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Last updated May 16, 2017

Your How-To Guide to Street Appeals

For decades Street Appeals have proven to be a successful fundraising activity for many non-profit organisations, and it seems that even in a largely cashless society, organisations who ‘shake the bucket’ continue to garner support.

That said, Street Appeals have definitely evolved over time. Once used as the primary activity during an organisations awareness week, Street Appeals are now just one cog in a much larger wheel. Hitting the streets is as much about raising profile, as it is about raising funds, and Street Appeals are becoming more and more coordinated and incredibly clever.

If you are considering a Street Appeal for your organisation, your first step is establishing your eligibility with your local council. Almost all local councils insist that you are a registered charity in order to carry out a Street Appeal, and some also expect that any group is part of a larger, national organisation. However, there are a few councils who will allow unregistered organisations to carry out an appeal, provided their ‘credentials are established with local Police’ before making an application. Check with your own local council about eligibility before you get too far down the planning track.

Once you have established your eligibility, you’ll need to decide on an appropriate date for your appeal. If you are a national organisation, then you probably have an awareness day or week already, but if you are a smaller organisation, you will need to carefully consider the best time of year to ‘hit the streets’. You may want to consider how mainstream observance days such as Valentines Day, Mothers Day and Fathers Day relate to your cause.

Once you have established your eligibility and decided on dates, it’s a good idea to apply for your permit before organising too many other details. You need to be sure your appeal can actually take place before spending too much time and energy in the planning process.

While each council has their own set of rules and regulations, in receiving a permit for a Street Appeal the following guidelines are fairly common from one council to the next. To run a Street Appeal you must:

Properly Identify Yourself.
It is expected that any person collecting on behalf of your organisation can be clearly identified as an official collector. This can be easily achieved by providing branded T-Shirts or badges, and ensuring that buckets are labelled accordingly. Council permission aside, having your collectors clearly identifiable is important for establishing trust with potential donors also.

Stay Within Your Boundaries.
When issuing a permit to carry out a Street Appeal, your local council will give you rules as to where you are allowed to collect.

For some councils these boundaries are quite broad, allowing you to collect anywhere within a specified area. In these instances, you usually need to get permission from individual businesses before setting up outside their premise. Most businesses are usually happy to oblige, (provided your collectors are not blocking an entrance or are seen to be harassing customers), but be aware that they do have the right to deny you permission.

Other councils issue permits that limit you to specific collection spots, and you may have to pay a separate fee for each spot you choose to use. Regardless of how your council allocates boundaries, make sure you stay within them. Fines for collecting outside of your permitted area can be tens of thousands of dollars. 

Work Only on Specified Days and Times.
Some councils will only provide daily permits for Street Appeals, where as others will provide permits for up to a week. However in both cases it is likely you will be given specific times for which you can collect.

Times vary from council to council but it is normal to be granted permission to carry out a Street Appeal during normal business hours. In some cases, specific exclusions such as ‘after dark’ may apply.

Be Polite and Professional.
One of the biggest complaints about Street Appeals is that people feel harassed by collectors. This has become such as issue that most councils now include a rule which states ‘collectors cannot approach or pursue members of the public to solicit a donation’. That doesn’t mean you can’t smile and say ‘Hello’ – but you must then allow the person to respond and approach you.

There are of course other rules which are specific to one council or another, but for the most part, the rules and regulations set down for Street Appeals are based on common sense and good old fashioned courtesy. Getting a permit is fairly straight-forward; preparing to make the most of your Street Appeal is what takes time and careful planning. In addition to the basics set out in your permit, make sure you:

Raise the profile of your organisation BEFORE your appeal takes place.
People give to organisations that they know, like and trust, so if your organisation is largely unknown in your community, your Street Appeal will have limited success. Before you consider a Street Appeal for your organisation, spend some time raising the profile of your organisation in your community. 

Have a Strong Campaign Message.
For a Street Appeal to be truly successful, you need to have a campaign message that’s a lot stronger than simply ‘Support Our Cause’. A good campaign message tells people, in a heartbeat, why your cause is worth supporting.

Of course, having a strong campaign message only works if it’s shared. Before you hit the streets, let people know your Appeal day is coming through your local newspaper and radio, newsletters, posters, flyers, website and social media. So much of fundraising success relies on momentum, so make sure you get the ball rolling before you bring the buckets out.

Have a Comprehensive Fundraising Plan.
Gone are the days when you simply show up and shake the bucket; Street Appeals are now just one cog in a much larger wheel. For best success your Street Collection should be a part of a much bigger campaign which includes other fundraising methods such as online giving, direct mail, envelope appeals or text-to-donate.

Train Your Volunteers.
A collector in your Street Appeal should be much more than a money handler; they should be an ambassador for your cause. They need to know what your organisation is all about, and at least be able to answer basic questions should they be asked. Most importantly, they need to have a clear understanding of your Vision and some examples of how your organisation is making a real difference in your community.

A conversation with your volunteer could be the catalyst for turning a ‘drop in the bucket’ donor into a raving fan.

Have Marketing Material Available.
If someone stops for a chat with one of your collectors, it shows that they are in some way connected to your cause – don’t let them get away! Make sure you have some brochures available about your organisation, and if and when appropriate, ask collectors to gather contact details from interested parties so you can stay in touch. At the very least you should have some cards available with website and Facebook details, so those who have shown an interest know where to go for more information.

Be Creative
In most towns and cities, there is a different Street Appeal happening almost every week. In order to make your organisation stand out from the rest, you need to be creative and give people a reason to approach you. Dress up, carry balloons, or create a point of interest somehow related to your cause.

More than anything, it is important to realise that the success of a Street Appeal should not be judged solely on the amount of money you raise. Getting out and about is a good way to stay connected with your community, and it gives you a chance to interact with potential supporters face-to-face. Remember, a Street Appeal may be the first time someone sees your organisation in action. Make sure the impression they get is a good one.

Kerri Tilby-Price
Kerri is a Facilitator / Trainer with Exult and has over 20 years experience working in and for the community sector.

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