Nonprofit Boosts Donations and Donors with Technology

The San Diego chapter of United Cerebral Palsy has expanded its donor list by 75 percent and doubled the volume of used clothes it collects for the disabled with the aid of a customized predictive dialer system.

The non-profit group, which sends trucks to collect bags of used clothing and other items from people's homes, began using StrataDial, a predictive dialer from StrataSoft, Houston, a year and a half ago.

At the time, it took 12 callers at the organization's center approximately four months to contact the organization's list of 400,000 donors. Since implementing the system, the center has grown its list of donors to 700,000 and doubled the size of its truck fleet from three to six trucks. In addition, the 16 callers currently working at its center take two and a half months to work through the larger list.

The organization expects to donate between $100,000 and $150,000 to programs to help people afflicted with cerebral palsy and other disabilities by selling clothing donations to thrift stores and through other donations this year.

While the ability to weed out busy signals and answering machines has saved callers considerable time, a large portion of the center's growth and increased productivity have come from the organizational improvements the agency has been able implement through the new technology, said Dave Laukes, donations center director.

Previously, when callers received straight lists of names and phone numbers to call, data on donors was often lost or unrecorded.

“As anywhere, people are transient. Our callers used to cross out phone numbers if there was a disconnect or if someone had moved and it was difficult to retrieve that information,” he said. “Now that information is all saved and I can call to find people who have moved.”

In addition, since the callers now have data on their computer screens as they speak to donors, it is easier for them to verify information. As donations will be picked up from homes, it is important for callers to verify the specifics of addresses so drivers won't get lost or miss pick-ups.

“Our callers always verify ZIP codes because we want to keep the drivers' routes as tight as possible,” Laukes said. “They also ask whether it is a house, condo or apartment, so it's recognizable for the driver and establish a place for the pick up if no one is going to be home when the driver comes.”

In addition to the initial donation request, the company has input reminder scripts for the night before donation pick-ups, thank you scripts for afterwards and rescheduling scripts for people who weren't ready or weren't home when the truck came.

Lists of numbers where the dialer met busy signals, no answers or answering machines can be retried at a different time.

In order to make pick-up routes as efficient as possible, United Cerebral Palsy organizes calls geographically by using the telephone company's reverse directory, which lists names and phone numbers according to street addresses.

StrataDial has helped the company input prospect names faster and avoid duplications.

“You type in the number, and if it's already in the system, it will come up on the screen and you move to the next one,” Laukes said.

In one instance where a feature of the system did not seem efficient, Laukes had the company change it. The feature was a block that prevented agents from entering donation pick-ups further in the future than the upcoming truck round. Only the center manager could enter such pick-ups. It had been added because others with similar systems had found that call center agents who tried to input information too far in advance often made mistakes.

“As far as I'm concerned, let them input it,” Laukes said. “It's when things are written on scraps of paper and passed around that mistakes are made.”

None of the system's time savings were lost in training, Laukes added. Call center agents quickly adopted the system and even those inexperienced in phone call center work found it easy to use.

“When I hire new drivers, I always have them spend a few days on the phone before going out in the truck,” he said. “I've had a few drivers turn down the job for that reason — because they're afraid of calling. But even the drivers have found it easy to use.”

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