Four Ways to Maximize Fundraising Efforts Via the Telephone
In his session on telemarketing at the DMA Nonprofit Federation 2006 New York Nonprofit Conference, Nate Drushell, vice president of marketing at InfoCision Management Corp., sought to disprove common misconceptions regarding telefundraising — among them that the phone is an effective fundraising medium only for certain organizations or only for small sub-segments of a donor file, and that using the phone will cannibalize other fundraising programs.
The phone can work as a fundraising medium for any type of organization, be it national or chapter based; can work across all segments of an organization’s donor file — high dollar and low dollar; and will only enhance other fundraising programs, not take away from them, Drushell said. That’s not to say that organizations should stop using direct mail and use the phone instead. It’s cheaper to mail than to use the phone to net donations, and so organizations should continue doing so. But, Drushell said, the more channels prospects have to give through, the more they’ll give. And the more they give, the better their lifetime value. A good thing indeed.
Drushell talked about four types of telefundraising programs: current-donor cultivation, lapsed-donor reactivation, new-donor acquisition, and family and friends/neighborhood recruitment. For each program he analyzed what an organization’s objective should be, the audience it should target, the timing and frequency of contacts, the type of appeal, and what kinds of results it can expect. Drushell noted that many people aren’t willing to give up their credit card numbers to fulfill their contribution over the phone. Those who make a commitment over the phone (front-end responders) are sent a letter that references the phone call and the amount of their commitment, and includes a return envelope for them to send in their contribution (making them back-end responders).
1. Current Donor Cultivation. When discussing this program, the three main opportunities Drushell focused on were new-donor conversion, monthly donor conversion and net-income generation.
* For new-donor conversion, the objective is securing a second gift. Drushell advised targeting newly acquired donors that have given no less than $15 via any channel — he specified this amount because of the greater costs of converting donors via the phone. These donors should be contacted roughly four to six months after giving their first gift; the appeal should have a welcome message; and the case for support should present a timely and relevant need. Drushell said organizations can expect a 15 percent to 25 percent response on the front end. Of these responders, 70 percent to 75 percent are likely to follow through on the back end.
* With monthly donor conversion, the goal of which is to build a source of sustainable ongoing income, the primary audience is multi-donors. Organizations also can include new donors, giving them the option to sign on monthly; but the best place to start is with individuals who have given before. This appeal should focus on making those who join feel special, as though they’re joining an elite club or group. The response is a little lower, at 5 percent to 10 percent on the front end with 65 percent to 75 percent of those individuals following through.
* The phone also can be used as a way for the organization to generate net income. For this purpose, the targeted audience should be 0- to 12-month donors who have given no less than $15, and multi-donors. These appeals, which should be carried out three times a year, include year-end appeals, matching-gift appeals and emergency appeals. These phone appeals net better response rates, typically in the 20 percent to 30 percent range on the front end and 75 percent to 85 percent on the back end.
2. Lapsed Donor Reactivation. Rather than pouring money into donor acquisition, Drushell urged, organizations should focus their efforts on reactivating lapsed donors with the key objective being to build the house file. Organizations should target donors that are lapsed 13-plus months, phoning them two times a year to quarterly with matching-gift and year-end appeals, as well as a renewal ask. In this case the response organizations get might not result in generated income but, Drushell said, the main goal is to get individuals back involved with the organization.
3. New Donor Acquisition. The phone can be used as an additional source for acquiring new donors using rented response lists and compiled lists. In terms of timing and frequency of contacts, Drushell recommended an ongoing program that especially capitalizes on media events that relate to the organization’s mission. This program is perhaps the hardest to do via the phone because if the individual has no relationship with the organization or understanding of what it does, it’s difficult to explain properly in a phone call. One way to overcome this is by relying on the name recognition of a well-known spokesperson, if the organization has one, and getting him or her to be the voice on a taped message. Results for this type of program are often a little less than break even.
4. Family and Friends/Neighborhood Recruitment. For this type of program an organization recruits volunteers and donors to call people in their neighborhood and ask for their support. The objective is net-income generation, new-name generation and educational outreach. Drushell recommended calling existing donors one to two times a year with a grassroots appeal. Results will vary and can range from just better than break even to a 5-to-1 return on investment.
In short, Drushell’s message was that when strategic programs are put in place with clearly understood objectives, targets and messaging, telephone fundraising can work as a viable channel to generate supplemental income and expand an organization’s donor file.
Nate Drushell can be reached via www.infocision.com