Doorstepping: will charity end at home?

The charity sector is increasingly coming under fire for its prospecting techniques – as documented in John Stones’ Cynical tactics or a necessary evil? (MW December 4, 2003). It is true that it sometimes feels as if you can hardly walk down the road in any large town or city without being accosted by a cheery face asking if you can spare a minute for charity. However, fundraising is about to get a whole lot more personal. It has recently been reported that charities are not stopping at

“chugging”, having been driven by consumer apathy to try door-to-door recruitment.

Door-to-door marketing is effectively pressure-selling and, according to various consumer research bodies, is one of the most complained-about prospecting techniques. So how are consumers going to react to charities turning up on their doorstep? It is, after all, very different saying no to Glow Bright Electricity than it is to the Suffering Children Christmas Appeal – complete with emotive pictures to bump up the guilt factor.

If charities are going to go down this frankly dangerous path, it is crucial that they get it right – or it could be immensely damaging to the brand. Direct marketing relies on data and effective analysis to ensure relevant targeting. Door-to-door marketing is no different. Imagine the consequences of knocking on a dedicated donor’s door and asking them to commit to a direct debit monthly donation programme, when they’ve been giving £10 a month for the past three years. Such a blunder could lead to the individual withdrawing their support completely. Consequently, a charity door-to-door campaign needs meticulous planning in order to succeed. It cannot simply be a matter of dropping representatives in appropriate geo-demographic segments and telling them to ring the doorbells of all the houses they come across. Existing donors’ addresses should either be suppressed from the campaign entirely or pinpointed so that the representative can change their pitch from “will you commit?” to “thanks for your continuing support, perhaps you’d like to increase your monthly gift”.

As competition within the sector hots up, charities are becoming far more aggressive in their marketing techniques. However, it is essential for them to realise that, with chugging, they are already treading a fine line with what consumers feel are acceptable marketing techniques. Door-to-door marketing could also prove to be intensely unpopular. It is essential therefore that forward-thinking fundraisers take a finely targeted approach – as personal and relevant as possible.

Andy Wood

Managing director

Total DM

Leicester

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