What to Expect from Phone Calls and How Do I Expand My List?

Dear Kim:

I am coming up against some blocks around fundraising and need some tips from you.  How do I come up with a realistic estimation of results from phone calls?  I know that individual donations are the largest section of giving, but how do I gather more names and contacts?

~Lost in the Nitty Gritty

Dear Nitty:

As you are discovering, fundraising is basically death by detail! Before I answer your questions more specifically, let me observe something about your question, which is your use of the word, “I.”  My first piece of advice is to turn this into a “we.”  Get some people to help you—you are trying to do it all on your own and you will not succeed.  No one person can do all the fundraising required for an organization unless it is tiny and remains tiny. 

Second, any realistic estimate from any strategy is built around two pieces of information: 

1)   What is the experience of most organizations at this time?

2)   What is the experience of your organization as you work with this strategy over time?

In terms of phoning, we generally find that if you call a list of people who give away money to a cause similar to yours and ask them to consider your cause, you will get about a 5% response. In other words, for every 100 names you call, most won’t answer, some numbers will be wrong, a couple of people will be mad, and five people will give you money. 

If you call a list of people who have given your organization money (either current or lapsed donors) or who have indicated interest in your organization or cause in some way, you will get a higher response.  Sometimes people get as much as a 20% response from a hot list.  But, as all financial advisors will say, “Your results may vary.” 

If you are calling about an issue that is complicated to explain or not very visible, you may get a lower response.  Sometimes a list is bad—no one answers their phone.  So you need to do phoning for a while to figure out the best “pitch” and to learn what will be true for you.

Gathering names and contacts means asking all the people you know are interested in your organization to give, asking them who they know, and asking anyone they know who they know.  People call it “networking” but it is basically a steady slog through names of friends, colleagues, friends of friends, colleagues of colleagues.  Which is why you need more people helping you. 

Good luck!

~Kim Klein