Leonie Lewis is a charity consultant and the former Director of Jewish Volunteering Network who recently published her book: The Tin Lady. In this book, Lewis covers the history of street fundraising, shares her experiences as a fundraiser and offers tips to volunteers and charities. We also interviewed her to learn more about her experiences and thoughts on street fundraising.
Lewis starts The Tin Lady by highlighting the difference this form of fundraising makes. For instance, she reports: “the average tin will generate £260 per annum” and estimates that street fundraising can generate up to £26 million in a year.
She then shares how she became a street fundraiser for Harrow Mencap and offers tips on recruiting volunteers. Lewis explains that she was approached by a street fundraiser when shopping and expresses that the direct and engaging way she was approached was why she agreed to become a tin lady. Subsequently, she recommends charities recruit volunteers by being direct and engagingly explaining to potential volunteers the simplicity of the role.
Similarly, she offers advice for volunteers. Recalling some of her best and worst memories as a tin lady, she advises fundraising volunteers to look approachable and creatively attract donors through catchy phrases. She also mentions looking presentable and making good use of space, among other tips.
In addition, she explores the role of faith and the history of street fundraising. For example, did you know that it is believed tin collection started in a temple in Jerusalem to collect money for temple renovation?
Finally, she discusses the impact of COVID-19 on street fundraising and the charity sector as a whole. For example, shops are more frequently less populated, and masks make it difficult for street fundraisers to connect with the public. Furthermore, Lewis acknowledges the value of the contributions made by volunteer fundraisers and offers charities tips on how to make volunteers feel valued.
We also had the pleasure of interviewing the author, where we discussed her personal experiences as a tin lady and the challenges associated with and the future of street fundraising.
We started the interview by asking Lewis about why she chose to write this book. She described the gap in the literature on fundraising as one of the main reasons as she had been fundraising for over 11 years and was not aware of texts on street fundraising. We also discussed the importance of street fundraising and the significance of small contributions adding up. For Lewis, seeing the impact of her fundraising efforts on the services provided by Harrow Mencap was paramount in showing her the difference street fundraising can make.
When asked about the writing process, she explained that she had begun to collect notes two and a half years ago. She further explained that the COVID-19 pandemic further incentivised her to write this book and allowed her to do so.
Next, we discussed the impact of COVID-19 on street fundraising and how the charity sector can adapt to the cashless society. For this, we first addressed the definition of: “cashless society”. Cashless society refers to the digitalisation of money and fewer people carrying cash and coins in their persons. This can be linked to the COVID-19 outbreak as an increasing number of shops began to operate a “card payments only” model. As a result, Lewis estimates a significant decrease in the amount street fundraising has recently generated.
She further explains fundraising since August last year was particularly difficult for her personally, with only one in five people donating.
Nonetheless, Lewis remains hopeful about the future of street fundraising as she also noticed that more people are donating £5 notes than before. Perhaps this is one positive outcome of people carrying less change for charities that fundraise through tin collections.
Moreover, Lewis maintains optimism about the future success of street fundraising while also accepting that the charity sector needs to adapt to current times. Despite not being keen on digitalising street fundraising due to the associated costs, she acknowledges the constant technological advancements.
She admits that: “technology has a lot of answers.” She argues charities need to be less resistant to change and adapt to such changes. On a similar note, when asked about future recommendations for the charity sector, she said: “get smarter, technologically speaking”.
Finally, we discussed how her experience would differ if a different charity had approached her. She said she would have agreed to fundraise for a different charity if they had approached her in a way that was equally as engaging and straightforward. However, she is glad to be fundraising for Harrow Mencap due to the sense of community among the volunteers and the service-users’ involvement in giving back to the charity.