Question: Why mailings over phone calls?

Why do we do mail campaigns over personal telephone calls?

Almost every nonprofit sends out letters to their donors asking for money. It is a tried and true method and a great way to get support from a large group quickly. Doing major gifts solicitations, I have been really surprised at how large of a gift many people will give if you just ask them for it. This made me wonder why don’t we do more calling of our donors to ask them for money?

I know many organizations are quick to use a fundraising call company, but why aren’t we doing it ourselves? We send the letters out and spend a lot of time thinking through how we will ask for money. So why don’t we call our middle level donors and ask them over the phone?


6 Responses to Question: Why mailings over phone calls?

  1. Janice Chan says:

    blahblahblah staff resources blahblahblah

    Yes, it’s much more time intensive. But I think the bigger issue is….how many people volunteer to make those phone calls, major gift officers aside? Rejection is a lot easier to take when you can come up with a million reasons why someone did not donate after a direct mail solicitation – they never got the letter, they never opened it, they meant to and forgot, etc., etc. It’s a lot harder when someone specifically rejects your request. However, it is also conversely much more uncomfortable for most people to reject a request when they have to say no to an actual person, provided you’ve gotten to the point of actually being able to make the ask/make your case before they hang up on you. Which is probably a large part of why asking personally tends to be much more effective. And probably why you should never ask somebody out over e-mail.

    That being said, I have to admit that I hate calling people I don’t know. I’ve done it to recruit volunteers rather than for fundraising purposes, but being hung up on 25 times before lunch takes it toll. However, once I did call as a follow up after event sponsorship solicitations were sent to see if they had any questions, and while very few people did and most said they weren’t interested/able to, this didn’t bother me as much. Perhaps because my goal was not to ask them to sponsor, just to provide information. Maybe this would be a better place to start for those a bit intrepid of asking people they don’t know to donate over the phone: send the letter first and then call to see if they have any questions about the organization.

  2. Christian says:

    I’d be very curious to see the results of comparing an email conversion (letters sent to actual individuals that donate) vs. a phone campaign comparing calls made::promises given::actual individuals donating.

    Jason, in your experience: do people who say in person they will donate usually give (trying to follow the law of consistency), or do you just calculate a given amount have good intentions or are just telling you what you want to hear and never will follow through?

  3. I’ve always seen far more success come from in-person solicitations or even phone solicitations over mail solicitations. We all know the number one reason people give is that they were asked. Janice pointed out that many times we don’t get a donation back is that people don’t open the letter, it gets lost in the mail, etc., etc. So, ultimately, the ask is never made. By making contact in person, we ensure that the ask is made. And it is a lot harder to turn down someone in person.

    Case in point: membership drive.

    My client used to renew memberships by simply sending out a letter when the membership expired. The renewal rate was low. Over the summer (their busiest month), we started a phonathon to call lapsed members. Once a week, we had 7-10 callers phone our past members to renew for about 2 horurs in the evening. We renewed 7-10 memberships per night. Additionally, we sold memberships in the gift shop. We simply set up a table and had a volunteer man it each day. Every day we would sell anywhere between 5 and 10 memberships. That month we sold 207 memberships. The same month in the year before, we had only sold 50.

    I think asking on the phone or even better – in person – makes a BIG difference!

  4. I agree with pretty much everything you said. Yet, does this work with prospects who have never donated before? Also, if the person on the other end of the phone does agree to donate, what is the best way to collect payment? Do you think they would be skeptical of giving their credit card info over the phone?

    I LOVE this blog!

  5. Jason Dick says:

    Janice- I like your idea of the soft phone ask… I’ve always looked at it as providing them the opportunity to get involved and I often take that more information route.
    Christian- I’ve found that most people that actually pledge to give over the phone or otherwise usually do so. But I have found sometimes if it’s over the phone it takes more tracking down or follow-up calls.
    Renee- I totally agree. I think that people seem to be willing to listen a little bit more when it’s a live human voice or someone in person. I don’t even read the majority of the letters I get but out of common courtesy I’ll listen to someone on the phone. And if someone takes the time to see me I am inclined to not let their time be wasted either. I find that most people if they are allowing you to talk to them in person about money have already decided they will give.
    Ryan- Thanks for the compliment on the blog. I’ve had people ask to be invoiced and people give their credit card over the phone. I’ve actually found that many people are more comfortable giving their credit card over the phone than online or in a letter.

    Wow. You all had incredible comments. It sounds to me like finding a way to make an initial phone or in person visit that includes some kind of soft appeal could work really well. Maybe a donor will come in for a tour or give a smaller gift and you can get them plugged into things more quickly. Thanks for so many great ideas.

  6. […] Dick advises to pick up the phone to solicit major […]

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