5 Things to Never Do on Your Telefundraising Calls
When compiling a list of the “don’ts” of telephone fundraising, people’s immediate suggestion for No. 1 might be, “Don’t pick up the phone — it might be a telemarketer!”
But since the goal of making such a list would be to help telephone fundraisers rather than hurt them, maybe that’s not such a good idea.
In Stephen’s book, “Effective Telephone Fundraising,” he suggests plenty of “do’s” — things you can do to make effective telephone fundraising calls. But the “don’ts” are often just as important — if not more so. Here are five situations to avoid:
1. Don’t neglect to ask permission to speak
In the cyber fundraising world, they call this “opt in” or “opt out.” In telephone fundraising, it’s simply asking the prospect to speak with you. A range of nuance is available to the fundraiser — from the interrogative, “Is now a good time?” to the declarative, “I’d like to speak with you a few moments about XYZ Charity, if that’s OK” — to give the prospect the opportunity to opt out. It’s simple courtesy.
The telephone is an interruptive medium. Your call is either coming into the prospect’s home, office or even automobile. You’re interrupting her time, mind and focus. Barging through by telephone is like a door–to-door brush salesman ringing your bell, and the moment you open the door, sticking his foot in the crack and proceeding to make a pitch. Rude!
What if the prospect chooses to opt out? You can try to arrange a more convenient time when he will opt in. If you can’t, chances are you wouldn’t receive a gift anyway, even by sticking your foot in the door.
2. Don’t fail to ask for a specific amount
This is one of the most difficult things for new fundraisers to overcome — the fear of steeling one’s self to make a proposal with a dollar tag attached. The maxim “ask and you shall receive” is indeed apt.
How successful would a grant writer be in writing a proposal to a foundation that ended with, “Well, anything your foundation can spare this year, we’ll appreciate!” Or, thinking in a completely different vein, a young man asking a girl out for a date, shyly looking down as he shuffles his feet, “Uh, Shirley, maybe you’d like to go out with me sometime?” — as opposed to the more direct, “Shirley, there’s a new pizza shop on Market St. with the best pizza in town. How would you like to come with me next Tuesday?”
Allow the prospect to focus on a number, a specific dollar proposal. If the prospect rejects that, it opens the door to a counterproposal, a lower amount. G = f(A) is an indelible formula for telephone fundraising, and for philanthropy in general: The number of gifts you receive is a direct function of the number of asks you make.
3. Don’t fail to create a conversation
In between the hello and the pledge, a lot has to happen. Unfortunately, so many telemarketers use a one-way approach, broadcasting a pitch into the telephone’s transmitter, hoping the sheer force of their verbal wind will somehow blow money out of the prospect’s pockets in the organization’s direction. Please observe that we have two ears and only one mouth — and the most successful fundraising calls are constituted in similar proportion.
Note also that the telephone has a receiver as well as a transmitter, and encouraging your prospect to talk, comment, react will not only keep her on the phone, it will help involve her in the call and, ultimately, help bring her to your cause.
4. Don’t fail to confirm the pledge
The prospect has said yes. Now it’s time to nail down the specifics, before you celebrate. First, thank, thank, thank the prospect. You can never, ever thank donors enough. As for the specifics, it’s OK to have a kind of formality, even a scripted routine that ensures there’s no disagreement or misunderstanding about the pledge.
A pledge is a promise to pay a specified amount of money on or by a specific date. Be sure to repeat the amount, at least three times, with the prospect’s assent. Also agree on a date by which the gift is to be sent.
Be sure to update the prospect’s address and email address so your organization can communicate in a timely and more efficient manner, perhaps even enabling a prospect to honor his pledges by entering his credit card information via a Web link.
You would be surprised how many telephone fundraisers drop the ball after doing all of the hard work of obtaining a pledge. Trust us, you don’t want to be on the italicized end of this conversation:
“Ah, Steve, I see you got a $100 pledge from Mr. Doe … great work! Did you get his new home address?” “Uh, I forgot …” “Well, how are we going to send him a thank-you letter and reply envelope?” “Uh, I guess I’ll have to call him back!”
5. Don’t fail to make your constituents feel valued and appreciated
This is a corollary to creating a conversation. The phone is a two-way communication medium, so why not take the opportunity to thank donors for their prior support, or patrons for the patronage, or volunteers for their time, or constituents for whatever their involvement? It is human nature to want to feel valued and appreciated.
At the beginning of a call, nothing is more instrumental in developing rapport as establishing or re-establishing a relationship — for it’s on this secure foundation you will be successful in obtaining a gift.
- “Mr. Smith, first of all I want to thank you for your gift to the annual fund last year — we so appreciate your support!”
- “Mr. Adams, I wanted to call and thank you for caring about the plight of the homeless in our city. If everyone felt as you, there wouldn’t be a homeless problem.”
It not only works, it’s the right thing to do.
(To order “Effective Telephone Fundraising: The Ultimate Guide to Raising More Money,” go to bit.ly/1nBMv71)
Stephen Schatz is author of "Effective Telephone Fundraising: The Ultimate Guide to Raising More Money." Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org