This is the 2nd article in our year-end follow-up strategy series.
Although some fundraising experts believe a telephone call is still an effective fundraising technique, there is a lot of skepticism in our evolving digital fundraising world about telemarketing as a part of an annual campaign. Don’t donors hate telephone calls? Do people even answer their phones any more?
I believe the effectiveness of the phone-a-thon lies in how it is conducted and who is doing the calling.
For an established donor of your organization, a personal phone call or voice mail from a volunteer (who is a fellow donor and an organizational insider) is a completely different experience from an external telemarketing phone call. Providing this kind of personalized donor experience is a great way for smaller organizations to stand out, engage their donors, and make them feel known and appreciated.
The really good news is that conducting a small scale phone-a-thon is a simple, inexpensive effort for smaller nonprofits to include in a year-end fundraising plan. It is also easy to test and evaluate your first phone-a-thon for effectiveness.
Following is a step-by-step guide to implementing your phone-a-thon:
Step 1: Make a list of people you could ask to donate 1 hour to make a few phone calls. You’ll want to include folks who are regular financial supporters of your organization and who have some insider knowledge of your organization so that they can competently answer donor questions. Think about including:
- your best board members
- past board members
- engaged volunteers or organizational friends
Step 2: Identify and print a spreadsheet of your best donors who have not yet made a gift in the current calendar year. You’ll want to plan on a maximum 30 donors per caller per hour. Your phone call sheet should include name of both spouses when applicable, phone number (including area code of course), date of the last gift received. The number of years of giving is also helpful. Also include ample space for the volunteers to write notes on their call sheet.
Step 3: Schedule a phone-a-thon and invite your prospective callers. If you have several telephones at your organization, it is usually best to have all your callers come in to your office at one scheduled time and knock out the calls together. Alternatively, you can schedule individual times for your volunteers to make calls either on their own or at your office. Either way, be sure to have them complete the task within your very narrow time frame.
Step 4: Write out a detailed script for your volunteers. Clearly, you’ll want to customize the script for your organization, but here are the basic elements to include:
- address donor by name
- thank them for their previous gift
- inform them of what their gift last year accomplished
- invite them to join you (the caller) in supporting the organization again this year
- offer to resend a reply envelope for their gift or give the website address
- thank them again and invite them to call your ED if they have questions.
“Hi Mrs. Smith. My name is Louise Brown and I am a volunteer with Whoville Children’s Literacy Council. I’m calling first of all to thank you so much for helping so many kids in Whoville to learn to read through your gifts over the years. [Break and give them a chance to respond].”
“I am calling to ask if you would consider joining me again this year to help more children learn to read. You are special to us and you are one of the families we’ve been able to count on for support [Break for response].
I wanted to make sure you received a letter from [letter signer’s name] in the mail a few weeks ago that included a return envelope. I’m happy to send you another one, if that would make it easier. Or you can donate on our website. However you prefer.”
“Again, we are truly grateful for your continued support. Thanks for considering a gift again this year.”
“If you have any questions make sure to call our Executive Director at __________.”
Step 5: Make a folder for each caller containing their individual call list, sample script, credit card donation forms (if applicable), organizational information including web address and phone number.
Step 6: After the phone-a-thon check the comment sheets and mail any requested information, update any disconnected numbers, etc… Keep a record (preferably in your electronic database, but excel will work, too) of exactly who was called so that you can track which calls eventually resulted in a gift.
Step 7: Evaluate and document. Calculate the response rate and average gift amount of the donors who received calls. Don’t forget to thank your volunteers and get their feedback on the experience!
In part 3 of our series, we’ll discuss how to design a test of the phone-a-thon’s effectiveness.