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December 7, 2016
Planting Seeds in January for 2017 Giving
January 4, 2017

Making the Follow-Up Call in December (Complete with Bonus Script!)

It’s great that you got your year-end appeal in the mail.

But to lift response and raise more money, you need to follow up with your donors and remind them to give. Many may have good intentions of sending a gift, but they just haven’t yet gotten around to sending that check or clicking the donation button.

For some donors, you’ll be able to use personal e-mails, social media connections, or even face-to-face appointments to remind them to give.

But for most nonprofits, the telephone remains the best way to move donors to action.

 Where do you start?

 Ideally, you would call all of your donors who gave last year, but have yet to give this year. And if you have the time and resources — do it!

Most nonprofits have more donors than hours to spare in December. They have to prioritize. And the logical way to prioritize is from the top down and from the inside out.

In other words, sort your donors by the size of their last gift and by length of time they have been giving to your organization. Those who have given the most and the longest are at the top of your list. Start calling there and work your way down.

Now that you know who you’re calling, here’s what to say:

YOU: At the beginning of the call, introduce yourself in a personal way (what you do at your organization and how long you’ve been there) and ask if this is a good time for them to talk. Let them know that you know they are busy and you won’t take up too much time.

Be sure to thank the donor for their previous giving up front. It would be optimal to have their giving information with you so that you can tell them how much they gave if they ask you (and some will!)

YOU: “I’m calling to follow up on our year-end letter that you received from us. Do you remember seeing it?”

  • If yes – “Great! Are there any questions I can answer about it or about our organization? The letter was meant to update you on the work that we have been able to do thanks to your support and I’d welcome a chance to hear more about why you support our organization.” If the donor has a story to tell, this is the place where they will tell it and it could be a great way to get to know them.
  • If no – “I’d like to tell you a little about it. The letter was meant to update you on the work that we have been able to do, thanks to your support” At this point, you would talk about your key organizational initiatives — very briefly.

And then: “I’d welcome a chance to hear more about why you support our organization.” If the donor has a story to tell, this is the place where they will tell it and it could be a great way to get to know them.

Be sure not to talk for too long without asking them if they have any questions about anything your organization does. This is also a good chance to gather feedback and see if your donors understand your work.

YOU: “I know that you have many organizations that you can give to during this time of year, but we are hoping you will make a gift to our organization.”

  • If they received the letter – “You can use the reply form that came with your letter or you can go onto our website and make a gift when you are ready. I can also take a donation right here over the phone if that is easier for you.”
  • If they didn’t receive the letter – “You can give through our website. I can also take a donation right here over the phone if that is easier for you.”

YOU: “Thank you very much for your support.”

Give the donor your name again and your contact information and let them know they can call you any time.

This is not a “hard sell” telemarketing ask, but rather, a way to connect with the donor and remind them to give.

If you have the capacity to take a gift over the phone – great. But don’t be disappointed if you don’t get gifts over the phone. You need to measure success by the connection you made with the donor and whether or not they eventually gave to the appeal in their own time.

If you get voice mail

You may get a lot of voice mail messages. I often don’t leave a message the first time and try again at a different time of day to get someone live. However, if you cannot reach them, leave a voice mail message something like this:

“My name is _______ with (your organization) and I’m calling to thank you very much for your previous support. We’ve sent you a year-end letter and I’m calling to see if you have any questions about the work that our organization does with your help, and to see if you would consider a renewing your support this giving season. You can reach me at our organization at _________. You can also give a tax-deductible donation on our website (give details).

After the call

Be sure to record any information you glean about the donor on their database record. The feedback you receive is an amazing benefit of making these calls!

Getting others involved

Consider asking your board or volunteers to join you in making these calls. I’ve asked board members to help me do it with me, and though they all said it that though they were a little nervous at first, by the end they were looking forward to having someone answer the phone. It was fun! A little chocolate, a bottle of wine, and some holiday cookies didn’t hurt either….

Happy phoning!

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