How To Get Started With Telephone Fundraising

August 22, 2018 - 8 minutes read

It is a cold winter evening. Mrs. Samuel has just got in from work and she makes herself a hot cup of coffee when the telephone rings. It is a polite young man, calling on behalf of Hope Society. Jon looks at the call center dashboard and notes that Mrs. Samuel had made a previous donation of $25 to their education campaigns in third world countries. As she picks up the phone, Jon greets her with a warm, cheery hello and asks if it is the right time to talk to her.

“Yes,” says Mrs. Samuel
“This is Jon, calling on behalf of Hope Society. Am I speaking with Mrs. Samuel?”
“Yes, this is she,”
“Good evening Mrs. Samuel. We are setting up a new initiative to build schools for children in Burundi. I wanted to know if you’re interested in supporting the cause?

During the course of the conversation, the polite young man is able to persuade Mrs.Samuel to sign up for regular giving.

Jon could communicate effectively with Mrs. Samuel as he had a record of her previous interactions with the organization. In addition to that, he prioritized his calls, stuck to a calling schedule and had a personalized conversation which increased the odds of Mrs. Samuel making a donation. In this article, I will take you through 5 steps which will help you successfully raise funds through telephone fundraising.

Prioritize who you’re going to call

Before making calls categorize your contacts into recent donors, lapsed donors, and most frequent donors. Now, these are the people you have to contact first, as they trust you and have experience in making donations. Later, you can shift focus to calling your event attendees and others who’ve signed up on your website.

Don’t be afraid to pick the phone and call donors. A warm and grateful phone call with a compelling ask will get fantastic response rates.

Contacting lapsed donors work because 19% would say yes to give again. And don’t forget to contact your past volunteers, as they are no longer in a position to donate their time, they’re more likely to make contributions.

As with all your telephone fundraising efforts, consider the rule of “recent, frequent, and valued”.

Jon’s opening:
Hello, I’m Jon, calling on behalf of Hope Society.
Am I speaking with Mrs. Samuel?
Before we start, I’d like to give you a huge thank you for your contributions.

Personalize your calls

Humans give to humans. So, let your own personality shine throughout the call. Use your donor’s names, and the information you already know about them, such as details about their interests or past donations.

This doesn’t mean that your phone calls should be as informal as a chat with a friend or neighbor, but it means that every conversation should begin with a cheery hello and a name confirmation.

Keep the conversation personal without being overbearing. Ask your donors how they are and thank them for past donations.

Stick to a calling schedule

Before making calls find a schedule that works for you. This could be a particular hour or a day when response rates are high. You can set aside a day (weekdays between 2-8 p.m.) when everyone jumps on the phone to ask for donations.

Weekdays work better to contact donors. And since people have different schedules, you can try three call attempts spaced over morning, afternoon or evening to maximize the chances of getting a hold of them.

It is important to note that telephone calls to donors should not be made later than 9.00pm.

The case-Jon presents the problem:
Children in Burundi do not have access to education, mostly because the country doesn’t have enough schools.
The solution is to build more schools.
Because of loyal supporters like you, we can succeed in our mission.

Structure your calls

A phone call has to be a two-way conversation that focuses more on listening than speaking. This is important because there is a direct correlation between the length of conversation and the likelihood of the donor contributing.

A script is not ideal, but it helps you structure your call. By referring to a script you know what you will say and how you will say it, but make sure you don’t come across as mechanical. This puts off donors.

A general structure to your calls should look like:

  • Build rapport with the donor by thanking them for their initial support. This can be for donating, subscribing, attending an event, etc.
  • Next, check their details.
  • Take their feedback and ask for opinions.
  • Last, present the cause and share the solution. Ask the donor if they want to be involved and tell them how they can help you with your cause.

Be prepared for a no

While making fundraiser calls, It’s important to enter every call expecting a yes, but be prepared for a no.

Most supporters you call will not give you a definite answer. They will be somewhere in between undecided or giving you a reason why it’s not for them.

No matter what the response is you need to come across as genuine. There is no right answer, just make sure you thank them for their time.

Jon’s closing:
Do you want to help us in our mission to provide education to children in Burundi?
Thank you! What we need is a donation. Most people are giving between $$ – $$$, how much would you like to give?

Although emails, newsletters, online donation forms and other mass communications play an important role in the overall development of your nonprofit, direct conversations have the most impact on your fundraising revenue. So, follow these aforementioned tips to make the most out of telephone fundraising. And tell us some of your best practices in the comment section below.

We’ve written in detail about fundraising scripts. Check it out here: How to write the easiest Fundraising Cold Call Script

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