Charity Street Sign-Ups

We all come across them, some may see them as pesky intrusion to our daily activities – it’s those people, normally with clipboard in hand out on the street asking us for support for this, that or some organisation.

Mostly they’re really good, smiling looking like they’re really enjoying what they’re doing. But there are some who really shouldn’t be on the street, or at least should be more focused on what they’re there to do.

When we’re approached by people to support a cause, we like to know that they’re aware of what the charity does, whether they’re directly employed by the charity or working for an agency. They should also have knowledge of how much of the money people gives is used for charitable purposes – not ‘absorbed’ in operational costs.

For an organisation with people out on the street drumming up support, they’ll want to know they’re getting value for the investment of having people out there. Sure, there’s probably KPIs that these people have to meet – but there’s more to it than that.

These people are effectively ‘ambassadors’ for the organisation – they should be knowledgeable, courteous, engaging and show an interest and respect for the people they’re talking to.

But there’s more to it than that – they should present well, their appearance should be clean and tidy, they shouldn’t be eating or using their mobiles (unless they’re on a break).

If you’re using people to beat the leather on the streets do you monitor them? If so how, is it through feedback from the public, or are you using some ‘mystery shopper’ system?

A suggestion for anyone who has people out on the street would be for them to have a card or something they can give people who don’t have the time, or inclination to sign-up there and then. The card needn’t say much – just a standard business card with the core objectives of your organisation and the main means to make contact – simple, yet effective.

Something I do like about some of the organisations using people out on the street is that they belong to an organisation that promotes high standards.  These organisations belong to PFRA Public Fundraising Regulatory Association.

Do you use people to collect supporters? How do you manage it? Does it work for the organisation?




Economic Growth and Charities


Recently I posted Could charities be in for a hard time?, and after reading Charitable giving lags economic growth in USA Today, I wondered whether we could be in for a lag in support to charities due to more than disasters, relief appeals. 

Sure, in some situations giving does have to take a backseat when times get tough, but at what point when the economy starts picking up do people start to get back to their usual giving again?

It would seem from the ‘report’ that giving is picking up 

“67% said they raised more money (43%) or the same amount (24%) in 2010 as they did in 2009. That’s up from 54% in 2009. But it’s well below the “boom years” from 2005 to 2007, when as many as 69% of organizations reported receiving more than the previous year. 

What’s happening in your area: 

Is giving picking up?

If it is picking up, how so?

What are your expectations for the next 3-6 months? 

It would be interesting to see what your expectations are, yes, depending on where you’re located, the work of your organisation does will have an impact on giving patterns and your expectations of what might or might not happen. 

Some people I’ve spoken to are expecting giving to increase, but maybe not until mid way through the year. Some would expect contributions to be about the same as previous years (before the economic slump) and are working on ways to gain new supporters to help lift their “income” to levels prior to the sump and recent global disasters. 

I suppose we can only wait and see; but if we’re working for an organisation – we can’t sit on our hands, we need to plan, be proactive and hunt out new supporters, new income streams. 

Anyone in the charity sectors knows that when income drops services provided can and do suffer – we need to ensure that all services can be catered for; we can’t let the people, causes supported through the charity sector to suffer too. 

What can we do to help lift charity giving? 

© Eknarin |


Are you being robbed?


Sure no one is pointing a loaded gun to your head; but your emotions are being played. A form of emotional blackmail. 

As individuals when we’re asked to make a donation, we’re usually faced with emotional talk, stories that pull the heartstrings. Before we give in to this emotional blackmail we need to ask questions. We need to at least ask “how much does it cost?” – no, not how much they want you to give, but how much of your donation will be absorbed in the operational costs, the admin of the organisation. 

The words, images, stories used to get us to support really draw us in, we will give in, we will support those closest to our hearts – that’s why fundraisers use techniques to pull on our heartstrings to get us to open our wallets; and yes heart. 

With the prevalence of this type of ‘marketing’ of charitable organisations, we  need to be on our toes when giving to charity, and organisations need to be open about how the money they receive is managed, what it costs to raise; being an open book is important for and to everyone. 

Any reputable organisation should be happy to give you this information, those who hesitate or try to fob you off with some ‘excuse’ should be avoided. 

Don’t be afraid to ask, being asked questions is something anyone doing fundraising should be prepared for. 

Also ask the people contacting you, whether it’s by phone, letter or face to face – if they’re employed by the organisation or an external agency. Don’t let them try to hide behind some cloak of ‘privacy’ that’s just a way to fob you off to avoid answering your question. If they can’t or won’t answer – don’t give, and tell them why. 

If you feel you’re being pressured into giving, not getting the answers – end the call, toss the letter. It’s likely those who don’t like to answer questions are those who are an agency fundraising or doing member acquisition on behalf of a charity. If you’re still interested in supporting, go direct to the organisation – and as well as asking them some questions, let them know of your experience. 

There’s no denying that some organisations have to use external agents to help with the funding needs, there’s nothing wring with that, so long as everyone is being open about it. 

External organisations must remember they’re acting on behalf of their ‘client’ – the charity, so must be above board with their activities and actions. 

For organisations looking at using an external fundraiser (agency); it pays for you to ask around. Ask others in the charity sector what they do, who they use – get referrals. 

And when you’ve narrowed down who you’re likely to use, sit down with them, be prepared, ask questions. If you’re looking at a telephone campaign, ask to listen to some calls – and you want to listen to live calls, you want to hear the calls warts and all. 

Why am I raising all this? Simple, if I give $20 to an organisation I want to know that the lions share is being used for the purpose it was given and not to line someone’s pocket. 

I’ve seem some horrendous examples of agents ‘charging’ too much for what they do, yet have the firm belief they’re doing the best they can and can’t trim costs. Unfortunately for charities this can mean that they only get a small percentage of the money actually raised – money they desperately need so feel they aren’t in a position to ask questions of their agent. 

I’ve seen some examples of organisations who only charge enough to cover their immediate costs, anything  over an above their usual costs are ‘given’ as pro bono, or written off as some form of charitable/community giving. Others I’ve seen might only charge a flat percentage of the amount raised – normally around 20%. Yet I’ve seen some where it’s more like 70% of the money ‘raised’ being used to run and administer the campaign leaving only 30 or so percent to be handed to the charity for the work they do. How would you feel if you knew that the organisation you’re giving to is missing out on so much? 

Charities need to also start asking why it’s costing so much to run their campaign. 

Yes, charities are desperate for every cent they can get, and are reluctant to rock the boat, but they owe to the sector as a whole to ask questions of any fundraising agent they’re using. 

For the protection and good of the charity sector – those working in it, the people –the causes , and of course you and me, perhaps there needs to be a clean up in the sector. 

Any change will only start when donors start asking – “where does my money go?” and “what percentage does the charity get?” 



Image: DON’T SHOOT 1
Daniel Wiedemann |




Giving Cutes


Wonder how some people give? What about the ways kids give – over the last wee while I’ve been hearing stories about how families are giving, how children are urging their parents to give. 

One story I heard recently was of a brother and sister who said to their parents that they wanted to give $5 of their weekly allowance each week to a charity – but they wanted their parents to match what they were giving. So now the charity is getting $80 a month from this family, and the family are talking about what the money the give means to the charity and its beneficiaries. 

How’s that for cute? 

There’s bound to be many more like that out there, lets find them and share them. 

If even one other family in your street did the same as this family, imagine what it would do for charities if this pattern was adopted by two families in every street. I’m not even going to try and work out a simple scenario for a town with a population of 10,000. But the amount that could be added to the local giving ‘pot’ could be huge. 

I’ve also heard about families, who as a family, have committed to giving what they would normally spend when they eat out at a certain fast food restaurant. They still might go sometimes, but they will give the equal amount as they’ve spent to their usual charity. 

I’ve talked before about Coffee for Charity  aren’t the family who are giving the money they’d normally spend on eating out doing almost the same thing? 

What others ways can people give, what sacrifices could they make to enable them to give something (perhaps something extra) to charity? I guess the ways would only be limited by our imagination.  

Instead of buying that new coat, that you don’t really need you give what you would have spent to a charity. Or, can you round up the purchase price of what you’re buying and give the extra to charity? 

Maybe someone will come up with a programme the same as ASB has with it’s Save the Change with the “rounding up” going to charity. 

One last cute way kids are giving. The children in one family I have heard of have decided that they don’t want birthday parties this year, instead the money their parents would normally give will be going to charity. 

There’s bound to be lots more of these cute ways kids are giving, and in turn inspiring their parents to give – if you know of any, please share them.

© Sanclemenesdigpro |

Charity Fatigue


Over the last while I’ve talked about help still being needed by the charities people normally support when natural or human disasters occur and our giving is redirected to an urgent appeal.

In the NZHerald today, Diana Clement very much about this same subject in her piece Massive disasters spur Kiwis’ generosity

As a country New Zealand is 1st equal with Australia in the World Giving Index, we are a nation of givers; if there’s a need, we find a way to help.

But, there can be a downside for organisations; their traditional supporters can start to suffer “charity fatigue” – and are torn between who, what and where to give. They feel that they’re being approached on all fronts to give, give and give some more.

Supporters can’t always be expected to give, we need to realise that their attention will likely be drawn to a disaster and they’ll give to that, perhaps forgoing their usual giving to your organisation. As I said in Ongoing Support is Needed, organisations need to let their supporters know they understand.

We all know that Charities are always struggling to raise money, any disaster is an added challenge they face, and any organisation needs to know how they’ll face that challenge, what contingencies they might need to put in place. They can’t exactly rely on Income Protection Insurance – they must rely on the public and business to be generous, to be able to give what and when they can.

To quote the Diana Clement article    

“If history repeats itself, we will return to giving to our usual charities once the urgency of the Christchurch and Japanese earthquakes passes, says Trevor Garrett, chief executive of the Charities Commission. After an emergency such as Christchurch, there is an emotional pull to try to support victims.

“Then over a period of time you perhaps move back to your normal way of doing things,” he says.

What Trevor Garrett says is true, supporters will be drawn to help, and will come back to their usual giving patterns, but organisations should still have plans in place in the eventuality that supporters stay away; a small percentage are likely to.

It’s really a time now to get plan how you’re going to keep your name out there, to ensure you show how your supporters are helping, what other ways people can help – and to look for new avenues of funding.

Get out and about, make yourself seen, talk to business, school and community groups. Engage with your community, it doesn’t matter how you do this, the important thing is that you do it.

When was the last time you approached service organisations to come along and talk to their members about the work you do, the likes of Rotary, Lions, Zonta and many more often welcome guests from local community and charity groups. It’s a great way to meet and talk with people who care about what’s happening, it’s also a great way to potentially tap into another vein of funding.

There’s manner of ways you can look for support to help you through a ‘slow’ period in giving – check Getting your message across and Getting a Younger Generation On-board With Your NPO on SocializeYourCause and 101Fundraising for more ideas.

Don’t forget regular ways people can give, direct debit, loyalty programmes, and of course there’s payroll giving – and I like the way Diana Clement refers to it in her article:

“Even better, say charities, sign up for payroll giving. This way a regular amount is taken from each pay packet. From the charities’ perspective it’s an intravenous line into your wallet. “

Whatever your plans are, make sure you at least have a plan – get your committee, board or trustees together and have a brainstorm about how you’re going to weather any decline in supporter giving.

As an organisation what are you going to do? Many organisations are in the same position, it doesn’t hurt to offer support and advice to others in your sector – share any ideas you have hear; I’m sure other readers would like to know.

© Henrischmit |

Could charities be in for a hard time?


With so many natural disasters and humanitarian relief needs around the world, and so many people, organisations and businesses being called on to help – either financially, skills or an increase in the needs for volunteers; could some charities find themselves in a deficit situation? 

It has to be asked, and by deficit – yes, I am saying financially, but there’s so many other ways that a charity could “miss out” – even goods in kinds could become scarce, volunteers may not join as they see other “things” that needs their help. 

Are we prepared for this in the charity sector? Can we even prepare for it; in Ongoing Support is Needed I touch on how organisations need to stay in contact with their supporters, and it’s likely to become even more vital now that the attention of world is turning to another natural disaster one that we will all want and need to help with. 

How can charities or non-profits prepare for the fall out when attention moves from one ‘cause’ to another? 

A few things I see as being necessary to stay ‘afloat’ is in planning, organisations need to sit down and work out how they can do things, where they can make changes and more. 

A few things that could be looked at 

Educate donors on how they can give 

Donors need to know why they give, what the benefits to the recipients are. Organisations, now, more than ever have to talk about what they do, where the money goes and how donors contribution make a difference. 

This however needs to be factually rather than pull at the heart strings of donors. Appeals used to seem to pull at the heartstrings of donors, but they’re wary of them now and want facts. 

Payroll giving 

Payroll giving isn’t something new, it has been around a long time. Some countries have only recently enacted legislation to allow it. 

Organisations, as part of their campaign process should be speaking with companies and their employees about the benefits of payroll giving. 

It will take time, but that time needs to be invested to help ensure the ongoing success of the organisation. 

Join forces 

Yes, I do suggest joining forces. There a numerous organisations out there doing identical or very similar things. Aren’t they simply like two clothing stores with similar merchandise and similar markets – competing against each other, whereas a united ‘brand’ would have the potential to do more and potentially better? 

How many organisations do we know of in our country, county, borough doing the same thing? Take a look at how many are working in the cancer field, or those offering assistance to at risk youth. 

I know of at least three organisations who struggle to deliver what they’re established to do, yet if the joined forces they’d have more chance. 

Legislate to put a cap on fees charged by professional fundraisers 

In some situations groups working in the community could take up the batten to urge their local government or legislature to enact legislation preventing funding organisations, umbrella organisations from taking too much of the funds collected. 

Organisation who raise funds on behalf of other organisations should have to disclose their full accounts and not hide behind vague “commercial sensitivity” as a reason why they can’t, or rather won’t disclose how much they actually collect versus the sum handed over to the organisation they have collected for. 

What’s a reasonable amount, I couldn’t personally say; but I do feel that anything more than 40-50% is perhaps exorbitant – or to put it more bluntly a rort. Yes, there are organisations who collect on behalf, or using the name of an organisation “charging” a fee that is way beyond justifiable. I personally know of at least one who for many years were faced with “overheads” that ate into the money collected to the tune of 80%+. 

Most areas have an organisation representing it’s interest, Fundraising Institutes, Volunteer organisations – all of these should be approached to push their local governmental (central, local, borough) to introduce legislation to force full disclosure of fund collected v funds distributed. 

This will help clean up the sector, and help create confidence in the giving public. With more confidence that funds are being used for what they’re meant to be. 

All of these can and should be looked at by community, charity and other groups seeking support from their communities. Times are going to get tough, and the sector needs to look at how they can instil confidence, maintain their donor base and continue to deliver their services.


© David Winwood |


Young people need to be nurtured and encouraged


A while ago I wrote Getting a Younger Generation On-board With Your NPO on SocializeYourCause.

Essentially it’s about how young blood is needed, no charity can rely on the ongoing support of their older donors and supporters, a new generation of supporters is needed.

There’s no better time to start nurturing young people to get involved than through their school or community groups.

Recently The Aucklander ran a story on a young girl, Olivia, who wanted to help others who were less fortunate, she did really well and not only raised a good sum of money, but she got others involved – read the whole story about Olivia here.

With about 1 charity for every 172 of us, there’s a lot to choose from and we can’t all be expected to be able to constantly give, all the more reason to nurture and encourage a younger generation to get on board.

 We need to make giving to charity attractive to the younger generation, we need to help them understand the needs of others and how it’s with the help of others in the community that need help.

 If you have a child in school does their school do class projects on the needs of others? If not, is it something that could be suggested to help children understand?

 As a community group, have you approached local schools to see if you can talk to students about the work you do?

 Either of these will help – we all need to do our part to encourage the next generation to help.


© Imagepointphoto |



When Disaster Strikes – Opportunists

Back in September I posted When Disaster Strikes – Opportunists, since the devastating Christchurch earthquake of 22 Feb, we’ve heard some details of people trying to take advantage of the generosity of people wanting to help. Thankfully the media have picked up on reports of rogues trying to make a buck – and word is spreading that opportunists won’t be tolerated.

We need to be vigilant, if you’re approached to give support check and double check where the support you give will be used, who the people are asking for support. Most unscrupulous people will run a mile when asked a few simple questions – ask and ask again if you’re approached.

It’s not uncommon for fraudsters; scammers to circulate an email like the one mentioned in this item in the NZ Herald which talks of a Quake pretext in email scam. It’s really important that we’re all vigilant at times of a disaster; when see or hear of anything that raises questions or concerns about the legitimacy of any efforts to raise funds or to offer assistance to people who may have been affected. If we do come across something, we owe it to everyone, including the victims to report it and spread word of the scam.

For those in New Zealand this – Legitimacy of some charity collectors questioned – from the NZ Herald is a must read. 




Stakeholders – Do you include them?



Every non-profit organisation has a board, committee or some type of management team; how many of these have representation from their stakeholders – the people they represent? 

Some organisations I’ve recently spoke with have said they don’t, that it wasn’t something they’d considered. Others were more blunt, perhaps shocking even; they said things like “what’s the point”, “how could they be of use?”. 

Whether it’s ignorance or oversight as to why “user stakeholders” aren’t included in the ‘management team’, that they’re not part of the ‘working group’. Whatever the reason I think this needs to change. 

At the very least “user stakeholders” they need to have a sense of being part of what you do, not just to receive the benefits, this would go a long way to building self esteem amongst some, a sense of belonging, a sense of ownership – get the drift? 

Imagine not just using the ‘image’ of someone in the community you help, but having them as part of the team that helps with the running of the organisation. Wouldn’t this be good for the overall vision, the overall dynamic of the organisation? 

I’d suggest that at minimum organisations (helping people) should hold a focus group meeting at least annually, at this the vision for the next period could be presented, “user stakeholders” would  then have the opportunity to voice their opinion. 

You’d likely be surprised what you might hear. Don’t be surprised if you hear people say “we don’t want to be seen like that” – or – “ why don’t you do such and such”. 

You never know what people are thinking unless you ask, you don’t know what people can offer unless you ask. What have you got to lose? 

By including everyone in your processes, your decision making you are likely to have respect and understanding of what you are doing. 

I once heard a story relating to malaria and the distribution of malaria nets. In short people who were simply given malaria nets were less inclined to use if for what it was given, instead using it for fishing. Those, who paid a token price for the nets used them for what they were for. Incidentally, I did find out that the communities who ‘paid’ for their nets had a lower incidence of malaria over a period than those who were simply given them. 

Next time you’re sitting round your boardroom table, think about the people you’re there to help, are they at the table with you? If not, why not? And when will you change this? 


© Sebastian Kaulitzki |



Ongoing Support is Needed


As individuals, when disaster strikes we dig deep and give to a relief fund, often having to reduce or put a hold our regular giving. 

For an organisation, there is likely to be occasion when you’re income reduces as supporters divert their giving to a disaster relief fund. 

How can this be managed, can it be managed? 

Some organisations will have a contingency plan in place, others will have to fly by the seat of their pants; and just hope they can ride it out. 

We need to keep in touch with our supporters, we need to perhaps acknowledge that we understand their giving to any relief fund,  and that we look forward to their continued support when they’re able. 

I haven’t done any formal research, but been told by some people that anywhere from 15% to over 30% can be removed from the income of some organisations, when supporters reduce their giving to support a relief fund. 

This must surely cause concern within some organisations;  overheads still have to be met, outgoings for the services provided need to be met. I’d say there’d be some who would need to look at their situation closely. 

How can we manage a contingency, not being an accountant I won’t get into the dollars, cents and percentages; instead I thought I’d look at this from a communication view. 

I’ve already said that it’s important to stay in touch with your supporters. Perhaps you should get in early, within days of a disaster occurring and say let your supporters know that you understand that their support is important to both you, and the people affected by the disaster. That you understand, that they’re likely caught in a catch 22 situation – where do they put their donation money.

It’s by being in touch with supporters; that your message, the importance of their support and the work of the organisation, will be kept in their mind. 

Why have I raised this? Simply I had a conversation with someone recently who talked of the drop in ‘support income’ since the cyclones, flooding, earthquakes and fire that have devastated sizable communities; and cost the local economy, countries affected, many millions, if not billions of dollars in lost income, business that has come to a halt, consumers not spending  – perhaps moving away altogether. 

The major relief organisations do need our support, we can’t disregard that; perhaps as an organisation you could offer assistance to them. Do they have the capacity to field calls? Does your organisation have the capacity to assist? If so offer it. You’d hope someone would offer you the assistance if you needed it. 

It’s important no matter what that you stay in touch with your supporters, your stakeholders; and that you offer support where you can. You can’t afford to sit back and stress that income may have stalled, and worry about how you’ll regain it – you need to act. 

As individuals we need to remember the groups and individuals we normally support, and as soon as possible we must resume our giving to them. 

See also Charities hit as quake gets donor dollars