Converting first-time donors into long-term contributors is a difficult task for every fundraiser.
Research has shown that first-time contributors have a considerable drop off rate. Generally citing the nonprofit’s “failure to communicate” as the reason donors lose interest, they begin to doubt about the effectiveness of the work being done and either forget about the need or purposely end their support of the cause. Developing a donor-centric fundraising strategy can turn this trend around, and one of the most effective ways is by simply picking up the phone and giving them a call.
The Person-to-Person Approach
Mailers are a common way to send out a thank you after a contribution has been made, but when you want to make a big impression one quick call can open a door to a relationship that continues to grow long after that first-time contribution. In an experiment conducted by Penelope Burk, author of Donor-Centered Fundraising, organizations asked board members to man a phone bank to thank donors within 48 hours of their contributions having been received. This personal touch increased those contributors’ next donation by 39% over those not called – and they gave 42% more after 14 months!
Setting up an effective calling strategy is an easy, cost-effective way to make sure your donors know they are appreciated. We suggest following these steps for a successful “Thank You” calling campaign
1. Your Calling List
Deciding who to call is your first consideration when you are creating your calling plan. If you are a small nonprofit where every dollar counts, you may choose to dial up first-time donors to build your contributor list. Large, well-established nonprofits may find their focus is best put on major gifts contributors or mid-level donors to encourage them to increase their contributions. Annual calls to connect with your monthly donors is a great way to extend your gratitude to reliable donors and keep your group up front on their radars..
Once you have identified the group you want to call turn your attention to the donation amount given as a way to pinpoint where to concentrate your calling efforts. For some it may be those donors who have contributed more than $100, for others, it may be those who have gifted $1,000 or more and you feel there may be a chance they could do more. Look to the activities of your organization to see if there is a key demographic who has become more active or have had a life change that may affect their giving potential.
2. Getting the Team Together
Recruiting callers who can make a great lasting impression on your donors is your next task. Enlisting board members and high-level team members will leave a strong statement on the importance of the donor’s gift, but make sure the callers you choose can project the right tone for the call.
Whether you choose board members or team members to make the calls, make sure they understand the objective is to create a tangible bond between the donor’s contribution and the outcome of your projects. Be honest and pragmatic when conveying updates to projects and keep the tone of the call genuine, without sounding like a robo-call.
3. Timing is Important
Reaching out to contributors as soon as possible after a gift is offered is imperative if you want to secure a future donation. It’s recommended that calls should be within 48-hours after it has been received. If that’s not possible, you should definitely have a plan in place to complete all the calls within the same month as the donation is received. Some organizations prefer to have a set kick-off date for a calling campaign, which is a good solution when you have the help of people who are not part of your daily office activities. Get the calling team together and make a party out of it celebrating the total donations that have come in that month.
4. Making the Call
All the calls should have a positive, grateful tone from a confident, committed person and should only last about 30 seconds (unless you get a chatty person on the other end). Keep your message short and sweet. Remember your call is a surprise to them and you are interrupting their lives, so thank them and resist asking for another donation. It’s best to let your words come from your heart with the energy of a grateful person. Consider a training session if you feel your team needs a bit of coaching. Here’s an example
“Hello Katie, this is Leslie calling from Global Care. I’m just calling to say how much we appreciate your recent donation. We will be using it to fund a new well in Sudan.”
Don’t worry if you can’t reach anyone, just leave a voicemail. Research has proven voice mail is just as effective as a reached call. The main objective is to deliver a sincere message of thanks.
5. The End Game
As with every fundraising campaign, you’ll want to have a good record of the conversation. Make sure to include any updates to the donor’s contact information and any new information that might affect your relationship.
If a request for information or any request was made during the call get those tasks done immediately. You don’t want to turn that great lasting impression into a broken promise that can sour the donor’s image of your nonprofit and sabotage future donations.
One Final Note
Cultivate good karma by picking up the phone and making a thank you call to your donors. It only takes a couple of minutes, but its impact can last for years! Quite possibly you may experience what research has shown—a 51% increase in the chance they’ll pledge again the following year.