Annual Giving and Telephone Solicitation

Sections of this topic

    This posting, and the follow-ups, are all about two concepts that push my buttons. The first, “Annual Giving”, makes me grit my teeth; the second, telephone solicitation, makes me twitch in frustration….

    The term “Annual Giving,” and the resulting mind-set, have become accepted as part of the environment of (mostly) educational institutions, without awareness of the phrase’s counterproductive impact on the institution’s staff and constituents.

    Administrations, Development Officers, alumni, parents and friends have come to accept/understand/believe that one need only seek/give a single gift in each calendar year.

    In that environment, the primary goal for many Annual Giving Offices has been getting that (one) gift, with a secondary emphasis on increasing dollars. The goal becomes increasing the percentage of the constituency that participates, rather than raising as much as possible.

    Consistent with this perspective, institutions design Annual Giving Programs around phonathons, mail and special events — all of which do not require Directors of Annual Giving to become involved in solicitation, or even that they have any experience/expertise in development.

    An Annual Giving Director with no experience in direct solicitation cannot train or supervise those whose “job” it is to solicit gifts on a one-on-one basis.

    Administrations must recognize that telephone fundraising, in addition to focusing on the number of constituent participants, has great income generating potential; but, to realize that potential, an investment must be made — in space, equipment, pre-call mail and caller salaries.

    As long as Administrations don’t see the importance, the potential value, in an effective phone program, and demonstrate a belief in the real need for such an effort, the people supervising and working on those programs won’t be able to see that what they are doing is of any great importance/value.

    The most effective use of the telephone is in combination with personalized pre-call mail or email. A properly structured Mail-and-Telephone (MATS) or eMail-And-Telephone Solicitation (eMATS) program goes well beyond what the basic phonathon can accomplish. When properly structured, an eMATS program will be able to generate an increasingly greater percentage of “annual fund” income.

    The key ingredient of such a program is the person making the phone call. And, btw, with all the (misplaced*) emphasis on the use of social media to raise money, keep in mind that the telephone IS a “social medium.” [*Another pet peeve: the incorrect belief that social media and other mass solicitation methods can raise more dollars than one-on-one solicitation.]

    And, to optimize the effectiveness of the caller, prospects should be prepared for the call. They must know it’s coming, that they will be asked for a specific dollar figure, and what that figure will be. They must understand the need for their support, and they should (hopefully) be made to look forward to receiving that call. (More on the content of pre-call mail and email in my next post.)

    The purpose/objectives of a telephone program must be clearly defined. Administration, staff and callers must understand and agree on that purpose.

    Is your phone program primarily a cultivation tool, a fact-finding tool, a stewardship tool, a means to educate a constituency, or is it a fundraising solicitation tool ??

    If the latter, then THE GOAL is not percentage of participation, it is not spreading the warm-and-fuzzies, it is not to amass prospect data, the primary goal is to raise as much money as possible.

    The discussion continues next Wednesday.

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