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How two charities confounded the industry by making chuggers work

There is no point in doing anything just for the sake of it.

And yet, despite being the bane of every high street, charities still roll out a legion of perky, twenty-somethings to accost impatient and annoyed shoppers and commuters across the nation. Or even worse, when you arrive home from work, the kids are crying for their dinner and you haven't even had a chance to have a cup of tea and then you get that knock at your door.

It's all intrusive. Not the best first impression for any charity seeking to collect donations.

Attrition is high. 50% of donors cancel their monthly direct debit in the first year. As it is, the average sign up is only £120, £10/month and it can take well into year 3 to break even.

There is a distinct lack of strategy in these approaches. It's expensive and the public don't like it.

But, that's not to say charities shouldn't use them. Don't not do it. Do it better.

I've come across two charities whose inventive approach to public donations hasn't just gained the charities income, but also a wider understanding of their work. That is invaluable.

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution is one charity that has hit on the key element: location, location, location.

I was spending a lovely day by the seaside with my family when approached by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. Key to their pitch was the vast ocean, crashing against the beach only metres away. Perhaps some sunbathers were still annoyed but, for the most part, the RNLI hit their target audience. We could see directly where our money would go and, as city dwellers ourselves, we probably hadn't felt that direct connection before.

World Vision is another charity that understood location was key. Their challenge was one facing many charities: how do we get potential donors to relate to our work in Africa if they've never experienced it for themselves?

They needed to appeal to middle-class London. Where would they find these people? It wasn't going to be in Africa.

Their solution was radical: bring Africa to London's Southbank.

Moreover, they didn't corner people with clipboards or iPads. They used the artistic, open space of the Southbank, to engage them. They built an exhibition: two African huts, one without the support of World Visions' work and the next with.​

Curiosity got the better of most of us that day. They didn't need to accost anyone. They had willing participants, eager to learn more and then, having seen the work close up for themselves, signing up in droves.

Creative approaches can reinvent a tired concept. Don't not do it. Do it better.

How could you use location to reinvent your fundraising strategies?

Jonathan Cook | | +44 (0)7921 250 211

Jonathan @Linkedin | Twitter @jonathan_m_cook

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