How face-to-face taught me the key skills of fundraising, and why you should try it too!
by Helen Alderson
Those that know me, are aware that I began life as a face-to face fundraiser. During my last year at university I needed a job to fit around my classes and getting paid a half decent wage to wander around with my soon-to-be friends, speaking to loads of different people seemed right up my street (pun fully intended, please burst into laughter). I remember whilst on the doorstep, people would often tell me how awful the job must be, but I can genuinely say that I thoroughly enjoyed my time ‘on the streets’. As well as all of the aforementioned, I gained a lot of sales skills and I learned a huge amount about a massive range of charities. It really was my first big step towards falling in love with the third sector.
When I started my first ’proper’ fundraising job, I was almost a little embarrassed to have come from a face-to-face background. I thought it might have been viewed as the poor relative of the fundraising profession. Instead my colleagues were suitably impressed, and said things like “you’re so brave!” and “I’d never be able to do something like that!” It made me realise that my experience in face-to-face had been the making of me as a person and as a professional. Here are some of the reasons why:

• You learn how to take rejection – we all know that sinking feeling when you have worked hard with a potential donor and they respond with a big, fat “no”. Now imagine that happening to you up to 100 times. Every. Single. Day. Sometimes on the doorstep you would deliver the most ground-breaking pitch ever to have graced the earth, for you to then be given that casual rejection. Within the first five or so seconds it took to have the next door answered, you had to accept the rejection, dust yourself down, get the smile back on your face in order to deliver your next amazing pitch.

• You become a master at relationship building – read any fundraising book and it will tell you that this is the bread and butter of fundraising. You can do training courses and seminars on how to build these relationships; depending on what your exact role is, you might get the opportunity to build a new relationship every few hours. As a face-to-face fundraiser, you get to practice and hone your relationship building skills every few minutes. I can assure you that nothing is more satisfying than when someone opens the door to you (clearly furious to have been torn away from Love Island) and you have the ability to create an instant rapport so that they afford you the time to tell them all about your amazing cause. Even better if they agree with you and sign up by the end of it. I remember my first week as a community fundraiser, I called some of our supporters to introduce myself and was genuinely shocked when people greeted me with positivity. I had developed my relationship building skills in the most challenging conditions, so now that people were happy to hear from me, I knew I could really thrive.

• You get to practice your asks – along with the opportunity to build relationships a hundred times a day you also get to do a hundred asks a day. Think back to that time when you didn’t quite get that COTY and, knowing what you’d learnt, you wish you had the chance to try again. You get this very opportunity in face-to-face. By being self-critical and learning from your colleagues, you are given the chance to develop what style of ask best suits you. You also get to perfect it.

• You find that hard work really does reap rewards – I learned quite early that even those who weren’t naturally gifted fundraisers, could always get a couple of sign-ups each day (which was a good return). As long as they accepted the rejection, dusted themselves down, and spoke to each new person with the same passion and enthusiasm as they had the last. It also helped if they did the obvious things – walked a bit faster, knocked a bit louder, and asked for help from others. If you work hard you will do well. Yes, that extra bit of natural talent or knowledge will get you further, but hard work is your fundraising foundation. I truly believe that if you have a plan, work hard and bang on enough doors (another intended pun), you will always get there in the end.
I couldn’t have asked for a better way to start my career as a fundraiser, face-to-face really was the best way to ‘cut my teeth’. If you look back far enough some of the best fundraisers (if I do say so myself) started out knocking on doors. If you ever get the chance to do a day out with your face-to-face team, go for it. It will be a step outside your comfort zone for sure, but you will definitely develop your skills by joining even a single shift (try doing a week, if possible!). If you are reading this and involved in recruitment, never underestimate those who have face-to-face experience on their CV!

Want to know more about how a face-to-face fundraiser attitude could improve your fundraising? Get in touch at hello@kedaconsulting.co.uk or get in touch on Twitter.