"Operation Eyesight Universal calling ..."

publication date: Feb 16, 2012
author/source: Janet Gadeski
Canadian charities have a great choice of suppliers, coaches, project managers and consultants to help with special initiatives. If you've worked successfully with an outside contractor, please consider sharing your experience. You'll help your peers ask the right questions and make good decisions when they look for outside help. To discuss an article, email Janet Gadeski.Janet Gadeski photo

There's a world of difference between strangers who interrupt your supper, mangle your name, then try to sell you new windows - for your apartment - and an effective, properly targeted telephone campaign. Do it right and you can raise more money, says Lynne Dulaney, director of communications at Calgary's Operation Eyesight Universal.

"Doing it right" means working with people who've already shown some interest in your organization. Operation Eyesight contacted lapsed and annual donors to renew awareness and giving from the first group and offer a monthly giving plan to the second group. Later they used callers to follow up on a holiday mailing to lapsed and inactive supporters.

Are you a candidate?

Telephone fundraising works best for charities with a long track record, Dulaney comments. Operation Eyesight, for example, draws upon 50 years of carefully-maintained donor data. While she wondered whether its pool of 8,000 names was too small for a phone campaign, her contractor, Michael Blakely of HCB Canada, runs a boutique firm that often handles clients with much smaller lists. That highlights another of Dulaney's tips - consider the scale of your project and match it to the scale of suppliers you approach.

Blakely encourages charities to take a hard look at what they've already achieved with direct mail acquisition and reactivation campaigns. They should only move into telemarketing, he cautions, if they're confident it will do better than channels they've already used.

Conversations with people you know

You can't underestimate the importance of a long-standing and deep database, Dulaney emphasizes - a point we've often stressed in Hilborn eNEWS. Examine your donors' demographic profile and know what events, economic issues and concerns are important to them. You'll decrease the hang-ups and complaints if you tailor the campaign and the script carefully for donors you know.

Speaking of hang-ups and complaints, Dulaney says there were very few during the two campaigns. She credits the combination of Operation Eyesight's extensive donor knowledge and HCB's careful caller training. Blakely positions the calls as "two-way conversations" rather than "scripts," preparing his tele-fundraisers to go in any direction the caller initiates.

Check responsiveness, staff quality

Be sure to ask about the work force if you're considering hiring a tele-fundraising contractor. Ideally, employees should work full-time with a low turnover rate, be located in Canada, speak well and demonstrate interest in the nonprofit sector through volunteering and personal fundraising. And Blakely emphasizes the Association of Fundraising Professionals' stipulation in its Code of Ethical Principles and Standards that they must be paid a salary rather than a commission.

Once they're under way, tele-fundraising campaigns move fast. For example, HCB's 23 telephone fundraisers can make 8,000 calls in just three weeks. Your contractor should give you daily progress reports so that you can roll out any necessary fixes right away. Be ready to give speedy feedback and approval in return for the contractor's flexibility.

For more information, Lynne Dulaney, Operation Eyesight; Michael Blakely, HCB Canada, mblakely@hcbcanada.com

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