Getting the Most From Telemarketing Efforts
By Diane Hodiak
The entrance of more non-profit organizations into telemarketing has made the arena highly competitive. There are many tools and techniques, however, that can help you significantly improve the effectiveness of your operation. Whether you use volunteers, paid staff, or a professional firm, consider the following techniques to boost your results over the top.
Be a list matchmaker. It's okay to use your house list, but many non-profit organizations have excellent results with newly purchased lists. Be wary of using the list that one of your board members just happens to “have around” because he or she heard that it had “a lot of rich people on it”. Instead, find a list with the demographics and spending behaviors that match your appeal.
Get a telemarketing list of donors who have contributed by phone to similar causes at similar dollar amounts. Some people just won't contribute by phone. They prefer mail or some other method. Therefore, use a list of individuals who have a demonstrated history of giving through telemarketing. These people are usually more likely to be receptive to phone solicitation.
Savvy telemarketing managers use many different types of lists, evaluating the results from each. You may use a list of donors who contribute by mail, or a compiled list of donors. Still, lists that typically perform best are those whose characteristics match those of your appeal.
Offer reasons to give more. There are endless ways to promote higher gift levels. Make a script chart for your callers that describes any of these options:
* Premiums. “For a gift of $100 we can provide a beautiful sweatshirt with a handsome embroidered logo.” Use your most appealing words to describe it.
* Bonuses. “For every gift over $100, XYZ business has offered merchandise gift certificates of up to 20%.” This is a great way to get businesses involved in sponsoring your organization as it provides the business with market exposure.
* Matching gifts. “For every new dollar you give, XYZ corporation will match.”
* Special projects. “Each additional dollar raised will go toward the purchase of books for the children's library.”
Use credit cards. What could be better than a guaranteed gift? Credit cards also save your organization many dollars in reminder mailings. You may use your current bank or, better yet, take advantage of the many companies that offer tremendous bargains in credit card fees.
Remind potential donors again and again. If you want to maximize pledge fulfillment you may need to send several reminders. Some organizations approach 90% fulfillment when they send reminders every 30 days.
Use the media. This is critical for organizations prospecting for new gifts in a community that knows little about them. Issue a press release to 100 of your best contacts at intervals of 30, 60 and 90 days ahead of your campaign start. If you've created a newsworthy item, the print or broadcast media will pick it up. Use a headline that describes something new, noteworthy, unique, large in scale, and/or happening locally. Tie in the telemarketing campaign by describing what the funds will support.
Many nonprofit organizations with appealing causes have boosted their telemarketing program through the “reverse” media method. A volunteer or staff member calls a radio program and the announcer puts the spokesperson on the air. A description of the need for funds along with a toll free number to call often brings new gifts into the organization.
Train Your Staff in 'Friend-raising'
All telemarketers are not created equal. I once trained a woman who had no prior experience in fundraising or sales. Surprisingly, she was able to bring in the highest pledges of all callers. Why? Because she was able to build relationships by phone, through creativity and concern for each individual donor.
After you've provided training, allow your callers adapt techniques to suit their style. Monitor their calls and you'll often find many who feel more comfortable on the phone. Share the good approaches with others.
If the donor is busy, for example, ask to call back at a pre-arranged time set by the donor. Or try commenting on the donor's giving history: “Ms. Brown, you have been involved with this organization a long time. What interests you the most about ABC organization?” Then, the caller can focus the call, telling a story based on his or her special interests.
Another successful approach is to periodically make calls with staff and board. Reserve this activity for your special donors, current or lapsed, who are at higher giving levels. This technique can obtain amazing results. The donor feels very special. Some organizations “train” their staff and board by just having them call to thank donors for their gift. Then, the following year, they are more open to calling donors to actually ask for gifts.
As our world becomes more impersonal, the need for more personalized communications increases. Use a donor-centered strategy in your campaign. Discuss it with your staff, volunteers, or a professional firm that completes your campaign. You may wish to visit their phone room to determine how they interact with your donors.
Paying attention to these details will allow you to cash in on the results possible with telemarketing.
Diane Hodiak is CEO of the Development Resource Center and co-author of Fund Raising & Marketing in the One-Person Shop, Achieving Success with Limited Resources, 1-800-247-6553. Visit the Development Resource Center's Web site at www.drcharity.com for more tips on non-profit telemarketing.