4 Reason To Avoid Commission Models For Canvassers

May 24, 2018       THE NONPROFIT TIMES      

Any development officer can tell you that fundraising is a relationship business and the more connected the supporter, the better that relationship. Face-to-face fundraising’s ability to create one-on-one engagement between supporter and representative, secure donors without any sort of list, and adjust messaging or test out new ideas on the fly have made it all the more common to see canvassers in your neighborhood.

The related evolution of canvassing as a potential career path has buttressed the growing popularity of face-to-face fundraising, but it isn’t without its potential snares. During their presentation, “Best Practices on Managing a Face-to-Face Fundraising Program: Data from the Door, Street and Mall” at the 2018 Association of Fundraising Professionals International Fundraising Conference in New Orleans, La., Jerome Cheung, U.S. managing director for Public Outreach Fundraising, and Ashley Bloom, senior vice president of Member Drive, discussed some of the downsides to a commission model for compensating canvassers.

    Four primary reasons for avoiding a commission-based model are:

  • Such arrangements would be unethical treatment of canvassers. Some canvassers might end up earning less than a living, or even minimum, wage. Organizations with anti-poverty missions would run the risk of contradicting their own missions;
  • It’s illegal. The U.S. Department of Labor has issued opinions stating that charitable fundraisers are not exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act, which mandates a minimum wage and overtime pay. The IRS has ruled that charities cannot hire fundraisers as independent contractors;
  • It makes finding quality canvassers more difficult. Quality applicants might not be attracted to commission arrangements; and,
  • Canvassers paid on commission can lead to lower donor satisfaction. Tying compensation to commission has the effect of leading to the kinds of aggressive and deceptive tactics that result in poor donor experiences.
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