Follow up calls use to be the least favorite part of my job. It can be a lot of mental work to sit down with a list of phone numbers and make call after call after call. But, the more I started to make follow up calls the more I started to like them.

How else can an organization keep in touch with a large number of constituents in a short period of time? You might say I can reach thousands of donors via email, direct mail, or blogging (if you read an earlier post). I think those are great tools but none of them are as personal as a phone call. Before I go on don’t use phone follow up as your strongest platform for solicitation. Especially for your major gifts program it is important that you meet in person with your donors.

Before starting your phone follow up make sure you have all the information you will need to answer questions within immediate reach. Have all the phone numbers, names, donor statistics (do your research before your phone call), and program details. Then rehearse a few times what you are going to say. I have often found that it takes a few messages or conversations with a few donors before my message is really polished. It is important that you speak plainly. Do not try and be smarter or more articulate than you naturally are. Donors know when you are reading a scrip or if a message is not your own. Ask questions while you are on the phone don’t do all the talking. This is a great time to learn why someone gives to your organization, how they first found out about you. This kind of conversation helps your future solicitations because you know more about what interests a donor has.

If you have a really long list of people split it up. Get a few board members to help you make calls. Set aside time to make these calls. Plan ahead a few hours every day for a week or set aside an entire afternoon to make calls. One final pointer is a little bit corny, so forgive me, but I have found that it does make an actual difference. Donors can tell by the tone in your voice if you are smiling, frowning, or bored when you are on the phone. I am not sure what it is but if I am having a conversation with someone, especially after I have said the same thing 15 times before, a smile on my face creates a better message.

If Its Not Broken

by Jason Dick

I’ve worked in three very different fundraising shops in my career and have found that they all have done things very differently and raised very different amounts of money. I know we have all looked enviously at other organizations and how well they can raise money and lamented why people are not knocking down doors to fund our programs. But the truth of the matter is growing a fundraising program takes a lot of work.

It is important that you rejoice in the fundraising strengths of the organization that you work for. I worked for a children’s hospice that was closely tied to a professional hockey team and they raised most of their money from hockey enthusiasts and businesses that wanted to align with that organization. I recently worked for a social services organization that had fantastic grassroots support. Currently I work for an organization who’s development program has great connections but is still relatively young. Every one of these nonprofits has it’s own strengths.

I want to take a moment to encourage you to improve on what you are already doing well. If you have great community support learn how to maximize it. If you are connected to a sports team then see what kinds of partnership things you can do to raise more money. I’m a huge advocate of trying new programs and having a well-rounded development office. But, don’t forsake your strengths as you continue to improve. Take a close look at what you are doing successfully right now and find ways to grow your successful programs. Once momentum has begun with a program you can often raise a lot more money improving it than starting over and trying to build momentum again in another area.

What are you doing well?  How can you grow what’s currently working?  Join the conversation at @infosmallchange #ascblog

A Tool from the Vault – Simple Solicitation Letters

July 15, 2015

The latest iteration of our Fundraising Toolbox series is an oldie but a goodie from the Jason Dick: Giving should be simple. How long was your last solicitation letter? Half a page, two pages? How many stories did you tell? How many statistics from your organization did you quote? If you are like many non-profits […]

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A Word on the Annual Report

July 8, 2015

Ok.  It’s the end of the year.  Dollars have been raised.  Dollars have been spent.  Objectives have been established.  Objectives (hopefully) have been met.  Now, it’s time to shot it from the mountaintops!  Or, more likely, get it down on paper and into an electronic or printed format that looks just awesome.  After all, it’s […]

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Nothing like a good report

July 7, 2015

As we continue our series on the tools a fundraiser should have, needs to refine, or better pick up if they haven’t in a while, it would be a grand miss to not highlight how effective crisp, consistent, and compelling reporting can be. The agency that I have the privilege of serving with is relatively […]

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YOU are a valuable tool!

June 30, 2015

I had the privilege recently of participating in Jim Shapiro’s Better NonProfit Conference which was designed to help development professionals and other non-profit folks to grow, lead, and fund their organizations.  The speaker line up was solid, content really helpful, and the project reminded me of how valuable other development professionals are to me. I […]

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A tool for inspiration: Mobile Giving

June 26, 2015

There are now more than 1 billion smartphones on the planet.  And, in a recent study, researchers learned that 9.5% of donations came from mobile devices.  Clearly, this is a huge opportunity for fundraisers and a seamless and user friendly mobile giving interface can be an incredibly helpful tool to increase giving. I’ve done a […]

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A valuable tool from the archives: Handwritten Notes

June 24, 2015

When was the last time you received a handwritten note? I can count on one hand the number of handwritten notes that I’ve received in the last six months. If you eliminate holiday cards and birthday cards that just have a signature on it, then it’s even less. Another remarkable thing about the handwritten notes […]

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That Crowdfunding though….

June 18, 2015

This year I have received many requests to participate in Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and GoFundMe campaigns.  And I mean, like a LOT.  There seems to be an interesting shift taking place and folks feel inclined to raise funds for just about anything, and some of them are amazing causes and products.  Some of them, not so […]

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That ole donor database

June 16, 2015

Last week we queued up an intro to our next series of blogs that will highlight thoughts on the tools we need in our Toolbox as fundraisers.  Some of them are old and familiar and may need replacing.  Some of them may be new and we are getting to know how to use them well. […]

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