To Phone or Not to Phone Donors

Dear Kim,

I know you are a big fan of phoning donors but I personally hate to be phoned by an organization I give to and when I call people, I don’t think they are very happy either. 


Dear Thoughts,

I assume you are talking about calling people you don’t know and I would give you and everyone else this advice: don’t participate in a strategy that you really hate.  If you can’t stand special events, don’t be on that committee.  If you hate being phoned, don’t phone others.  Get on a different committee.

People’s reactions to fundraising calls vary a great deal, but tend to be in one of four categories: 

1)   Don’t mind being called

2)   Happy to be called

3)   Annoyed but know that the organization has a job to do

4)   Can’t stand being called at all. 

Many of us move from one category to another.  For example, I got three calls in one evening a few days ago.  

I was glad to hear from the first caller because I knew I had accidently thrown away their appeal. The next caller was from an organization I like well enough but he was talking way too much so I had to cut him off by telling him I would send something.  An organization I never heard of called to see if I would “renew” my support and when I said I had never given them money to my knowledge, the caller said, “that’s OK—just give now.”  I hung up, annoyed.  And when that person called back I moved into the “can’t stand being called” category temporarily. 

The telephone is a wonderful way to reach out to people—it remains “the next best thing to being there.” There is ample evidence that donors who are called tend to give more even when the callers have simply left a message.  Some people (and, Thoughts, you may be one of them) are happy to be called by someone they know but resent a stranger calling. Perhaps you would be willing to call people you know, particularly people you might call for some other reason. Fortunately, there are enough people who don’t mind calling people they don’t know that there is no reason for you to do it.  Find something you do like—you’ll be happier and more successful.

Wishing all of you good fundraising through the end of year and a wonderful 2014! 

~Kim Klein