that the fundraiser then was able to log easily at end of their conversation if they did their full presentation to the donor or if they were stopped at the beginning.
We also develop materials to give away to potential donors so they had something to read between the interaction and the call and provided a brief thank you SMS before the call.
Results were very slow at the start. Like with anything new, fundraisers struggled to adapt. Common complaints were that people don’t want to give their details. People are tired of stopping to scan QR codes. One of our fundraising teams claimed 90% of people didn’t have mobile data on their phones and the QR code wouldn’t scan, which was probably one of the most far-fetched excuses.
But like with anything new, resistance was mostly due to change itself – and we weren’t prepared to give up so easily.
We had a vision. We were having more than 100,000 conversations a month already with donors – but in 95% of cases the donor walked away and might never engage again. We also believed that productivity per fundraiser by up to 15-25% if we had a chance to follow up their leads. We knew from our Facebook lead conversion campaigns that people who say no the first time are very likely to say yes again in the future if we work hard to build a relationship with them.
At one point I started asking every manager to report the leads per fundraiser to me daily we were so determined to break through the mindset barriers of the team.
Eventually, after evangelising the benefits for many months, a good deal of peer pressure, and after the 100th objection from our fundraisers was countered, we finally broke through and results started to pick up.
Our fundraisers were achieving around 10-15 leads per day. Approximately 30% of these leads are contactable immediately, as the fundraiser did not present to them. Of that 30% which has been the focus of our conversion efforts to date, 50% are contacted and 4.5% convert to regular giving, at the same average gift as Face to Face, and slightly lower attrition levels in the first 6 months from our early results.
The key to making it work was having a vision, giving the fundraisers and frontline leaders freedom to experiment with the best methodologies to use it rather than prescribing a top-down process, as well as coming up with a compensation system that rewarded the face to face fundraiser in a simple way for their efforts without compromising their core responsibility to signup donors every day.
Results from face to face fundraisers have remained unchanged. The daily piece rates per fundraiser have remained the same as pre-COVID levels. Only now we have a new source of donors and a database growing by thousands of leads per day.
As they say necessity is the mother of innovation. And out of adversity comes opportunity.
Here is face to face reimagined.