I got a call!

I got a call fundraising call yesterday.  Because I am a freak, this was an exciting moment for me, to chance to listen to someone solicit a gift from me!  How is the script constructed?  What are the rapport-building points and the objection statement responses?  What  primary ask amount did they establish, and how do they work a sliding scale?  What a buzz — Wheeeee!

The young woman asked for me by my maiden name, then said that she wanted the other adult in the home. My husband’s name is more commonly given to females in the US, so the caller said, ‘oh, she’s a man?’

I stopped the caller and said that she clearly did not know who we are, so who is she?  Darned if she wasn’t from an organization for which I’d played a leadership role nationally and to which I am an annual donor.   She pitch was to ask me to send solicitation letters to my rolodex to solicit gifts.  It was not a smooth call.  She fumbled around, tripped up with the name problems.

I told her that I was sorry that she was inadequately prepped for the call, and I asked that she relay my surprise to the call center and organization coordinators: they don’t know our salutations and whether my husband is a male?  Also, I should not be in the call segment because I’ve already asked that I be excluded from the program. I wished her luck and said goodbye.  And then I fumed.

The woman on the phone was set up to fail, and that is unkind. Prepping for phone calling involves one critical step: know who you are calling.  Whomever gave the call list to this woman did her an disservice by not confirming that our volunteer past, our giving history and our requested exclusions were factored into the list generation.  Moreover, when it’s all said and done, all we have are our names. A name may be mis-pronounced, but it should not be wrong.

Knowing that mistakes happen, I was sad — did the organization realize that it was sloppy in its treatment of a volunteer and a donor?  Because of my passion for improving donor retention, I am sensitive to the kinds of messages fundraisers give to their current donors, messages that reinforce the value of donors’ support and messages that devalue the donors’ engagement.  So often it is the poorly-trained or ill-prepared front line employee that gives a donor the organization’s perception of the donor’s value.  There is no bad intent by the organization, clearly, but a lack of attention to the interfaces that donors will encounter proactively and passively.

What do I recommend, besides the obvious database and segmentation clean-up?  Ask staffers to keep short-n-simple lists of their calls and e-mails in and out, with reasons for contact (a pre-printed checklist would suffice), for a selected period of time.  Ask the social media coordinator to generate a report on hit rates and click throughs.  Look over the compiled data — when and why do donors and prospects connect with your staff?  Who calls more constituents and who uses e-mail more frequently? Can you spot trends and patterns?  Do some staffers default to a certain type of communication when another method might be more appropriate?  Is someone picking up the phone more than you’d known?  Further questions and audits might include questions about how staffers record bio and volunteer data, and how data makes its way into and out of your CRM.

Data gives you an opportunity to review and adjust for better performance.  Whether it’s a phonathon caller or a student intern, an audit of interaction can identify the type of resources and support your staff needs to give your constituents the sense that they are valued and appreciated.

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