How Can We Prepare Our Team for Donor Calls?

Dear Kim,

Our organization has recently started asking staff and board to host fundraising phone banks in their local areas for our fundraising campaigns. Most of the time people are leaving messages, and the donors we do get on the phone range from not wanting to talk much to wanting to hear a lot about our work and share their ideas with us. 

Do you have any tips for our callers to help them gauge and read the signs donors are sending us over the phone lines? Any tips for preparing our callers to share their connection story with our organization that would help engage our donors in a more meaningful, organic way? 

~Phoning: The Next Best Thing to Being There

Dear Next Best,

What your callers are experiencing with their lists of donors is exactly what we would expect: most donors are not home and require a voice mail, most of those who do answer will not want to talk long and possibly not at all, and a few will either want to talk a lot or hear from the caller. Perhaps a better use of time is to prepare your callers for what they can expect from their lists of donors.

For example, keep in mind that at most 30 percent of people will actually answer their phone, so have a good message ready for the 7 out of 10 calls where you get voice mail. Know that of the 30 percent who answer, 80 percent will not want to talk long, so prepare to be brief and get to the point quickly. Look forward to the 1 out of 10 people you call who actually want to talk. (Your actual numbers may vary but these are common.)

You should also let your callers know that even the people who only get a voice mail are more likely to donate again than those donors who don’t hear from you by phone at all. Those who speak briefly with you are more likely to donate than those who simply get a voice mail. Leaving a lot of voice mail messages and being hurried off the phone by brusque donors is not that fun for the person doing the phoning but it is effective for fundraising. It will build relationships as well as boost your bottom line. The trick is to keep at it. Meaningful authentic relationships are built over time as the donors begin to realize that you actually do want to talk with them and your phone call is not just another strategy to raise money without any other engagement.  

Good luck.

~Kim Klein