The Art of Phone Follow Up

November 25, 2015

Follow up calls use to be the least favorite part of my job. It can be a lot of mental work to sit down with a list of phone numbers and make call after call after call. But, the more I started to make follow up calls the more I started to like them.

How else can an organization keep in touch with a large number of constituents in a short period of time? You might say I can reach thousands of donors via email, direct mail, or blogging (if you read an earlier post). I think those are great tools but none of them are as personal as a phone call. Before I go on don’t use phone follow up as your strongest platform for solicitation. Especially for your major gifts program it is important that you meet in person with your donors.

Before starting your phone follow up make sure you have all the information you will need to answer questions within immediate reach. Have all the phone numbers, names, donor statistics (do your research before your phone call), and program details. Then rehearse a few times what you are going to say. I have often found that it takes a few messages or conversations with a few donors before my message is really polished. It is important that you speak plainly. Do not try and be smarter or more articulate than you naturally are. Donors know when you are reading a scrip or if a message is not your own. Ask questions while you are on the phone don’t do all the talking. This is a great time to learn why someone gives to your organization, how they first found out about you. This kind of conversation helps your future solicitations because you know more about what interests a donor has.

If you have a really long list of people split it up. Get a few board members to help you make calls. Set aside time to make these calls. Plan ahead a few hours every day for a week or set aside an entire afternoon to make calls. One final pointer is a little bit corny, so forgive me, but I have found that it does make an actual difference. Donors can tell by the tone in your voice if you are smiling, frowning, or bored when you are on the phone. I am not sure what it is but if I am having a conversation with someone, especially after I have said the same thing 15 times before, a smile on my face creates a better message.

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Pick Up the Phone

June 10, 2014

I want to start by saying I have this problem as well. It is easy to get comfortable with our processes and our email lists. But I’d like to advocate for the use of an old tool in fundraising, the telephone. How often do you email or send a letter instead of make a phone call? I find that email can be a great way to contact a large number of people at one time. There are some amazing things you can do to personalize email lists… I digress (I told you I’m part of the problem).

I’d like to offer that there are many things we miss by sending out an email. Talking with a donor on the phone allows us to learn a lot that we can’t learn over email. Email conversations are very scripted and short whereas on the phone you can ask questions and respond quicker. You can read verbal cues, things like hesitation or tone that we miss when we only use email. What are a few things you can learn from making a phone call:

  • Donors will often volunteer personal information about themselves or their family.
  • Many times in the small talk you will learn what is going on and important in their lives now (these are great things to follow up on later).
  • Donors will often talk about their giving interests or why they give to your organization.
  • You can learn more about the age and personality of your donor.
  • Often you can tell by the tone of their voice and their response how you rank in their giving priorities.

Do you have any additions to this list? Leave a comment below.


How to Make a Thank You Call

July 23, 2008

I’m sure you have made a thank you call before and I’m sure you are great at it. I thought it might be worthwhile for me to talk about the process I go through when making these calls. I’d love to hear from you regarding what tips you have and what things you’ve done. Please leave a comment below.

How do you make a thank you phone call? I have found that sometimes when we receive an unexpected gift we are often so surprised and caught off guard by it that we don’t make the phone call. I know these objections will sometime enter my head: I don’t know this person, If they wanted me to call they would have called me, etc. What I do immediately when I get a gift is look it up in my donor database (here is a great article on choosing a donor database), depending on the size of the gift I might spend a little time on Google (or a new search engine www.pipl.com), then I will pick up the phone and call.

When I talk with them on the phone I will thank them for their gift, if they gave a designated gift I will reference that. Then I ask them how they found my organization or heard of us (If I know the answer to this I might refer to it and ask for their story or more details). I might ask them what motivated their gift if there is a specific program they would like to learn more about. Many times I will close the call with an additional thank you and I’ll ask them if they want a tour of one of the facilities.

What do you do? What have you found successful? Leave a comment below.


The Immediate Thank You Call

July 21, 2008

How many of us have started a 24 hour acknowledgment letter process and stopped making a quick thank you phone call immediately after (or on the same day) that a gift is received? I have been shocked at how well received I am when I call a donor just to say thank you. Sometimes I’ll hear surprise at a quick response or learn a little tidbit about their giving that I would have never learned in a letter or email.

More than anything else a personal thank you call means more to you from a real human voice instead of in a letter.  We still need to follow up the call with a quick thank you letter including a little reference to the conversation you had on the phone, but the phone call will make a huge difference. I find that a two minute thank you call does more to secure a second gift than anything else.

In fact, the ability to thank donors should be one of the most important things to your organization. If you are good at thanking donors you will be good at keeping and upgrading them too. You could build your entire development plan around acknowledging and thanking and be extremely successful. If a donor feels cared for they want to grow their involvement. Also thanking donors is one of the easiest things for board and executive staff to do. If you want to get your board involved in the fundraising process this is a great way to get them started.

Do you call donors immediately when you receive a major gift? How has that helped your nonprofit?