When SOS Children’s Villages said it wanted to trial face-to-face fundraising in Nicaragua, one of the poorest countries in the Americas, the idea was dismissed as crazy.
Juan Cruz Mones Cazon, development and communications director for the charity in Latin America and the Caribbean, says his colleagues in the region’s vibrant not-for-profit sector told him it would not work.
But he pressed ahead, aiming to sign up 250 regular givers in the first four months.
After three months, his team of four street fundraisers had made 900 sign ups with 60 per cent converted to regular donors.
“It was the biggest surprise of the last year,” says Juan. “It shows that it does not matter the state of the country if you focus on an issue you can get committed donors.”
One of the best things about the International Fundraising Congress in Holland was its truly international feel. I got to meet fundraisers from countries as diverse as Thailand, Qatar, Belgium and Bermuda within the first few hours of arriving.
There were also the Global Perspective sessions, which gave insights into fundraising in four regions including Latin America, from people like Juan, who contributed via video.
It emerged that face-to-face fundraising, while vilified by some in the UK, seems to be really taking off around the world.
When Médecins Sans Frontières http://www.msf.org.uk/ started fundraising in Argentina many thought it would have little success finding donors to support its work abroad.
“We asked ourselves how to raise funds in a country where there is high poverty and high needs, knowing the money was not going to stay in the country,” says Jonás Beccor Varela, area manager of MSF.
MSF launched a big campaign focused on Argentinian doctors that work for the charity. It made use of various channels including face-to-face, online, inserts, billboards at bus stops, TV and adverts on Facebook.
It has gained 16,000 donors so far, with 41 per cent through face-to-face. The potential and opportunities for fundraising in Latin America appear huge. Brazil dominates South America both in terms of its size and its rapidly growing economy, which accounts for 44 per cent of the region’s GDP.
Meanwhile, Greenpeace in Argentina has 85,000 monthly donors and 795,000 “cyber activists”.
Religious organisations are fundraising powerhouses. Hogar de Cristo in Chile has a donor base of 600,000 and an income of $70m a year.
The Red Cross in Costa Rica stood out as an interesting example. The charity raises $44m annually, much through the sale of its services and some quite bizarre deals with the government. For example, it receives a 1 per cent levy on all telephone bills. The charity sells a lot of branded Red Cross merchandise – including bottled water.
They are not ideas that you could see catching on here.