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If you’ve ever come across canvassing volunteers in a public place or been greeted by professional fundraisers at your front door— you’ve encountered face-to-face fundraising.

Face-to-face fundraising takes place when nonprofits send representatives (volunteers, staff members, F2F professionals) into a community to begin one-on-one conversations with members of that community. This could mean canvassing a high-traffic area or going door-to-door to initiate these conversations.

This method of fundraising specifically aims to build a nonprofit’s recurring giving program. Sustained support through recurring gifts is valuable for an array of reasons, including a reliable stream of regular revenue and even an increase in average gift size.

However, simply embarking on a face-to-face fundraising campaign isn’t enough to experience these benefits. If your F2F program hasn’t led to the positive improvements outlined above, it might be time to revisit your process.

At Globalfaces Direct, we know that face-to-face fundraising is the ideal channel for nonprofits looking to build recurring, sustaining support. We’ve dedicated time and energy to optimizing this approach, and have narrowed some top tips down to the following points:

  • Focus your face-to-face fundraising efforts
  • Master the face-to-face ask
  • Collect and analyze data
  • Coordinate a multi-channel stewardship approach
  • Partner with a face-to-face fundraising company

Ready to learn how to make the most of your program? Let’s get started.

Focus your face-to-face fundraising efforts

Face-to-face fundraising actually encompasses a wide variety of platforms, including door-to-door, business-to-business, retail and street marketing. Instead of focusing your efforts on the entire range of face-to-face platforms and sending fundraisers out into the wild with little direction— try to narrow down your efforts.

Let’s look at popular types of F2F fundraising you can utilize:

  • Door-to-door fundraising. This involves knocking on doors in residential neighborhoods and beginning recurring donor conversations with qualified homeowners. Learn more through this Globalfaces Direct guide.
  • Street marketing. This involves canvassing a geographic location (usually, a busy street corner) and connecting with potential donors in high foot-traffic city centers.
  • Business-to-business fundraising. This involves starting conversations with business owners, employees, and patrons associated with that business. We recommend staying clear of large franchises/big-box retailers and instead focusing on locally owned businesses.

Take a look at your recurring donor base, noting the common characteristics that they share and begin to build an “ideal donor demographic”. For example, consider “seeding” your recurring donor base with segments pointing to how those donors were acquired, which companies they’re associated with, and which geographic locations they live within.

If you seek to target a demographic that is middle-aged and lives in suburban neighborhoods, consider a D2D or B2B campaign. Conversely, if your goal is to connect with a younger demographic, consider launching a street or retail canvas instead. 

Once you develop a proof of concept through a pilot campaign, you’ll have a large enough sample size to determine whether you want to invest further in a single platform or diversify your platforms across multiple geographic markets.

Master the face-to-face ask

Asking for donations, while essential, is just one task of many that fundraisers will struggle with. It’s hard to start the giving conversation with supporters that are in your network to begin with, let alone people you’re meeting for the first time on their front porch.

Face-to-face fundraising could be your first interaction with a supporter, and you’re asking for the donor to give to your organization on a regular basis. Needless to say, your gift ask needs to be stellar.

We know that one of the top fundraising trends for 2020 is storytelling when asking for gifts. How do you tell your story and inspire a donor to give when you only have one small window of opportunity to do so?

You have to truly master the face-to-face fundraising ask. While a skeletal pitch will be developed by F2F managers as a framework, each fundraiser needs to formulate a strong conversation starter to grab potential sustainers’ attention and find a way to condense your nonprofit’s story into a compelling soundbite. 

Most importantly, fundraisers need to be well-versed in as much of the messaging provided by your organization as possible, so that they eventually become subject matter experts in your brand.  An optimal approach is one that enables fundraisers to build genuine rapport and emotional connections with every potential donor they speak with. Fundraisers should not be sent out with a verbatim, word-for-word script. Instead, they should be enabled to have dynamic, unique conversations, which ultimately lead to genuine long-term support for your charity.

At the onset, this information is best delivered directly from your team (since after all, you have more knowledge of your organization than we ever could). You’ll want to conduct an extensive training session to make sure your fundraisers are ready to go into the field. 

Whenever possible, the most impactful training sessions are those that take place at your office, so that fundraisers have the opportunity to meet your staff, tour your facilities and truly feel as if they are an integral part of your fundraising team.  This can take place over the phone or using a video conference, but given that we specialize in F2F interactions, face-to-face trainings have the greatest impact!

Collect and analyze data

During a face-to-face fundraising campaign, your fundraisers are interacting with thousands of potential donors each day. Each of those interactions can provide meaningful data, but only if you’re collecting and analyzing that information on a real-time basis.

Innovative face-to-face fundraising technologies can allow your organization to collect data on each face-to-face interaction to examine later. You can discover which supporters signed up to make recurring gifts (or didn’t), at which point they opted in (or out) of the process, and which parts of your approach were most effective.

There are a few best practices when it comes to using data in your efforts:

  • Work with data analytics software made for face-to-face fundraising. There are third-party solutions available that can track the movement and efforts of individual fundraisers every few seconds. Either invest in one of these solutions or better yet, work with a F2F agency that has already developed internal software solutions to specifically meet the needs of your unique F2F campaign.  For GFD partners, this means access to our proprietary Insight portal, where you can track campaign progress in real-time.
  • Outline and maintain consistent data hygiene practices. This is the practice of keeping your data as error-free as possible, ensuring you have accurate, actionable insights. Create consistent rules for data entry and processing to ensure you’re not working with flawed information. Learn more through this guide
  • Integrate your software solutions. Create connections between your donor analytics software and both your payment processor and constituent relationship management (CRM) system. This ensures that you can use your F2F insights to inform other fundraising efforts.

Face-to-face fundraising carries the potential of more one-on-one interactions between your nonprofit and supporters than any other fundraising channel. Each of these interactions provides valuable information for your nonprofit to improve its fundraising efforts across the board— not just in the realm of F2F. 

The biggest difference between F2F and other mass-market channels is that there is a two-way feedback loop. An ineffective direct mail or email ask may simply be met with no response at all.  During a F2F campaign, we hear directly from potential donors as to what resonates, and sometimes more importantly, what simply isn’t working.

Turn these insights into data through your CRM to truly make the most of your face-to-face investment.

Coordinate a multi-channel stewardship approach

Your F2F program should never be viewed in isolation.  Instead, it should be viewed as one channel in a multi-channel approach.  

For example, territory selection is one of many tasks that need to be tackled prior to launching a F2F program.  Once you’ve determined which markets you want to get started in, why not leverage existing channels (i.e. direct mail, social media, etc.) in order to prime these territories for the upcoming canvas?  Targeted DM drops and geo-targeted Facebook campaigns are just two examples as to how you can build the legitimacy of your F2F program and gain the confidence of the community, prior to even getting started.

F2F should never be framed in the context of diverting funding away from your long-standing acquisition channels.  While we believe F2F is the best way to build/acquire a sustainer file, other approaches such as telemarketing, SMS, and email can and should be employed in order to effectively steward newly acquired donors.

The success of F2F is premised on the ability of both the agency and the nonprofit to onboard/retain as many sustainers as possible. As a result, every tool at the disposal of the nonprofit should be employed in order to make sure that sustainers are stewarded with care and consistency. 

Partner with a face-to-face fundraising company

While face-to-face fundraising is a proven channel, we’d be remiss if we failed to mention the significant investment involved. Whether training fundraisers, equipping them with technology and other physical resources, or deploying them into the field to connect with potential sustainers— the expenses can add up.

This shouldn’t prevent your organization from launching a campaign. Instead, it should motivate you to make sure you have a successful campaign from the start, with all of the proper checks and balances in place.

Face-to-face fundraising may seem simple enough to launch internally, but developing the infrastructure is a massive undertaking. HR, recruiting, training and compensation management all need to be factored into consideration, both from an effort and a cost perspective. Our recommendation is to launch your initial efforts with a reputable F2F agency. If you find over time that you want greater control over your canvassing efforts, building an in-house team could become a viable option at that time.

Partnering with a face-to-face fundraising company ensures that your organization has the best chance possible to launch a successful pilot. These agencies can:

  • Develop a face-to-face fundraising strategy to fit your specific campaign needs.
  • Field test that campaign before the full rollout, to develop a proof of concept and ensure proven success over the long-term.
  • Train fundraisers on best practices and charity-specific messaging, every single day.
  • Collect data on the campaign and report it back to your organization in real-time.
  • Brainstorm ways to incorporate your face-to-face insights and strategy into your nonprofit’s integrated fundraising efforts.

A face-to-face fundraising campaign is a larger-scale, higher resource, and more coordinated effort than your nonprofit may have completed in the past. Working with a company that specializes in the process can help your nonprofit navigate the effort. Don’t approach this project with a vendor-client mentality.  Instead, come into your first program with partnership and cross-functional collaboration in mind.


Face-to-face fundraising is a powerful tool for nonprofits looking to build their recurring giving program. However, if your nonprofit has tried this technique to no avail— it’s time to revisit your strategy.

Experiment with the above tips to improve your F2F fundraising strategy. With a bit of research, technology, and even outside help— your nonprofit can be knocking on doors in no time!


Author: Naseem Saloojee

A seasoned executive with deep experience in the social sector, Naseem lives by the motto that businesses can “do well by doing good.” 

As CEO of Globalfaces Direct (GFD), a leading multi-channel outsourced fundraising provider for the not-for-profit sector, Naseem leads a team of 1000 fundraisers in over 70 offices across North America. 

Before joining GFD, Naseem was SVP of Sales and a member of the executive team at Top Hat, a leading education technology company. In Naseem’s 4 years there, he guided the company to ~10X revenue growth, helped the company win Techvibes’ Canadian Startup of the Year award, and helped the company to be recognized amongst the fastest growing companies in the country by the Deloitte Fast50 and Profit500. 

Previously, Naseem spent a number of years leading consulting teams for McKinsey & Company, where he was awarded the firm’s prestigious Social Sector Fellowship in economic development and worked with foundations, NGOs and government organizations across North America, the Middle East and Africa.

Naseem has an MBA from Harvard Business School and a Bachelor of Commerce degree from Queen’s University. 

Face-to-Face Fundraising: 5 Ways to Improve Your First Launch