Monday, September 22, 2008

Telephone madness

I can't believe there are still people out there calling themselves fundraisers who don't think using the phone to call their supporters is a good thing.

Many years ago it was a big argument in the UK. I remember going to board and senior management meetings where people were trying to tell me how to do my job. They would say things like “... well I would never make a gift if I received a phone call at home, probably when I am in the bath ...”

Putting aside the fact that I must have a lot of very clean colleagues, I am so glad that I managed to convince them that this was a load of nonsense – squillions of pounds later they got it.

I know the argument has raged in Australia too, but I thought it was over. Surely no one would be daft enough to think that using the phone would damage relationships with donors?

Badly made calls, churn and burn calls and rare “shady” calls can damage relationships, but the majority of calls made to donors these days are done by professional fundraisers; trained people who work hard to understand and maintain the long-term relationship with the donor.

And yet the negative approach to telephone fundraising continues. A couple of months ago at a masterclass in Sydney I had one fundraiser telling me they wanted to use the phone to talk to her supporters about becoming regular givers but their board wouldn’t allow it. The reason was the same, a board member had said, “If I got a call like that,I wouldn’t respond ...” Aaarrggghh!

It reminded me of a friend (who will remain nameless) who got a job at a large-ish charity a few years ago.

This friend is a pretty damn good fundraiser, and knows her stuff. The new employer had tons of donors and a decent regular giving program. What is the first thing she wants to do? Of course – a phone campaign to upgrade (increase the monthly gift).

With agencies and in-house teams succeeding in getting 40-60% of donors to upgrade, and getting an increase in the amount by 40-60% as well, you end up with between 16% and 36% increase in regular giving income from those you talk to! Wow! And that is annual income. We also know that people who upgrade are more likely to upgrade again.

My charity fundraising friend pulled together a great proposal.

The response from her boss? “I don’t work in the kind of organisation that bothers its donors at home.” She refused to even read the proposal.

Our friends at The Lost Dogs’ Home have proved the importance of great phone calls and great customer care. They have a terrific retention rate, but they also spend time and care finding out about their donors’ views of animals, and even their pets’ names.

This intimacy pays off with great phone calls that are really good chats between animal lovers, often around the donor’s pet.

Now, if you think I am being negative, I am positively sweet compared to my mate John Burns. I asked him for a quote and this is what he sent:

“I'm morally opposed to fundraisers imposing their outdated morals on their charities to the detriment of their beneficiaries. A more supreme example of ignorant arrogance might be hard to find…”

Please don’t knock stuff back for unsubstantiated reasons. Get the facts, don’t rely on anecdotes, and above all – put it to the test.

This blog is based on an article I wrote for Fundraising and Philanthropy Magazine, in Australia. For more information about fantastic quality phone calls for your donors please talk to me or

Thanks! Sean Triner

No comments:

Disaster Fundraising Guide download it here