Phone Calls to Donors = Highly Profitable Fundraising

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Are you afraid of telephone fundraising?

It can be scary to pick up the phone to call a donor or a potential donor!elderley-lady-on-phone

Especially when it’s so much easier to keep your polite distance and send a letter or an email solicitation.

But stop a minute and think about your donors:

Could it be that people are happy to talk to you on the phone?

Might they be happy to have actual human engagement?

But people hate getting telephone fundraising calls, right?

“Actually, if the call is done right, then they are grateful to hear from you and you can’t get them off the phone!”

People don’t want BAD direct mail or BAD email.  They don’t want BAD phone calls either.

At the International Fundraising Conference in Amsterdam, I was fascinated by a blazing defense of the phone from Simon Scriver of Change Fundraising, @toastfundraiser on twitter and

This post summarizes his very practical recommendations.

I hope they will jolt you to re-think your fundraising strategies. I’m actually quoting directly from his terrific presentation here.

“Face to face and phone will always do much better than online and mail fundraising.”

Could this be true? I know that face to face is the most effective way, but phone too?

Why you should consider the phone:

  • It’s relatively cheap. (Hurray for low-cost fundraising tools).
  • It can be very personal to the donor. (And that’s lovely, isn’t it?)
  • It supports every other medium – can boost direct mail response quickly.
  • It’s scalable: if you only have 4 donors – you can call them every month. If you have 400 you can easily reach them. If you have 4000 or 40000, you can amass armies of volunteers to call them.
  • Anyone can do them! Volunteers, staff, even donors can call other donors.

Look at all these important uses of telephone fundraising calls:

WELCOME CALLS: Say thank you! Every single donor should be thanked on the phone if at all possible!

REACTIVATION CALLS:   Ask a lapsed donor to renew their pledge. Why not?

UPGRADE CALLS:  Ask a donor to give or pledge more because of an important new initiative.

CONVERSION CALLS: Call event attendees and ask them to become monthly donors.

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Simon also shared what we can expect to raise if we used a smart phone calling strategy.

If you called your entire donor base. . . on average,

1 in 4 donors would give you more!

So if 25% of your donor base is 1000 donors, and all gave $25.00 more, then you’d have an additional $25k.

If 25% of your donor base is 5000 donors, and each of them gave $50 more, that would be 250k.

Run the numbers and see if they don’t get your attention?!

If you called all your lapsed donors,

19% would say YES.

Simon said that 50% won’t answer, 27% will say no and 19% will say yes.

Now, run those numbers and you’ll see how much money you are leaving on the table by not calling.

If you called event attendees and asked them to become monthly donors, 8% would say yes.

25% would say no and 67% would be not be able to contact.

Welcome calls to new donors boost retention by 30%.

Are you ready to pick up the phone yet?

Here are some smart guidelines for planning your telephone fundraising calls.

  • Use the donor’s name right off. Confirm who you are speaking with.
  • Be personal. You are not talking from a canned script.
  • Identify yourself and your role.
  • LISTEN – Listening will tell you what to say next.
  • Let them see your phone number so they know who is calling. Your more passionate supporters are more likely to pick up the phone.

What does a good phone call look like?

You ask leading questions where the answer is “YES.”

  • You are concerned about this cause correct?  YES
  • And you are making monthly gifts right now?   YES
  • Would you like to consider xx more a month?  YES

What to say on a phone call – words and phrases to use:

Hi, I’m xxxx, calling on behalf of xx organization.

Do you have time for a quick talk?

First of all we want to give you a huge thank you for your (gifts, volunteering, attending event) with us.

It’s awesome that you are doing this. (AFFIRMATION OF THE DONOR)

Do you mind my asking what was it that led you to make the donation in the first place? (GETTING DONOR FEEDBACK)

You may remember reading about xxx project that you helped fund.

Thanks to people like yourself, we were able to xxxx, and now here’s the impact of this xxxx.

What we are doing today – is a phone campaign so we can tackle this next important project.

We are asking people to increase their gift by xx amount and then they can help create xxxxx impact or reach xxxxx people.

Most people are giving in this range of $xxx to $xxxx. How much would you like to give?

Simon says that if you mention $75, they’ll give higher than that.

If you mention $120 they’ll give $135.

BOTTOM LINE – Telephone fundraising:

Direct calls to donors can be an amazing fundraising tool. They can raise serious money for you and your cause.