6 ways to convince supporters to donate through a phone conversation

May 16, 2017 - 9 minutes read

We’ve often had fundraisers wondering if phone fundraising might be going the way of the dodo bird. Frankly, with ‘fancy’ new channels — like the Internet, social media, and other online platforms — out there, making donation appeals over the phone can seem somewhat old-fashioned. But, the truth is: Asking for donations over the phone still works, albeit when done right.

Today, people look for personal ‘touch’ in nearly all aspects of their lives — whether it’s a job or a purchase. Having a conversation in real time with a real person is often more effective than anonymous methods like email or online forms, especially when it comes to making financial decisions. In fact, the personal connection that comes from this type of interaction is the driving force behind successful fundraising campaigns. Plus, phone calls are still the primary source of communication for many — a simple reminder of why you should pick up that phone more often to make donation appeals.

But because phone calls work on such personal levels, things can quickly go from effective to annoying if you’re not careful. To make sure you don’t make that mistake, we’ve got for you some great tips and strategies you can use to hit the ‘sweet spot’ when convincing existing or potential supporters over the phone.

6 ways to convince supports to donate over a phone call

1. Be Empathetic and Understanding

A couple of years ago, I came across this article by a charity sector journalist receiving a fundraising phone call and how she had a pleasant experience out of it — completely opposite of what she had expected. What stood out from the article was the fact no matter how noble your cause is, you have to remember that your call is interrupting someone in his or her office or home or wherever else they are. And, it’s okay for them to not feel invested right off the bat.

If you’re talking to a new prospect, you have to earn their time, trust, and support before you can convince them to give to your organisation. And, this may take a few tries. However, there’s a fine line between being persistent and being pushy, and you wouldn’t want to tread into the latter.

2. Ask for Their Time

Barging in without asking the prospect for the permission to speak can be uncomfortable or plain rude. Instead, you could simply ask “Is now a good time to talk?” or introduce yourself — “Hi! I’m ABC, calling from XYZ organisation and I’d like to speak with you for a few moments about [insert the cause], if that’s okay…”— giving the prospect an opportunity to opt out. So what’s the point in showing them a way out even before placing your pitch? They will see you as someone who respects their boundaries and not just another pushy fundraiser.

What if someone chooses to opt out? You can try arranging a more convenient time to have the conversation. If that doesn’t happen, they weren’t probably interested anyway. It pays to remember that pressure tactics may get you so far as to get someone to donate, may be, once. But rest assured, they won’t stick around.

3. Know What You’re Talking About

As simple as this might sound, you’d surprised to know how many fundraising calls start and end with pleas for donation. This often happens when organisations hand their calls over to third-party callers who simply read out from canned scripts, which has nothing that stands out from hundred other fundraisers. This also happens when smaller non-profits don’t invest in training their staff and volunteers. The result? Half-hearted responses or phones being slammed down. After all, no one likes to entertain phone calls from strangers asking for money.

Fundraisers that inspire confidence are the ones that know about the work they do and its impact, and are prepared to answer the questions that prospects may have. The key is to make them feel good about the difference they can make by donating to your cause. Provide specific information and data about the problems you’re fighting to solve and how their donations can help.

For someone who has donated in the past, you can use that contribution as a way to launch your pitch. Starting off with an appreciation or “thank you” for their previous donation and how it has helped your cause can be a great way to get them involved in the conversation. Knowing the changes they’ve helped to bring on can encourage them to make future contributions.

4. Be a Good Listener

While it’s tempting to blurt it out all in one go when talking to donors and prospects, it’s important to listen to them as well. Allowing a two-way conversation between both parties is critical to build a strong rapport with them. Create enough space for them to ask questions and share their thoughts. In a conversation that’s not face-to-face, this flow of dialogue can help you strike the right connection. This will also help you figure out if they are genuinely interested in your organisation and how likely they are to engage.

5. Have a Script… But, Know When to Not Use It

Preparing a general outline of what you’re going to say prior to calling donors can be a great way to ensure you’ve covered all the points you wanted to make. Remember to create your general scripts keeping in mind the listener. For example, existing donors will need to be spoken to differently than brand new prospects.

But at the same time, you shouldn’t stick to a line-by-line script. This will make your pitch sound too “salesy” or insincere and will leave your prospects unmoved due to the lack of authenticity. Instead, you should let the conversation move naturally, treating your script merely as a general guide.

Inject passion into your pitch and try to project positivity through your expression and voice. Because people are more likely to give when the donation is meaningful to them, personalize your tone and language so that a prospect can feel connected to your cause. Saying “please” and “thank you” during your conversation is practically a no-brainer. But, researcher Dr Russell James’ findings have revealed that using words like “love”, “save”, “convenient”, “simple” and, “fast” among twenty-two other words can boost persuasion, drawing positive responses from supporters.

6. Use a Caller ID That Donors Will Recognise

We can all tell by personal experiences that people are more likely to pick up a phone call when a familiar number flashes on their phone screen. CallHub allows you to have a local presence, regardless of where your volunteers are calling from or the size of your campaign. That way you can have volunteers joining your organisation from any part of the globe without hurting the engagement rate of your campaign.


Despite the advent of new technologies, phone is still a powerful fundraising tool. Following these tips can help you win more supporters for your organisation and engage donors who care about your cause.

Tags: , , ,