Dear Kim:

Our board is doing a year-end phone-a-thon to all our members who have not renewed in the last 16 months.  We are sending a letter and return envelope, and then calling all those who haven’t responded.  I want to give all the board members a script and wonder if you have a template that would be easy to adapt.  I have looked online, but they are all so complicated.

~Dialing for Dollars

Dear Dollars:

I always carry a sample script in my virtual back pocket, and have pasted it in below.  Before we get to that, keep in mind these simple pointers:

§     In addition to renewing membership, see the call as a chance to answer questions or concerns that people have about your organization.

§     When you reach someone, thank her or him for their time, no matter what they say.

§     Leave a message if you get an answering machine.  (You will want to create a short message for your callers.)

§     Be prepared to re-send the letter and reply envelope because some people will say they didn’t get it or they lost it.  This is a good chance to confirm that you have their right address.

§     Don’t take anything personally.


“Hello, is this ___________?”


“I’m Sally Goodperson and I am on the board of the Effective Membership Agency.  Do you have a few minutes to talk?”


“Last month we sent a letter to all our members asking for a contribution to our important work, and we are following up with people we haven’t heard from to see if you have any questions or concerns about what we are up to, and to see if you will be able to help by renewing your membership.”


(The person you are calling may well say something here, such as “I meant to get to that” or “I thought I sent something in.”  Or “I’m just not able to give anything extra right now.”  Whatever they say, you can respond to, but be sure to give them a little room to speak.)

Wait just a couple of seconds, and if they don’t say anything, continue:

“Did you get the letter?”


“Then you may remember that we are really excited about our … project” (or whatever YOU, the caller, are most excited about that was mentioned in the letter.  You will do best if you talk about something that is exciting to you.)  Say one or two SHORT sentences about the work of your organization, then:

“Did you have any questions or suggestions about what we are doing?”


If yes, respond.  If “No, I just haven’t had time to look at it” or something like that, continue:

“We rely on membership dues for the bulk of our income.  People like you make our work possible. Would you renew your membership with a gift of $___ ?”

If yes, then get their credit card information if possible, or direct them to your website to give online or offer to send them a return envelope.

If they do say they “will send something” send them a thank you note with a return envelope in it.  You’ll have much higher return that way.

I would focus the calls on people who are long time members because those are the ones who are most likely to give again and to be nice about the call.  If someone says they don’t like these kind of calls, tell them you will make sure they are put into the “DO NOT CALL” part of your database.  (Make sure they know that nonprofits are exempt from the DO NOT CALL federal laws, though.)

If the person seems rushed or answers, “No, I can’t talk” or “No, I can’t help you” or just seems put out in some way, just wind up the conversation by saying something like:

“I’m sorry to have caught you at a bad time.  Can I call back later?”

“I’ll only take a moment of your time.  I just called to see if you would consider renewing your membership this year, and to answer any questions or concerns you might have about our work. You can find out more about what we are doing by looking at our website, and you should feel free to contact our director if you want.”

If they say they can’t help, thank them anyway.

Always end with:
“Thanks for talking with me.”

Giving people a script or at least script prompts is really important.  As people get comfortable being on the phone, they will use the script less and less, but it gives them confidence to have it initially.

~Kim Klein