News and Stories - Fundraise - 11th July 2017

Face-to-face fundraising is the lifeblood of charities: Why one bad apple shouldn’t ruin the crop

Face-to-face fundraising is the lifeblood of charities: Why one bad apple shouldn’t ruin the crop

Recently we’ve seen a lot of bad press about face-to-face fundraising. Face-to-face fundraising is where a charity advocate approaches people on the street and asks them to regularly give to the cause.

The recent bad press all relates to just one supplier, a company that has been accused of poor culture and behaviour.

These claims are highly alarming, but we want you to know that Plan International Australia is not associated with this company or its practices.

The company under the microscope appears to have a unique culture amongst face-to-face fundraisers that includes hazing practices for its sales staff and a promotion of greed. These practices are abhorrent to Plan International Australia. It also uses a contractor model that if not adequately designed can lead to exploitation of workers. This is because independent contractors are often underpaid through a commissions system and lack access to benefits and support. That’s why we prefer to deal with companies that hire employees directly and pay them a fair wage.

Plan International is proud to have its own team of face-to-face fundraisers where we can control the training, culture and remuneration. This team are a unique part of our organisation that can best represent us to the public.

In order to grow effectively we also use external suppliers but are very careful who we associate with. Working with external suppliers enables us to focus on what we do best, which is delivering aid and life-saving programs in developing countries, while ensuring that the money raised is used effectively. In selecting a supplier we seek ethical and professional companies who employ skilled fundraisers to work on our behalf.

Face-to-face fundraising is an integral part of a charities’ income in Australia, accounting for nearly half of the yearly income to the sector. We are very proud of how we deliver value for children from the supporters signed up through face-to-face teams and we’re upset at the one or two cowboys whose practices taint legitimate fundraising.

The media report on the program Sunday Night claimed that when a person donates to a charity via a face-to-face fundraiser, 12 months of donations go back to the fundraising provider before the money starts making it to the field. The staff that were interviewed either gave simplistic answers that looked misleading or they were not able to adequately explain what happened with donations.

Where your donations go

At Plan International Australia we are proud that we deliver 77% of our revenue to the programs that we run. Only 14% goes back into fundraising costs, and this is shared by all supporters, not on an individual basis.

The payments that are made to suppliers are taken from our fundraising budget which is just 14% of our revenue.

Of the money left over, 6% goes into administration, 2% is spent on domestic education about poverty and its effects on children, and 1% is kept in reserve for future years.

International not-for-profits run on tight fundraising and administration budgets as they have to remit 70-80% overseas as profit that goes toward program work. If we were Fortune 500 companies, we’d be considered lean and profitable.

There are thousands of registered charities in Australia. We absolutely recognise that people who choose to donate to Plan International Australia could very well choose any number of other worthy causes. For that reason, we work hard to ensure that every dollar donated to us is used as responsibly and transparently as possible, but also that our face-to-face fundraisers are treated with dignity and respect.

Plan International Australia is very diligent in making the best investments in its international humanitarian programs, disaster relief, and the provision of aid in emergencies.

Children holding school supplies distributed by Plan International
School children receive new school supplies through Plan International and UNICEF’s Education in Emergencies Program.

We are always looking for ways to make the donation of a dollar go further. For example, for every dollar donated to our food appeals, the World Food Program contributes $14, dramatically boosting the impact for affected communities.

In an increasingly more difficult fundraising environment, we are challenged to come up with new ways to streamline our efforts. For example, Plan International Australia has recently been named one of six leading agencies in the Australian Humanitarian Partnership. Rather than working in competition, we’ve partnered with the other big agencies to make sure we can respond more efficiently to deliver aid – particularly in the Pacific region.

The reality is, none of this could happen without face-to-face fundraising. We simply would not be able to provide the critical services to the world’s most impoverished communities without the supporters who sign up on the street.

That’s why one ‘bad apple’ and media hype really shouldn’t tarnish the overwhelming majority of international non-profits working very hard to make our world a better, fairer, place.

To make a contribution to Plan International Australia’s programs, click here.

Keep up to date