are at least three ways for a ministry to raise money using the
telephone. The first, never to be forgotten, is a personal call by a
ministry leader, asking for a gift. While face-to-face meetings are
most effective, the phone, when used by a friend, is a next best
choices for fundraising with the telephone include personal calls,
phonathons, and use of
outside telemarketing firms. Personal calls really fall within the
realm of personal solicitation, though it is important always to
recognize that face-to-face solicitation is always preferable.
of a personal call, the simplest, and least expensive, is the phonathon.
In a phonathon, you gather your volunteers together at one site with
many telephones and make calls to many of your donors or potential
donors asking for their contributions. These can be new donors,
renewing donors, lapsed donors, or donors at a particular dollar
level. You can select the target group, but make sure it is a good
match with staff or your phone volunteers.
telemarketing, you hire an outside firm to do the same thing. You
provide them with prospects’ names and phone numbers, and their
paid staff people telephone your prospects and ask them to give a
gift to your annual operations, scholarship fund, or building
the telephone was first used for fundraising purposes, it was highly
effective, in no small part because of its surprise value. People
were pleased to hear from their friends who called on behalf of an
organization. Past participants, former board members, parents of
past participants or ministry recipients, are pleased to hear from a
ministry they know about and exchange a little bit of news and be
asked for a gift at the same time. However, fundraising by telephone
has become big business and now almost all of us are annoyed to pick
up the phone in the evening and hear another solicitation.
are ways that you can still use the telephone in a highly effective
manner, but you must plan carefully and you must be highly sensitive
to your donor’s wishes. Also, there are certain kinds of
fundraising that will be more effective by phone than others.
will probably get your highest response rate in telephone
solicitation by pairing callers and donors with close relationships.
A staff member, calling someone he hasn’t seen in 5 years, has a
very good chance of receiving a pledge or a gift over the phone.
People who know each other well and who feel a sense of kindness
toward each other will treat each other well on the phone and will
take a request for funds seriously.
you are “cold calling,” which means calling people you do not
know and who do not have a tight relationship with your ministry,
you will receive a smaller percentage of pledges. However, you may
be able to make up for this by volume. If you can call two hundred
in a night, even if you only get 50 new donors, you’ll be doing
very well. Those 50 people may be people you could never have
reached in any other way. However, if you were using volunteer
callers, they might be very discouraged by these numbers and lose
willingness to volunteer again later.
is where telemarketing comes in. Businesses have made a very good
business out of cold calling. Paid phoners do not mind the
turn-downs that they receive. They simply treat it as a job and go
on to the next phone call. So if you want to develop a core of new
donors through cold calling, perhaps you should use paid,
well-trained phoners. If you want to get a high percentage yield on
your calls, and your prospects include people closely related to
your camp, use staff and volunteers.
groups that have little or no experience with telephone fundraising
should approach the idea with enthusiasm but caution.
Most importantly, think of the phone methods as just one part
of your overall fundraising plan.
realistic. Don’t expect a great response in one night. Remember
that each new donor is a step in the right direction. It’s one
more person with a human contact to your organization, one more
person getting practice in writing checks to your work, and one more
person who has a feeling for helping you and your cause. Each call
makes a new friends, and a good many of them will bring you new
dollars. This is a great investment in your future.
organization could benefit by including more consideration for
prospects in its phonathon planning. Good starter rules for phonathons
include those listed below:
Before the Phonathon
Get a good location.
A bank, private company, phone company, law office, or
another site with many phone lines will work best. Try to arrange
free use of phones with charges only for long-distance calls. Find a
comfortable, central location with easy parking. Remember, just
having a lot of telephones is not enough; your site must have enough
different phone lines going out so that many callers can work
concurrently. Make sure you can serve food and beverages.
Choose the best evenings. Tuesday, Wednesday and
Thursday, 6:30-9:30 p.m., have traditionally proven most productive.
Beware of local and national holidays, all religious
holidays, high-interest sports activities, and very popular
Allow four to six weeks to recruit volunteers.
Recruit one-third more helpers than you need, because some will not
show up, and plan to have double the number of workers as phones.
This way people can take turns with a partner, making the calls and
writing the thank-you notes, or the shy people can take the clerical
Remind volunteers one week in advance, and on the
day before the phonothon.
Plan for food and drink. This is a real key to a
good evening. The better the food, the more congenial your
volunteers will be. Decide whether you feel comfortable asking
volunteers to bring food. If not, have a staff member take
responsibility, but in no case overlook treats!
Ask a photographer to come. It makes it an event
and can be useful later on for PR.
Compile a good prospect list. Decide whom you will
focus on: new prospects, faithful donors, lapsed members, $10
donors, and so on. This may provide you with a theme and your
callers with a “good excuse” if the prospects ask why they are
being called. It also gives you a logical and manageable way to
prepare the lists.
Provide your callers with neat, thorough
information. They need concrete information on the camp, the budget,
and the amount given by each donor last year. Occasionally, they
will need the donor’s full giving history (if you are asking for
larger gifts, or increases). They also need each prospect’s name,
address, phone number, and relationship to the organization.
Develop a pledge card that can record the necessary
information and be sent the next day to the people who pledged. Make
sure you keep carbons or photocopies for your files. Don’t print
any confidential information about the caller or the conversation on
the copy that goes to your donor.
Put together packets of printed materials,
including blank letterhead or other thank-you notes and summary
sheets so the calling teams can document each phone call and thank
each pledging donor as they work through their lists.
Send a letter and return envelope to all
prospective donors a few weeks prior to the phonathon and offer them
the opportunity to give immediately to avoid being called. State the
time and date of the planned phonathon, and promise that you’ll
remove their name from the evening’s calling if they send a
contribution immediately. This works wonderfully!
Arrange in advance for a “clean-up crew” that
will stay late and tidy up the site. Workers do not want to arrive
at work in the morning to find dirty cups, miscellaneous papers and
doodles, and food crumbs on their desks!
Check in with your site a day or two in advance and
make certain they have remembered. Make sure you know how to get
into the building if it is usually locked, where your volunteers
should park, where you should set up food or plug in coffee pots,
and most importantly, how to use the phones! Find out if you should
keep written logs of all calls made, or all long-distance calls. Be
appreciative and cooperative.
Purchase stamps in advance so you can mail all the
pledges and thank-you cards when you leave the phonathon. Your
prospects will be thanked, and receive their pledge reminder, while
the call is still fresh in their minds.
Each caller should have a packet with pens, note
pad, matching gift or other informative pamphlets, facts about the
organization, answers to anticipated questions and thank-you notes.
Be prepared with extras.
Train your Volunteers! Don’t make any assumptions
about the knowledge, comfort level, or conversational ability of
your callers. Your brief introduction should include:
The mission of the organization
The total funds needed, and the goal for the phonathon
Explanation of packet of materials and prospect
How to use the phones
Recommend script and length of calls
How to create written records and thank-you notes
A demonstration or brief role play
Ask your volunteers for pledges! Anyone who has not
yet given to the fund should make a pledge or gift before starting
to make calls. Commitment shows in the voice!
Assign rovers to gather information and continually
update a big visible progress report. The same people can refresh
supplies of information, thank-you notes and stamps. This is a good
job for staff or experienced volunteers, because the rovers will
also answer many extra questions and do a lot of hand-holding.
Set goals. Set one overall phonathon goal, and a
goal for each phoning session. Also, set goals for calls in each
gift category, such as new donors, lapsed donors, and so on. Callers
should feel free to talk about the organization. Build their
enthusiasm and knowledge in the training session and you’ll garner
as much in good public relations as in donations.
An energetic phonathon should last two and one-half
to three hours, unless you’ve provided for new troops of callers
to arrive and take over mid-way. It’s too much to ask anyone to
talk non-stop for more than three hours.
Ask your volunteers to fill out questionnaires
before they leave, with suggestions to improve your next phonathon.
And if you have another scheduled for the very next night, try to
implement changes immediately.
On your way home, mail all completed thank-you
notes to contributors.
Write down everything your learned. All your
mistakes, your great ideas, your successes, the things the
volunteers liked, the good and bad aspects of the site, how the
volunteers liked the refreshments, the general energy and spirit of
the event, and anything else that seems relevant.
Compute your statistics. You and your volunteers
will be more gratified if you know:
Number and dollar amount of specified pledges
Number of unspecified pledges
Total number of prospects reached
Number of people not home
Number of people who could not or would not give
Average amount of pledge
Send a summary of results, along with a personal
thank-you note, to each volunteer who worked on any phase of your phonathon.
Remember to thank them for any pledges they personally made the
night of the phonathon too.
Before you do the phonathon next year, review your
notes and revamp your planning to include suggestions and lessons
Keep A Positive Attitude
Remember that statistics have shown that 5% of your
prospects are truly unable to give, and as many as 50% won’t be
home. Experience also shows that pledges of unspecified amounts may
add up to as much as 50% of the total raised!
Keep your options open for other forms of
fundraising in addition to the phonathon. Different people respond
to different approaches. The more methods you use, the more donors
you will attract.
Keep the Money Coming by
Christin Graham. Copyright
1992. Pineapple Press. Used by Permission. Adapted for a book by Brian Kluth,
"Out of the Woods: Funding Christian Camps and Conference
For additional generosity
resources, visit: www.kluth.org
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