Rattling tin is silenced as charities sign up regulars

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The Independent Online

The rattle of the collecting tin has been silenced. Charities and voluntary organisations which relied for years on flag days and street collections are instead seeking longer-term support from potential donors, with staff being sent out into the streets to persuade passersby to pledge regular contributions.

The rattle of the collecting tin has been silenced. Charities and voluntary organisations which relied for years on flag days and street collections are instead seeking longer-term support from potential donors, with staff being sent out into the streets to persuade passersby to pledge regular contributions.

In return, the donors, who sign up to pay monthly sums, are sent bulletins, information packs and magazines telling them about the charity's work. And thanks to changes in Gordon Brown's last Budget, many contributors have been persuaded to sign up because they can make financial gains themselves from becoming donors.

Among the charities which have taken up the face-to-face sales pitch are Barnado's and Save the Children. Oxfam, which has just carried out a face-to-face trial in London, has been so pleased by the result that it has decided to go ahead with another pilot in Edinburgh.

One of the main reasons why charities have taken up this new form of street recruitment is the decline of charitable giving among young people. In 1978, 24 per cent of householders in their 20s gave to charity; by 1998, the figure had dropped to 17.4 per cent.

For years, many charities had used direct mailshots to try to attract new, regular donors but they found that young people very rarely read appeal leaflets and brochures. "They seem too busy to read; it's not part of their culture," said Oxfam's Olive Gearing. "This new method is very successful. They like the direct approach."

The drive to recruit regular donors has boomed since the Chancellor made it financially more attractive to give money to charity. Since April, Gordon Brown has added 28p to every £1 given to charity, which is the equivalent to tax relief at the basic rate of 22 per cent. But should a higher-rate taxpayer sign up with a charity for regular giving, the organisation would still only benefit from the basic rate, rather than the higher 40 per cent. Instead, higher-rate donors are entitled to reclaim the 18 per cent different from the Inland Revenue via their self-assessment forms.

Save the Children has been using face-to-face recruiting for 18 months and has found that new supporters are particularly attracted by the offer of regular updates on the charity's work. "It makes people feel involved," said the charity's spokeswoman Alero Harrison.

Recruitment drives are the latest in a series of innovative marketing ideas adopted by charities. In the past few years, large numbers of voluntary organisations have abandoned the traditional sponsored walk around the neighbourhood park for exotic treks across the globe as a way of both raising badly needed funds and attracting young people to commit themselves to a particular cause.

The face-to-face covenanting drive has become popular in recent months after a few charities spotted it as a successful recruitment tool used by pressure groups.

Barnado's opted for face-to-face covenanting after seeing a decline in interest in direct mailshots. Credit card fundraising - through the use of its affinity card - has been only moderately successful, as has telephone cold-calling. The children's organisation now has 4,000 to 5,000 regular fundraisers who recruit donors in the street. They are each paid a small commission for collecting a person's signature and bank details. Andrew Nebel, Barnado's director of marketing, said: "The days of the old methods, like the collecting tin, are numbered. Charities like ours need bigger, regular donations. Each year we help 147,000 people through 3,000 projects and they need constant sources of income, not the odd pound here and there."

Not every charity is abandoning the collecting tin, however. Although the high cost of organising collections together with the expense of gaining a collecting licence often makes them uneconomic, some organisations think they are worthwhile because they boost volunteers' morale. Nothing could be more important than that: the volunteer is the most likely person to remember a charity in his will. And the best donation of all for charities is a hefty legacy.

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