The pandemic has seen face-to-face markets close and re-open, in some cases repeatedly, leaving many public fundraisers feeling unstable within their jobs and longer-term career path. Jean-Paul Kogan-Recoing, founder of ONG Conseil and president of ONG Conseil France, cites the need to protect face-to-face fundraisers and this vital income stream.
Although a large amount of leading fundraising professionals started out in face-to-face (F2F) field management, we often forget that it is today’s F2F workforce – with a keen sense of commitment, extraordinary skills and personalities – that we rely on so heavily to recruit millions of supporters worldwide, delivering fabulous return on investment.
For the last 25 years, face-to-face has driven change in fundraising, growing the capacity of nonprofits.
Now, there are tens of thousands of fundraisers working across five continents, speaking with the public and giving all their energy to fundraise for good causes.
Impact of the Covid crisis
But lately, F2F fundraisers have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic. And it’s our duty as employers and nonprofits that rely on their services to ensure we care for and protect them.
Although they showed how quickly they could adapt to Covid safety guidelines and how resilient public fundraising can be in this new world, they are all too aware of the uncertainty that surrounds us and the very real risk of losing their jobs if and when their countries go back into lockdown.
It is often in moments of crisis that pioneers and leaders reveal themselves. And some organisations have taken up the challenge, giving the opportunity to their F2F workforce to switch to other fundraising channels and making sure their F2F teams keep busy.
By the way, breaking down these walls between the different fundraising channels seems to demonstrate that F2F fundraisers can often perform better than their colleagues. Their ability to deliver passionate and informed dialogue is one of many highly transferable skills.
Protecting the F2F profession
Keeping the field force alive isn’t only a matter of duty, but of social responsibility.
F2F fundraising is the main driver of regular giving all over the world and this long-term income stream is the primary individual giving resource. “Regular giving is King” concludes the International Fundraising Leadership in its 2019 “Peer Review Key Findings” survey.
But it is an extremely demanding job and we have to think beyond the Covid crisis. Nonprofits need to protect F2F – that income stream will be all the more important in future months and years. So, keeping the field force alive and engaged must be a constant concern.
The F2F fundraiser journey
The Covid crisis has led us to adapt while making us more aware than ever that F2F fundraisers are our strength. But then, what are we doing to support their retention? Upgrading their knowledge and skills, and diversifying their activities is probably the best way to keep them on board. The focus isn’t simply on sustaining the F2F fundraising channel for economic reasons, but also to sustain fundraising careers.
This crisis therefore brings an opportunity to rethink our way of managing F2F fundraising. Today it’s Covid, but there may well be other such crises within the years ahead. Whatever happens, our F2F fundraising field force will have to be protected, trained to be multichannel fundraising specialists, managed in a sustainable way.
This will give us the opportunity to keep a very qualified fundraising workforce. But it relies on cooperation and mutual understanding between nonprofits and specialist F2F providers, based on our common interest of protecting this vital income stream and the fantastic practitioners who make it happen.
The opportunity and challenges around F2F fundraising will be discussed in a series of panel sessions at a free event, Facing the Future – a Global F2F Summit on 5 November 2020.
A pioneer in France, Jean-Paul set up the first French face-to-face fundraising campaigns in 1998, before founding ONG Conseil in 2004 – the main F2F provider in France. ONG Conseil Groupe is now operating internationally in Belgium and Switzerland. He’s also President of the AMRAC, the french F2F mixed regulatory body for nonprofits and providers. In 2019, he took the initiative to bring together several F2F national regulatory bodies, forming the IPFC (International Public Fundraising Council).