Warming Up to the Cold Call
You may have heard some of the stories. Maybe you have even lived one of them. They typically begin with a fundraiser, dejected and sitting alone in a dimly lit office. He's surrounded by piles of prospect lists that never seem to dwindle. A bead of perspiration falls gently from his brow. All the while he's staring at the phone.
He's preparing for the dreaded "cold call."
The cold call is one of the scariest yet most unavoidable tasks we face as fundraisers. Few professions require telephoning of a total stranger — a person we have neither seen, nor spoken to, nor perhaps even heard of. And worse, imagine the reaction by the person on the other end of the phone when he or she suddenly realizes what you do for a living! This is a scenario for disaster.
But — and this is where a definition is critical — there are cold calls, and there are cold calls. The latter type, in which you telephone a total stranger to your organization, is not worth your time. My own experience, as well as those of a number of my colleagues, says that going to the White Pages (do they still have those?) and making a telephone call to an individual with zero affiliation to your charity most often results in exactly nothing, except perhaps frustration. (Related to this is the notion of phoning someone solely because you know her to be wealthy. If you're really trying to attract and engage this wealthy person, your time is better spent pursuing others means of introduction.)
The type of cold call I'm referring to here is part and parcel of daily development toil. It consists of making calls to people you may not know but who have at least a minimal affiliation with your institution. Perhaps they have been patients at your hospital. Maybe they enrolled as students at your school, or they have attended a show at your theater. These types of relationships, among many others, can provide the entrée you need.