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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Growing your Existing Donor Base

January 26, 2015

Everyone is always looking for ways to grow their donor base so I thought I’d offer a few suggestions and tips that I’ve used myself. Feel free to add some of your own ideas. The first step would be to figure out what you mean when you say “donor base.” Are we talking about monthly donors or annual donors? If you want to grow your base you have to know what you are growing them to be.

  • Send an appeal to lapsed donors from a year ago and invite them to get involved again. You can highlight a new project or just tell them you missed them.
  • Ask your faithful donors if they could introduce you to some of their friends. I often let the volunteers, community advocates, and close donors know that if they ever want to introduce a friend of theirs to the organization that I am always available to give a tour or meet with them.
  • Look at other similar organization’s annual reports or donor recognition publications.
  • With local businesses I will often make sure I am watching the local news & skimming the paper for organizations that might be interested. I will often follow that up with a cold call or a letter.
  • Get your “unsolicited gifts” and fringe givers to be involved more closely in the organization through a tour or event.
  • An annual fundraising event can be a great way to bring in new donors.
  • Chambers, Rotaries, networking groups, and other associations can be a great way to meet new business donors and individual major donors.

What does your organization do? Anything you’d like to add to the list? Leave a comment.


I’m Not Here to Raise Money

August 18, 2008

Have any of you heard this sentiment from a board member, “I’m not here to raise money?” What do you think of that? I’m always a little bit frustrated when board members say they will do anything for an organization except raise money. Yes, I certainly think they raise the profile of your organization in the community (last week’s post) as I wrote about last week, yes I think they help you understand how you are perceived in the community and can be invaluable in crafting your message. But, if they are not willing to raise any money what are they really doing?

I have often found that in terms of running programs and providing good services that board members traditionally cannot speak with much experience. Usually program staff can speak with more experience regarding their programs than anyone else. And if your board member is not there to support the mission or program of your organization or raise your community profile what is the board member there to do?

This is probably more of an opinion column than I usually write but I’m very curious what your thoughts are. What value outside of fundraising do your board member serve?