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6 tips for a successful telephone campaign

A one-to-one conversation with a supporter or potential supporter is uniquely powerful. For fundraising, engagement and on-going stewardship, you can’t beat talking with someone…

As a result, the telephone can play an invaluable role in bringing charities and their supporters closer together. In fact, having spent over 30 years speaking with charity supporters and helping a wide range of charities of all sizes and causes, we have found communicating by telephone provides more added value than virtually any other channel and produces some of the best returns on investment. What’s more, thanks to improved practices and data management, the latest complaints report from the Fundraising Regulator shows that the telephone is also one of the least complained about fundraising channels.

Telephone then is an important part of any integrated fundraising mix. Here are our 6 top tips to help you make the most from your telephone campaigns.

1. Consider supporters across the organisation

The telephone can be used in many ways, not only fundraising. Over the years, we have run successful telephone campaigns across many different charities for teams in individual giving, lottery, legacy, community and events and even supporter care. When developing a strategy for integrating the phone consider communications across the whole organisation. Working with a major hospital charity, we helped them successfully grow their income by using the phone to recruit between 5,000 and 10,000 new regular givers each year as well as to build stronger relationships with existing donors.

2. Know your agency

If you use an agency, make sure you invest time in getting to know them and their work. Having worked with this particular charity since 2010 many of our campaigns are collaborative in nature, from initial ideas to finalised creative concepts. We encourage regular visits to our offices to give them the opportunity to get to know everyone who will be involved in a campaign, conduct their own training sessions and gain insight into technical processes. Our fundraisers have also visited the hospital, and their trustees and senior managers have also visited our offices and listened to calls made on their behalf.

3. Have a clear objective

To make the calls as successful as possible, each campaign needs its own distinct objectives. The charity uses the telephone to recruit new supporters every year and with them we agree Key Performance Indicators that are monitored daily and reviewed quarterly. We also use the phone to welcome new supporters which requires an entirely different set of objectives. There are multiple types of calls so be clear on what you are looking to achieve and how exactly it can be monitored, measured and evaluated.

4. Be prepared to adapt and test

One of the joys of the telephone is the fact that results are instantaneous, which means changes can be made and implemented at a moment’s notice. These can be anything from the ask structure to the case for support. When looking at introducing medical research messaging for example, we worked with the charity to test the concept using the phone, with their standard proposition as a benchmark. We have also tested varying ask structures and the impact of this on immediate conversion as well as long term giving. For instance, we know that £5 a month has low attrition, but we found that those that offered to donate this amount are less likely to cancel than those where we had asked for £5 a month. Thus we were able to build a ranged ask structure that is designed to encourage people to offer an amount they are comfortable with.

5. Get added value above pure ROI

When setting up the campaign, consider what value you could gain aside from financial, and how to obtain and measure this value:

  • Listen to supporters – not just from the perspective of monitoring the callers, but a huge amount can be gained from what your supporters say too.
  • Renew consent – use calls as an opportunity to renew and collect updated consent preferences. 
  • Identify potentially vulnerable individuals – a telephone conversation is virtually the only way to identify vulnerability within your existing donor base and determine whether future communications should change or cease.

6. Consider the telephone as part of a wider strategy

A telephone conversation is immensely valuable, but the impact can be improved further by combining it with other channels, such as email, SMS and direct mail. For instance, if someone has responded to a Facebook advert, we see an increase in results in the follow up conversion calling of between 2-10% if they have had email correspondence beforehand.

Many have seen considerable success from using the telephone to communicate with supporters across the organisation. Now is a great time to assess this channel and see how your organisation could use it for one-to-one conversations that add value for both you and your supporters. 

Written by Natalie Bailey, Client Services Director at NTT, a specialist charity communications agency working with organisations including Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity, Dogs Trust and Macmillan Cancer Support.

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