6 Surefire Tips for Asking for Donations Over the Phone


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Making donation appeals over the phone is an interesting middle ground between asking for donations in person and making appeals through more anonymous methods like email or on your website.

On the one hand, you are having a conversation in real time with a donor or prospect. But on the other hand, you can’t see the person, read their body language, or establish a face-to-face connection with them.

This makes asking for donations over the phone somewhat tricky. However, we’ve got some great strategies that you can use next time you dial a donor’s number or host a phonathon.

Take a look at the following six tips for asking for donations over the phone!

1. Use your available resources

It might be tempting to hire an outside telemarketing company to do all of the calling for you and take some of the stress of fundraising away, but many donors are turned off by pleas for money that don’t come directly from your nonprofit or its staff.

To prevent people hanging up on your charity, use your own available resources. While your employees might not be able to make the hundreds or thousands of calls to raise your target goal, you can utilize your team of volunteers to help you. You can even tap into your existing donor base and ask loyal supporters if they would be willing to help call a few individuals.

The people closest to your organization are the ones who care the most about your mission and want to support your cause. When they are the ones making donation appeals, the asks are more genuine and sincere as opposed to scripted and stiff.

2. Make it personal

Since you’ll already be using your internal resources, make sure that your team is getting personal with your donors.

This doesn’t mean that every phone call should be as informal as a chat with a best friend, but it does mean that every conversation should begin with a cheery hello and a name confirmation. You want to make sure that you’re speaking with the correct prospect or donor and that they know who you are.

State the organization’s name, briefly describe what it does, and explain your role within the nonprofit.

If a volunteer or a donor is calling (as opposed to a regular employee), consider having them give a brief history of your interactions with the organization so that the person on the other end of the line has a better idea of who they are.

Keep the conversation personal without being too overbearing. Remember that dialogue should flow both ways. Ask donors and prospects how they are and thank them for past donations and volunteer time if applicable.

3. Make the case

This step is particularly important for phone calls with prospects who have not yet given time or money to your organization.

You have to make your case to persuade individuals to give to your cause. And while this can seem daunting, it really isn’t that bad once you realize that you already have all of the information you need.

Making the case to donors involves:

  • Presenting a problem.
  • Offering several solutions.
  • Incorporating donations into those solutions.

For instance, if you are an organization that works with abandoned pets, your portion of the conversation could go something like this:

“Thousands of animals are abandoned across the United States every year. Many are rescued and adopted by loving families, but those that aren’t are usually housed by [your organization name]. We have to provide these animals with food, shelter, and medical treatments, but we also need money to purchase these necessities.”

Obviously, when you make your own case, you’ll need to provide more specific information and data. Let people know how severe the problem is that you’re solving, offer up solutions, and tell them how their donations can help.

4. Have a script…

…But don’t read from it.

This may seem like contradictory advice, but stay with me!

You want to know what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it, but you don’t want to come across as mechanical or insincere. Not only will donors be unenthused by your lack of authenticity and excitement, they’re less likely to donate by the time you make your official pitch.

By having a general idea of how the conversation should go instead of a play-by-play for every line of dialogue, you make room for adjustments and surprises.

If you stick to a generic script, you might completely miss the face that the prospect could potentially be a major gift donor or a valuable volunteer member.

Instead of planning so rigidly, have a general outline for each type of donor or prospect you call. The conversations will differ depending on who you talk to. Donors who have previously given to your organization will need to be spoken to differently than brand new prospects. Plot out your general scripts accordingly.

5. Listen up!

It’s easy to start rambling whenever you hop on the phone to talk to donors. While you’ll need to properly state your case, you have to let donors talk as well.

Allowing the dialogue to flow between the two parties is vital for establishing a strong rapport with your donors. Since you aren’t talking to them face-to-face, this connection is even more important. You have to listen to your donors and meet them where they are.

If a caller is expressing hesitancy, switch up your tactics. Suggest that they spend some time as a volunteer or visit your website to get a better perspective on your organization.

Not everyone is going to say yes on the first phone call. But when you listen to your donors and prospects and meet them where they are, you are better equipped to make an effective donation appeal.

6. Make a genuine appeal

After stating your case, letting donors talk, and establishing a strong connection, it’s time to pop the question.

Asking someone for money over the phone can be intimidating, especially if they’ve never given to your organization before. You can help alleviate your nervousness by:

  • Remaining positive. Highlight the good that your organization does and what it can do with the help of more donations.
  • Using past donations as a springboard. If you’re talking with someone who has made a donation in the past, use that contribution as a way to introduce your donation appeal. Say something like, “We really appreciate your previous donation. It helped to [insert project here]. With another donation like that, we could [insert future project].” Reminding donors of their past contributions can help lead to future ones.
  • Talking about what they can get out of donating. Many people enjoy giving for philanthropic reasons, but you still need to highlight what donating to your organization can do for the prospect. If you offer incentives for certain giving levels, make sure that you let them know what they are.

Once you make the pitch, be prepared to handle rejections as well. Not everyone is going to want to donate to your organization. You can still remain optimistic and offer them different ways to support you like volunteering or attending an event.

If you follow these six tips, you’ll be able to successfully ask for donations over the phone and raise more money for your organization. These strategies might differ depending on the size and mission of your nonprofit, but they can be tweaked depending on your particular circumstances.

For more help, check out these nine tips for asking for donations.

And for the answers to your most pressing fundraising questions, take a look at this article.

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