5 potentially big problems related to telemarketing for planned gifts

MarketSmart Blog-5 big problems related to telemarketing for planned giftsHere are the potential downsides to telemarketing for planned gifts:

1 – The cost could be high;
2 – The calls are usually interruptive, inconvenient and always seem to encroach on family time;
3 – They tend to dive into the “mortality issue” prematurely when done wrong;
4 – They could lead to way too many hang-ups and requests to be removed from the call list;
5 – They could overload the office with leads (good ones and bad ones) which hampers meaningful follow-up.


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Margie McCurry
8 years ago

absolutely, Greg…. I would rather spend an hour in someone’s living room than spend a month paying telemarketers…. and I bet my results would be better !

8 years ago
Reply to  Margie McCurry

Indeed Margie!

Michael J. Rosen
8 years ago

Greg, you are someone who offers a variety of superb services and products. More than that, you are someone I consider to be a friend. It is in that context that I offer my criticism of your anti-telemarketing post.
I have a number of problems with your post:
1. Bias. Plain and simple, you are biased and should have acknowledged this in your post. You offer a variety of services that compete with telemarketing for limited budget resources. Your company, which does not offer telemarketing services, is in competition with those companies that do. Because of your bias, your post strikes me as ill-informed, at best, or entirely self-serving, at worst.
2. Good v. Bad Calling. While telemarketing campaigns can exhibit the problems you’ve outlined, a well-designed phone campaign will eliminate or minimize those potential problems. You’re painting with too broad a brush. Just as there are good, well-designed surveys, there are bad surveys. Saying that all surveys are bad simply because some are would be foolish. Doing so in regard to phoning is equally foolish.
3. Cost. Telemarketing can certainly be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. Outsourcing calls can be costly. However, doing calling in-house with staff, volunteers, and/or paid callers can keep the costs moderate. In any case, expressing cost as cost-per-dollar raised reveals just how reasonable an investment in calling can be. Typically, a phone program for planned giving will cost pennies on the dollar raised. Consider the following examples:
A university in Texas targeted 7,000 with a mail promotion of CGAs, following up leads with phone calls from paid students that resulted in $730,000 in CGA contracts.
An orchestra in the Pacific Northwest implemented a coordinated mail/phone campaign targeting 2,200 prospects with an in-house calling operation in an effort that produced an estimated $2 million in confirmed bequest expectancies.
4. Calls are an Interruption. Any communication is an interruption. The real question is: Is that interruption really a problem? If the phone call is to an organization’s most loyal supporters, those individuals will actually welcome the call, particularly if it imparts a word of appreciation and interesting news. Also, each call should begin by asking permission to speak. If the individual is too busy at the moment, an appointment can be set to call the person back at a time of their choosing. By way of example, I know that my wife actually looks forward to receiving a call, for the annual fund, from a current student at her former college.
5. Mortality Issue. While some calls get into the “mortality issue” prematurely, that’s not always the case. Again, it’s the difference between a well-designed call and a poor call. You can’t paint all calls with the same brush.
6. Too Many Hang-ups. First, I’m not sure what you mean by “too many.” Second, the more loyal the group contacted and the more phone responsive they are, the fewer hang-ups and requests to be removed from calling.
7. Overload. This is a bogus issue. If implemented properly, the pace of calling can be controlled to ensure that the staff is not overwhelmed by leads. Furthermore, some outsource providers also offer follow-up services allowing the charity’s staff to focus on the most important leads while ensuring that cultivation continues with the others. “Overload” is no more a danger with calling than it is with other promotional efforts. Oddly given the theme of your post, you seem to be suggesting that phoning is such a powerfully effective tool it will overwhelm staff while surveys are sufficiently ineffective that staff will not be overwhelmed.
In summary, phoning can certainly be problematic. However, it does not have to be. To the contrary, it can be quite effective and cost-effective.
In the interest of full disclosure, I need to point out that I am a phone fundraising pioneer. I have pioneered the use of the phone for annual giving, membership marketing, nonprofit ticket sales, capital campaigns, and planned giving. However, I do not currently provide such services directly. Instead, I offer related consulting services (as I do with direct mail, surveys, websites, etc.) when developing holistic marketing strategies for my clients. Those plans occasionally call for calling when appropriate and well-designed.

8 years ago

Hi Michael.
Of course, we are still friends. No problem. These exchanges are fun! But first I should remind you that my post clearly says that these are “some downsides to telemarketing for planned gifts”. The post does not say that no one should ever conduct telemarketing. Every kind of marketing has downsides. These are the ones related to telemarketing.
And, now in that context I’ll offer my criticism of your criticism. Of course, you’ll see that I have a number of problems with your critique.
1. Bias? I really don’t feel that I compete with telemarketing companies. In fact, the competition in this space is so weak that I don’t feel we really “compete” with any kind of company. Rather, we compete with ourselves to get better and better at producing results for our clients. Plus, I often tell my clients to go ahead and try telemarketing if they really think their donors will be receptive to it. In fact, you referred one such client to me. It worked fabulously for her and her organization. Of course, I don’t know if it worked better than other efforts on a cost per lead or disclosure basis. But I know it worked. The best telemarketing is done in conjunction with inbound marketing, email, direct mail and other efforts. When it’s put together properly, all of these channels should integrate. Anyway, I guess I respectfully take issue with your entire paragraph. I’ll leave it there.
2. Good v. Bad Calling. I did not say all telemarketing is bad. I said telemarketing has some downsides. Inferring that I said otherwise would be “foolish”.
3. Cost. I recently recommended using volunteers, staff and board members to call (telemarket) donors in the webinar you attended last week. I called it “Pizza Party Planned Giving.” Others can check out the webinar here: https://imarketsmart.com/resources/webinars/how-to-generate-more-planned-gifts/
4. Calls are an Interruption. I simply cannot agree that any communication is an interruption. Here is the definition of interruption: https://www.dictionary.com/browse/interruption and here is the definition of interruption marketing: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interruption_marketing
5. Mortality Issue. Again, I did not say all telemarketing is bad. I said telemarketing has some downsides.
6. Too Many Hang-ups. See number 5.
7. Overload. It’s not a bogus issue. “If”, “implemented” and “properly” are key words here. In fact, that “if” is a big one. There are tons of reasons why nonprofits might have a very hard time implementing things properly. Again, that’s why overload can be a downside. Plus, for that one I said “they sometimes overload the office with leads.” I did not say that telemarketing will… without a doubt… overload the office with leads.
Thanks for your very thought-provoking insights. Keep ’em comin’.

8 years ago

Greg, thanks as always for your thought-provoking post. I agree that PG telemarketing – done badly, and without consideration for the other marketing channels that donors are exposed to – can be problematic and damage donor relations. I myself have had a good experience with a PG telemarketing campaign. I was very happy with the results – a rate of gift notifications and identified qualified prospects (a number of whom later completed a planned gift and others who are in the process of making a gift) that compared very favorably with other marketing campaigns; we learned some very unexpected and helpful opinions about how our donors saw our work and our organization, and had only a small handful of complaints about the calls. I’m very glad we did this campaign. This was a one time campaign, calling 1000 long-time donors, partnering a reputable consultant with extensive experience in PG telemarketing. I was involved at every step of the way in terms of messaging, call quality, etc. My organizing does no telemarketing for outright gifts. Would I do PG telemarketing as a continuing part of my yearly marketing strategy? Probably not. Calling 1000 donors (speaking to 800) was as expensive as two direct mail/e-appeals to 20,000 donors. As a smaller organization with a limited marketing budget and a need to make up for a past dearth of planned giving messages to our donors, I do need to conduct more cost effective and farther-reaching marketing on a regular basis. So, in summary, 1) I am glad we did a telemarking campaign, was happy with the results, and would recommend it to other orgs; 2) I won’t be doing another telemarketing campaign in the near future (especially, in the interests of full disclosure, my other campaigns with MarketSmart have been wildly successful and cost effective. 🙂 )

8 years ago
Reply to  Tracy

Thanks for your input Tracy. As always, very wise. You are a true “A-Player”!

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