The Best Fundraising Channel You’re NOT Using

Outbound telemarketing
  • What if I told you that there’s a way to personally welcome every new donor, improve retention rates and reactivate hundreds - or even thousands - of your lapsed file at low or no cost.  How, you ask?  Believe it or not, the answer is outbound telemarketing.  Telemarketing has a reputation for being intrusive, expensive and optional in fundraising, but with our tips below you’ll see why telemarketing is none of those things!
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  • Whether you are launching a new telemarketing campaign or want to revitalize your current efforts, below are a few tips to both grow your active file and keep it healthy by calling your donors:
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    • 1. Start with a wide audience – Often times organizations make a file select based on the segments they think will work, especially in regard to lapsed reactivation.  It’s extremely simple for call centers to open and shut segments during calling so that underperforming segments can be cut before they damage the overall results.  Until an outbound telemarketing program has been benchmarked, a calling file of $15+, 13 – 72 month lapsed donors is a great place to start. Sometimes you’ll be surprised at which segments outperform the rest – it’s not always what you’d assume.   Lapsed donor campaigns can generate between 0.8 – 1.1 ROI, so the financial risk is minimal when the calling is monitored and optimized properly.  Lapsed sustainer calls to monthly donors whose credit cards have declined can run at 1.3 – 1.5 ROI in first month’s revenue even at a $4.25 cost per call.  Although the cost may seem high, the return in subsequent monthly revenue far outweighs the cost. 
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    • 2. Don’t just fundraise – Outbound calling is not only good for fundraising – it’s a great way to personally welcome new donors and thank existing donors for their gifts.  These calls are typically very short and low cost – from $0.50 to $1 per call – but they can be done in a timely manner and provide value in building the relationship with your donors.  Whether it’s through a live call or an automated voice blast, letting donors know that their gifts are appreciated is always worth the effort.
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    • 3. Personalize the call – Gone are the days of one-size-fits-all fundraising.  With so much data at our disposal, every call can and should be personalized to the donor.  Transactional data points like most recent gift and largest gift are standard, but digging deeper to analyze the donor’s preference for appeal type within the organization can help to target scripting to a cause that the donor is most likely to donate to.  This can be done by tracking which appeals a particular donor gives to most often or how they were acquired.  When transactional data points aren’t available, using business intelligence overlays to determine points like household income, presence of children or education level can help to customize the telemarketing call to generate the best results possible.
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    • 4. Conduct real-time  testing – One of the benefits of telemarketing is that results are available real time, allowing for dynamic A/B testing of scripting, ask strategies and premium usage.  A 50/50 test is the best way to determine the strategy that generates the best results on a calling file.  Once an audience or even a specific segment starts to show better performance, the test allocation can be changed to 70/30 or even 80/20 in order to boost the overall campaign performance.  A winning strategy should only be determined after several days of consistent results with enough calls for a valid test.  Be sure to note any large gifts that may skew results – these should be removed before selecting the winning strategy.
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    • 5. Get on a schedule – Just like mail, telemarketing campaigns should be a part of the annual fundraising schedule.  It’s easy enough to coordinate with other large appeals during the year and it allows tracking year to year what’s working and what’s not.  Ad hoc telemarketing campaigns may work for emergency situations, but to truly realize all the benefits of telemarketing, consistency is key in incorporating it as part of an organization’s overall fundraising strategy.
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  • ​Outbound telemarketing is a great way to reach out to donors to welcome them to the organization, to thank them for their donations and to keep them engaged and giving to the cause.  CDR Fundraising Group has a team of tele-fundraising experts committed to meeting the telemarketing needs of our clients.  For more information on these best practices and to learn how you can integrate telemarketing into your donor cultivation and retention strategies, contact CDR or leave your comments via CDR’s Facebook or LinkedIn page.  
Emily Helstrom, Account Executive