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3 reasons why your donors and donor prospects won’t call you back.


Recently I was visiting a customer and one of the fundraisers was very frustrated. Thanks to our system, lots of donors disclosed that they already left her organization in their estate plans and many more donor prospects said they might consider such a gift.

I felt her pain. She was clearly a very nice, caring person with a very warm heart. But her donors couldn’t see that and they weren’t calling her back.

“I don’t understand!”

Walking into the meeting exasperated by the situation, she exclaimed, “I don’t understand! Why won’t they call me back?”

She continued saying, “after all, they left our organization in their estate plan” (as if that meant the donor should be more likely to respond to her outreach).

She’s not alone.

I’ve heard the same comments from many other fundraisers.

It’s aggravating, isn’t it? You call but they don’t call you back.

What’s the deal?


Well, here are my top 3 reasons why they won’t return your calls:


1. They feel that you haven’t given them a good reason to call you back!

Your donors are busy. They have lots of things going on in their lives. You are competing with that ‘noise.’ So when they hear your voicemail, they instantly ask themselves, “What’s in it for me?”  (Wiifm)

Then in a split second, usually, their conclusion is… “not much.”

It’s your job to answer the Wiifm value question in your voicemail in a way that inspires a return call. You’ve got to explain succinctly why they should call you back and what value/benefit they will get? If you haven’t done that, they won’t return your call.

Will you make them feel good? If so, how?

Will you give them something they don’t already have? If so, what?

NOTE: Want a quick and easy way to determine whether or not your call adds value to them? Count how many times you say “you” vs. “I” in your voicemail. If you say, “I want to _________” or “I need to _________” then you’re probably on the wrong track.

2. They don’t trust you.

On my recent podcast with Jim Langley, he mentioned the fact that donors have become very cynical (with good reason). They’ve been burned by people in your role before and that has made them afraid to call you back.

They believe, if they return your call, they’ll find that you were not really calling just to add value to their lives or just to say thank you. But, rather, you were adding value to yours!

In other words, they worry they’ll get ensnared like a fly in a Venus flytrap. So, since they don’t see how they’ll gain value from calling you back and since they have no reason to trust you, they quickly hit delete and go on with their lives.

3. There’s no downside.

Your supporters will ask themselves, “What will happen if I don’t return the call?”

The answer: Nothing!

So why would they return your call? They don’t owe you their politeness. Plus see #1 and #2 again.

Smart fundraisers figure out how to develop offers that build trust and deliver value. Then they communicate how their donors will benefit if they return their calls and how those same donors could lose out if they don’t.

Your job isn’t to make calls. It’s to make calls that get returned.


Bottom line: Get over yourself.

The fact that they left your organization in their estate plan or have donated in the past doesn’t entitle you to a return call.

They made their plan or gave because they love what your organization enables them to accomplish as a result of their giving. They trust your organization to do the right thing with their gifts. But they don’t love and trust you. At least not yet.

You are not the organization. You’re just the person leaving the voicemail message.

They owe you nothing. But if you think they do, then that’s not just another reason why they won’t call you back… it’s a reason why they shouldn’t.

If you think they owe you a return call, get over yourself quick!


Provide value, build trust and make an offer they can’t refuse. Then you’ll get more calls returned.

Related Posts:

>>Fundraising telephone call do’s and don’ts
>>Is the person who answers your phones your weakest, lowest paid employee?


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