Why charities need street fundraisers

Last week, Mumbrella’s Tim Burrowes argued that street fundraisers are doing major damage to their charity brands. In this guest post Amnesty International’s Adam Futeran argues that they are essential to the organisation.

In my ten years at Amnesty International Australia, I’ve heard it all: the good, the bad and the horrifically tragic.

As supporter relations manager, along with the four staff in my team, I speak to people every day about a variety of issues including; membership, campaign enquiries, volunteer and human rights support requests.



My team is also responsible for welcoming new Amnesty International members or financial supporters, including people that have decided to donate to the organisation after meeting a street fundraiser. This of course was the topic recently discussed by Mumbrella content director Tim Burrowes.

After reading his article last week, I certainly took on board that his patience with street fundraisers was, as he raised, wearing thing. His comments, and the many responses his article received, made me realise there could be a need to show the other side of street fundraising and explain exactly why the practice continues to be used by organisations like Amnesty International.

Amnesty International has used street fundraising to raise funds for our human rights campaigns since 2000.

There is no doubt that it’s a tough job being a street fundraiser but it’s worth noting the feedback we get about our street fundraisers is overwhelmingly positive. Some  comments from the past month include:

“I am writing to you today to praise one of your new team members, Melissa, who I met at the Whitfords shopping center not that long ago. Her amazing ability to put forward Amnesty International’s beliefs and values and her bright, bubbly and engaging personality led to my decision to become a monthly contributor.”

“Dad and I were stopped by Chloe and Caitlin on our way through Carousel the other day, and while I am too young to donate, the girls were really lovely and you could easily tell they were really passionate about what they were selling… I think most of all it was so nice to see Chloe talking to my Dad, who suffers from a serious list of physical disabilities, without judging him.”

We get these kinds of comments, because while street fundraisers are hired and managed by an external organisation, a key criteria for their recruitment is that they know, understand and care about human rights and the work that Amnesty does.

To ensure this, we bring new recruits into the Amnesty office to listen to our campaigns staff explain exactly what it is we do, personal stories of the individuals we’ve helped  and discuss how the money they’re about to raise will be used.  They are also advised about the council, state and federal this industry is governed by.

These fundraisers, just like myself and other staff and volunteers working in Amnesty offices, can take credit for the successes we take great pride in sharing. This includes the story we recently highlighted about the two brothers in Papua New Guinea who thanked Amnesty International for providing assistance ‘when they needed it most’, after they received support from our Emergency Relief Funds. These men, who we can’t be name publicly for security reasons, were evacuated from their community in remote PNG, along with 15 members of their family. They were taken to PNG’s capital Port Moresby, escaping the fear from constant threats of violence after their mother was accused of sorcery and beheaded.

So while street fundraising in one of Australia’s bustling cities seems far removed from countries like PNG, Afghanistan and Syria, and the problems people there may face, the money raised from these kinds of discussions on our streets does have the potential to benefit those who need it most.

When we compare face to face, as it’s known in the industry, with alternative fundraising methods, we’ve found it’s the lowest administrative cost for the highest return. As a member and donor funded organisation, this is important when we’re ensuring our funds are spent as responsibly and efficiently as possible. This form of fundraising provides a long term sustainable return for our investment which means we can plan and commit to highlighting human rights abuses across a range of issues a year, and potentially two years, in advance.

It’s estimated that well over 250,000  people sign up to charity organisations through face to face from these kinds of discussions on public streets in Australia each year. That’s over 1 million conversations taking place, that otherwise may not have.

That interaction is aimed not only at funding our work, but also raising awareness about people who don’t have the freedom to make the everyday choices we do;  decisions like who we engage with, the type of conversations we have and what we choose to believe. Simple life choices that we so often take for granted.

  • Adam Futeran is supporter relations manager for Amnesty International Australia 

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