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Is the street the right place …

… to fundraise?

My morning walk from Russell Square tube station can be a minefield and it’s not just where I get off the train – it’s all over the country: people on the street in front of stations, on high streets outside shops. They wear branded t-shirts and clutch clipboards. It’s something you notice often, especially when you work in the third sector.

Two recent articles focused my attention to this trend of asking to people to become charitable donors in the middle of the street.

Firstly, Leon’s Wards An embarrassing encounter with a street fundraiser on the Third Sector blog details his thoughts. Hi experience is awful on many levels: embarrassing and humiliating let alone casting a bad light on charity fundraising. He elaborates on this point “fundraisers should remember that they represent the charities they are working for and not just their agencies”. Street fundraisers are assigned to charities by their agency; rarely do they have a personal connection to the story or the cause.

In contract, Ken Burnett’s piece on the Voluntary Sector Network of The Guardian is an interesting description of highs and lows of street fundraising. Whether it’s bag-packing at supermarkets or standing on the streets with buckets, the key aspect which emerges from the article is that the fundraiser has to have a link with their charity.

So the difference between the two fundraisers isn’t just the attitude they have in approaching people – it’s deeper than that. One cares about the cause they’re fundraising for, whilst the other probably learnt about the ‘core brand values’ in a briefing session that morning.

We’ve never used street fundraisers because it is costly and it’s not a route we chose to take – though I appreciate it’s effective for some organisations. If charities are going to use street fundraisers they need to seriously rethink whether it actually helps or hinders their cause  they need to deliver top-line training so that those representing them, quite literally on the street, are doing it in a way that is never cold and counter-productive let alone angry and aggressive.

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