Which is why I hate to admit that I know a bit about telemarketing for charities.
All of that is true which is part of the reason why the industry struggles with it as a lead generation tool. Trust in telemarketing is often lost; so let’s rename it tele-fundraising, it’s much nicer.
An additional challenge for this fundraising method is that purchasable data is declining. People are moving away from having a landline and mobile telephones are more expensive for tele-fundraising companies to call. Each campaign I’ve conducted over the last two years has seen a decline in landline numbers. So how long before there is no one left at home to call and we have to buy mobile numbers that are both expensive and fluid?
Reputation and sourcing quality data are the two biggest issues facing the tele-fundraising industry. But charities still telemarket – why? Because it’s successful, pays a good ROI, and let’s face it, charities need to ask for donations. I will admit that not all charity telemarketing campaigns are successful but I hope the following ten pieces of advice can help anyone contemplating a donor acquisition tele-fundraising campaign.
1. Hire local tele-fundraisers
My most important piece of advice is tele-fundraisers must be based in New Zealand and have no accents. This is non-negotiable for all my campaigns. The more local personality to your charity the better. It is vitally important your donors have the perception the call is genuine and that your charity is credibly represented.
2. Train, and drill it in hard
Tele-fundraisers need to know your charity inside out. Prepare a PowerPoint presentation and run through it in detail with the fundraisers in an online group session, so they are fully informed about your organisation, its service, its people, the region you operate in and the objections they may face when phoning within the region (things like funding/government model and competitor charities are the biggest subjects to be well educated on).
3. Prepare the basis of your own calling script
You know your service offering and what you want from a potential donor better than anyone. Write the draft before providing it to the telemarketing company. They will then add the selling features based on their own experience and expertise.
4. Use quality data
Review your data before handing it over to the telemarketing agency. Imagine a telemarketer calling a potential sponsor or a potential patron of your organisation. Wouldn’t it just embarrass you?
Purge purchased data against your organisation’s current database – of all donors from the last five years. For corporate fundraising, I recommend segmenting business sectors into levels of presentation openers for appropriate levels of funds to the sector of business –ie: you might ask a dairy owner for $50 but you wouldn’t want to ask that amount from an oil company or bank.
5. Find a telemarketing company with proven performance
There are a few telemarketing agencies in New Zealand. I work with Unity4 and endorse that they are a reputable telemarketing agency with offices in New Zealand, Australia and London, who partner with many charity sectors.
6. Generate PR
Tell your community to expect your call. Engage your PR machine. If your potential has had a ‘heads-up’ via social mediums, newspaper or community radio notices before receiving your call, they will know to trust your caller.
7. Don’t stop calling when you’ve just started
Let the telemarketers warm up. Expect this to take a week or two, or even 1,000 calls.But don’t stop. Make sure you identify stronger performing telemarketers, find out what they may be doing better and share their experiences.
8. Don’t get freaked out by the cost
Telemarketing is expensive but it is a person-to-person selling method. Investing in the cost of a human approach is an infinitely more effective method when you have a well-spoken, well-informed person doing the asking.
ROI – expect to pay 50% or even more of what you generate to acquire your donors – 20% is the best I’ve seen, but this was in a niche regional market. 30% in your first attempt of acquisition would be ideal. And don’t worry at this point – the goal is to nurture your donors so they become repeat donors for many more years to come.
This comes to my last point.
9. Think of it as lead generation
Don’t be discouraged if your telefundraising campaign hasn’t generated as much income as you’d hoped. Telefundraising is essentially a form of generating leads, so simply adding further details of non-donors to your database is an ROI in itself. These details can be just as valuable as a donation as they could well become regular givers to your charity at a later stage, and you can’t put a price on that.
10. Prepare a strategy to nurture your donors
You want them to make another donation right? Ensure you communicate with them expediently and with lots of appreciation. In your strategy, prepare a donor communications lifecycle that involves appreciating their pledge, acknowledging their donation, newsletters, e-newsletters, thank you texts, and social invitations to follow.
Tele-fundraising isn’t for every charity. I’ve worked across a number of charitable sectors and this is what I do know – tele-fundraising works better for those that already have a reasonably high public awareness, their service offering has a community ‘must-need’ factor, and they enjoy a good reputation.