The key to telephone fundraising? Get the right people making the calls…

Although it was invented more than 140 years ago, the humble telephone remains a sure-fire method of raising funds. It provides a near-unique way for fundraisers to have a direct conversation with donors — they tend to appreciate the opportunity to engage with callers on a more personal level.

Yet many people fail to make telephone fundraising campaigns a success. If it all goes awry, at best, you will alienate your potential supporters; at worst, you could damage the reputation of your school or university.

Key to the success of a telephone fundraising campaign are those who are on the front line, placing the calls. They must be positive, informative and emotive to entice potential donors to support your cause.

Chris Rainford is a business development manager for Buffalo Fundraising Consultants, which claims it “has helped raise millions of pounds for the not-for-profit sector” including education through telephons and other giving campaigns.

He says the first thing schools should do to prepare for a fundraising campaign is appoint pupils to man the phones. “That works best because they have a connection to the alumni you are calling. If you use professional callers who haven’t been to your school, it doesn’t work as well.”

In addition, you need to choose the right cause to support. “What you’re raising money for has to be interesting and compelling. Raising money for a new building isn’t that exciting,” Rainford says. A good example are causes that support students — bursaries and scholarships. “Donors need to feel their gift will make an impact on your campaign, even if their donation is small,” he adds.

Such causes have the added benefit of being more relatable to your student callers. “Having the people who benefit from the scholarships making the calls is powerful,” Rainford continues. “You should make your pitch as human and as real as possible.”

Rosie Carroll is a graduate of St Andrews University. She took part in a recent telephone fundraising campaign to raise money for a new sports centre, the university’s existing music centre, and for scholarship funding.

“I like talking to people and am comfortable on the phone,” she says. “I thought it would be a good opportunity to get sales experience for a career after university.”

Carroll phoned people from all around the world to entice them to donate a minimum of £20 to the university’s causes. She says the telephone fundraising team collected raised between £3,000 and £5,000 within a couple of hours of graft.

The key to that campaign’s success, she continues, was that each caller built up rapport with those on the other end of the phone. “You should build a personal connection with the person you are talking to. You have to personify what you’re trying to sell,” Carroll explains. “If they understand where the money is going and for what purpose, and why the university can’t pay for it themselves, people will donate.”

It’s also important to be prepared for any questions potential donors may ask. Carroll says: “People would say to me that they would prefer to donate to a charity for starving children or something like that. Think of any possible objections and have answers to them ready.”

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