With this blog post, I’m launching a new, regular feature at Michael Rosen Says. Periodically, I’ll invite an outstanding, published book author to write a guest post. If you’re an author who would like to be considered, please contact me directly.
For the first author-guest-post, I invited Stephen F. Schatz, CFRE, author of Effective Telephone Fundraising: The Ultimate Guide to Raising More Money, the definitive book about how to make a successful appeal using the phone. Steve and I worked together as telephone fundraising pioneers. In his book, for which I wrote the Foreword, he reveals most of our proven techniques. Step-by-step, his book shows the right way, the most effective way to do telephone fundraising. As the back-cover says, “Despite the advent of sophisticated fundraising methods via the Internet, social media, and other online platforms, the bottom-line truth is: good old-fashioned telephone fundraising still works, bringing in over one billion dollars annually from generous Americans. It’s a wellspring of untapped funds your nonprofit could be reaping. Savvy, straightforward, and humorous, Effective Telephone Fundraising: The Ultimate Guide to Raising More Money shows you how to secure more donors, raise more money, and build donor loyalty.”
For this post, Steve looks at things from a different perspective and shares what he believes are the things fundraisers should never do in their phone fundraising programs:
When my wife heard that I was writing an article about the DON’Ts of telephone fundraising for Michael’s blog, Michael Rosen Says, her helpful suggestion for #1 was “Don’t pick up the phone — it might be a telemarketer!”
I had to explain the slant was to help telephone fundraisers, not to hurt them. In my recent book, Effective Telephone Fundraising, I suggest plenty of “DOs” — things you can do to make effective telephone fundraising calls. But here for your reading pleasure are some of the DON’Ts!
1) DON’T NEGELECT 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 okay…” giving 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, even the automobile. You are interrupting their 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 — perhaps even waving his latest dandy toilet brush in your face — saying, “It’ll make your bowl the tidiest and cleanest in town!” Rude!
What if the prospect chooses “opt out”? You can try to arrange a more convenient time he or she 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 — a fear to steel 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 grants writer be in writing a proposal to a foundation that ended, “Well, anything your foundation can spare this year, we’ll appreciate!” Or, thinking in another, 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 great new pizza shop on Market Street 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 a “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 the Lord gave us 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 them on the phone, it will help involve them in the call and, ultimately, help bring them to your cause.
4) DON’T FAIL TO CONFIRM A PLEDGE ACCURATELY, COMPLETELY
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 okay to have a kind of formality, even scripted routine that ensures there is no disagreement or misunderstanding about a pledge.
What is a pledge, exactly? It is a promise to pay a specified amount of money on or by a specific date. No “ifs,” “ands” or “maybes.” To collect on the promise repeat the amount, at least three times, with the prospect’s assent. Also agree on a date or deadline by which the gift is to be sent.
To ensure they can act on their promise be sure to update the prospect’s address (which can change frequently from your records) and the prospect’s email address so your organization can communicate in a timely and more efficient manner, perhaps even enabling prospects to honor their pledge by entering their credit card information via a web link.
You would be surprised, over the years how many telephone fundraisers drop the ball after doing all of the hard work of obtaining a pledge. “Ah, Steve, I see you got a $100 pledge from Mr. Doe … great work! Did you get the prospect’s 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 CONSTITUENT FEEL VALUED AND APPRECIATED
This is a corollary to “Create a Conversation.” As a two-way communication medium, 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 and establishing or reestablishing 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!” “Ms. Jones, thank you for being a subscriber this year. How are you enjoying the season?” “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.
That’s what Steve Schatz and Michael Rosen say… What do you say? Share your thoughts or questions and Steve and/or I will be happy to respond.