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A Quick Guide to Kickstart Telephone Fundraising

Published: Jul 26, 2020

A fundraising experiment on two groups of donors resulted in one group generating a 41% higher revenue. 

A while back, The Thistle Foundation, a charity supporting people with physical and learning disabilities, ran an A/B test. 

They selected two groups of 1000 monthly donors and made courtesy calls to one group. The calls did not entail any fundraising ask

Yet, most donors from that group upgraded their monthly giving amount without even being asked. 

If this was the result of just courtesy calls, imagine the impact a fully-fledged telephone fundraising campaign can have. 

Phone calls help you break through the clutter and connect with prospects on a personal level. This is why they have proven to be quite valuable tools when it comes to fundraising. If you wish to put it to use, this post will help you with all there is you need to know.  

Why do you need telephone fundraising?

The top reasons why you should go for telephone fundraising are:

1. Higher response rates

As is true for any personal channel of communication, response rates for calls are high. The response rate of calls is over 250X that of emails

This metric alone shows how huge the potential of fundraising over the phone is. Even experts agree. When talking about fundraising, Simon Scriver stated:

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

  • Simon Scriver, Co-founder, Change Fundraising and Fundraising Everywhere

2. Better engagement and retention

It’s a common belief that people dislike getting fundraising calls. However, the reality is far from it. Gail Perry states that: 

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

  • Gail Perry, Nonprofit fundraising influencer, Founder of Fired Up Fundraising

Studies have proven that phone calls have a much better impact on donor engagement and retention. Welcome calls alone boost retention by 30%. Moreover, 19% of your lapsed donors would donate again if you connected to them over the phone

3. Positive impact on future giving

Owing to improved engagement and retention, calling donors also have a huge impact on future giving. 

As per research, if you called your entire donor base, 1 in 4 donors would give you more than the average donation. 

These numbers show how effective this channel is for fundraising. 

Read Next: How Nonprofits Can Take Advantage of Text From Call Center

What do you need for your phone fundraising campaign?

Before you begin with fundraising over the phone, there are a few key things you need to have in place. 

1. Outbound calling software

For successful telephone fundraising, the first thing you need is a call center software. Having a software just makes things very easy.

  • It integrates with your CRM to provide easy access to the past data your callers may need.
  • It allows you to take notes that are synced to the CRM and can be referred to later.
  • Displays a calling script right on the screen to help volunteers navigate through the conversation.
  • Lets volunteers from around the world make calls from their browsers or phones.
  • Schedule when volunteers can make calls and when they can’t to maintain calling compliance.

While it isn’t mandatory, a calling software does make the process more efficient. 

Democrats Abroad were using telephone systems and spreadsheets for calling. However, they increased their outreach by over 300% after shifting to CallHub’s call center software. Read their story here.  

If you wish to see the results for yourself, sign up for CallHub and give it a go for free.

2. Calling script

Many of your volunteers may not have the experience required for phone fundraising. Having a calling script is a great way to assist them. Even for experienced callers, it is good to have a script for reference. 

When writing a fundraising script, keep in mind that it needs to have a natural conversational flow. 

  • Start with introducing yourself, the organization, and a courtesy question.
  • Let them know why you’re calling and the work you’re doing.
  • Make the ask in a way that sparks empathy. It increases the likelihood of giving.
  • Thank them, regardless of how the conversation went.

3. Contact list

After a script and software, you need a list of people you will be calling. There is a range of people that you can make fundraising calls to. 

  • Existing donors, volunteers, event attendees, or subscribers
  • Past donors who lapsed
  • Prospects from contact lists that you bought (from vendors) or exchanged with others

With a cloud contact center software, all you need to do is upload each list as a separate contact list and select the one that you wish to start calling. 

4. Recruit volunteers or paid agents (optional)

Often you may find yourself in a situation where you might be short on staff or volunteers to make calls. If that’s the case, there are two ways you can work around it: 

  • Recruit volunteers to help you out. You can leverage tools like VolunteerMatch to find people who might be interested.
  • Hire a telephone fundraising agency. These agencies make fundraising calls on your behalf. However, they do come at a heavy price. 

5. A process to receive donations

When a prospect finally decides to make a donation, you need a set process to receive it. First, you need a payment gateway that is linked to your account. This payment gateway will be responsible for collecting donations from various sources and transferring them to your account. 

Second, you need a process to facilitate the payment. Some of the most common and efficient methods are: 

  • Text-to-donate or text-to-give: Ask contacts to text a keyword to your shortcode  to receive the donation link (or have the donation deducted from their phone bill) 
  • Text through call center: Send a follow-up text right through the call center interface with the donation link.
  • Email follow-up: Send the donation link over an email after the call. Keep in mind; sometimes, emails could be marked as spam, so there is a chance the prospect might miss it. 

When setting up the donation process, make sure that it isn’t long and complicated. That may put off donors, and you might lose them at the last stages of donation. 

Tips to make your telephone fundraising campaign a success

With all requirements in place, you can start off your telephone fundraising. The tips below will help you achieve a higher success rate for campaigns. 

1. Prioritize who you will call

Telephone fundraising can be a labor-intensive task. It may not be possible to call everyone on your contact list. List segmentation can help you with that. 

Prioritize calling people most likely to respond positively. The more they know you and are invested in your organization, the higher the likelihood of success. Organize your list in descending order of engagement as given below:

  • Existing or past major donors
  • Regular small and medium donors
  • Lapsed donors
  • One-time donors (start with those who donated recently and move back)
  • Peer to peer fundraisers
  • Social media advocates
  • Cold leads (from contact lists you may have bought or exchanged)

2. Have a multichannel approach

A majority of prospects forget about donating if they are just approached through one channel. Reinforcing the ask through multiple channels helps you tackle this better. 

Studies show that a multichannel approach not only boosts donor retention but also increases the overall amount a donor donates over a year. 

telephone fundraising multi channel approach

Source: NextAfter

Calling is a popular channel of communication in the multichannel approach that you can leverage. 

  • Run a telephone fundraising to support your direct mail or email campaigns. Call prospects to confirm if they received your mail and had any follow-up questions. This is also a good time to address any objections they may have. 
  • Support your calling campaigns with follow-up texts. Send a text through the call center software immediately after the conversation to reinforce the message. Here’s how it easy it is in CallHub:
Text through call center

You can also send an email, but the low open rates might hinder the success rate. 

  • Follow-up with people you met face to face (either during an event or while canvassing) on a call. Get their feedback or ask them survey questions to get them more closely involved with your organization. 

3. Use a script to guide the conversation

Don’t get it wrong. A fundraising call does need to have a natural, conversational flow and not sound like a sales pitch. But, it’s always good to have some reference to navigate the conversation. Instead of scripting, think of this as a structure for your call.  

Your fundraising calling script (pronounced “calling structure”) should include:

  • Examples of courtesy statements or questions to build rapport with the supporter or prospect.  
  • Key details of how they are involved with your organization. For example, talk about how much they donated earlier and how it impacted your campaign. Making them feel good about their involvement makes it easy to lead to another fundraising ask. 
  • Examples of possible objections callers may face and ways to overcome them. Start by noting down the most common objections from past calls and keep updating them as you come across more. 
  • Possible survey or feedback questions that you could ask at the end of the call. For example, if their information is up to date, whether they have suggestions about your work, etc. 

Here’s a sample of a script for reference:

Caller: Hello, {Contact Name}. I am {Callers Name} from {Organization Name}. How are you, this {morning or evening}?

(Around Holiday Seasons, starting with Happy New Year or Happy Holidays is acceptable.)

{Wait for response}

Follow-up conversation with: I wanted to get in touch to Thank you for the donation you made on {Donation_Date}. With donations from the campaign, we were able to build a new school in the {Region}. 

{Wait for response}

Follow-up conversation with: Would you be interested to donate again this month (or year)?

{Wait for response}

Objection 1: Actually, I’m not doing too well myself right now. 

Follow-up conversation with: Oh, I’m so sorry about that. Would you be interested in volunteering instead? We could really use all the help we have. 

Objection 2: Well, last time we kind of went out of our way to give that kind of money.

Follow-up conversation with: Well it’s fine even if you want to donate a smaller amount this time around. Every penny can make a difference.  

{Wait for response} 

Follow-up conversation with: Well that’s great to hear. I’ll send you the details in a text shortly. Also, since I have you on the phone, would it be fine if I asked for a few suggestions from you regarding our campaign. The feedback really helps us improve.

<Feedback questions>

End call with: Well it was great talking to you. And thank you again for all your help. We really appreciate it. I’ll catch up again sometime soon. Goodbye. 

4. Plan your schedule for calling

Before you begin calling, you will have to come up with a schedule that suits both your callers and prospects. 

  • Sundays and Mondays seem to be the top best days to connect with prospects. Data shows that these are the days when most people went ahead to contribute. 
telephone fundraising schedule data

Source: Medium

  • Avoid making calls between 1-6 pm. The best times are between 7-9 pm and in the morning at 8 am, and 10 am. At around 9 am, there will be a decline in calls connected, so you will have to work around it. 
  • Finally, don’t make calls after 9 pm. Calls made after this hour seem intrusive and will induce a negative impression of your organization. Plus, you’re also prohibited by outbound calling laws

With CallHub’s call center software solution, it is easy to schedule your campaigns whenever you want. Agents won’t be able to make calls outside of the hours you define. 

5. Be prepared to leave a voicemail message

A lot of your fundraising calls are likely to go to voicemail. While some of your prospects may be too busy to pick up, some of them may send you to voicemail after screening it. The latter is especially true for people who don’t want to attend calls from unknown numbers.

Regardless of the reason, rather than just cutting the call, leave a message to let them know who you are. This increases the likelihood of them picking up later or even calling you back. 

When leaving a voicemail message, ensure that you:

  • Let them who you are and the reason for the call.
  • Inform them if you’ll be trying to reach them again later. Also, let them know if you would be sending a follow-up email or text.
  • Leave your name and contact details to let them get back to you whenever possible.

6. Prepared to face objections (or even a no)

Of everyone you call, some people will give you whole-hearted yes, some may be undecided, and a majority may give you a definite no. It’s crucial for volunteers to be prepared for all these scenarios. 

  • For prospects who refuse to contribute, thank them anyway. Make sure that the caller sounds genuine. 
  • If they say they are not sure or cannot afford it, give them other options – for example, a smaller donation amount, a volunteering opportunity, a referral, etc. 
  • Make sure to send a follow-up email or text to people who say that they will let you know later. Let them know that you’ll follow up with them later over call too. 

That should cover some ways to get better at telephone fundraising. For broader fundraising best practices, take a look at this video:

To conclude

While channels like email and social media are efficient, the telephone is ideal for building strong relationships, something that is key to successful fundraising. 

Plus, it’s more difficult for someone to say “no” over a phone call, which is also why telephone fundraising can get you better results. 

Don’t ignore this valuable fundraising channel. Sign up to CallHub for free and get started today! 

Feature image source: Anna Shvets


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