Cold calling major donors to arrange appointments doesn’t work— but this method does
Introducing the engagement call!
- Ensure that donors will engage on the telephone for much more than just 30 seconds or so;
- Build rapport and trust quickly;
- Advance the relationship so the donor becomes exponentially more willing to accept your next call at another time;
- Use the law of reciprocity to increase the chances that the supporter will reciprocate later by giving.
I devised the engagement call as a result of our own ineffectual experience with outbound telemarketing here at MarketSmart. At the time, we were interrupting fundraisers like you (not donors) via telephone as we attempted to set appointments so we could demonstrate our products and services. In other words, we were cold-calling to set demos. Yuck!
- They embraced a ‘taking’ mentality, instead one focused on giving. Everyone knows you need to give to get. But for some strange reason, when beginning almost any marketing initiative, it’s easy to fly off the tracks and become self-centered. I wanted appointments set and that resulted in a ‘taking’ mentality. Clearly I lost sight of what fundraisers wanted and the fundraisers let us know how foolish I was. Yes! Even the CEO of MarketSmart makes stupid mistakes. 🙂
- They were pushed to reach a quantitative goal. “Set two appointments per day!” That was the goal I set for them. So they’d dial all day long hoping to get an unwitting target on the line. Then they’d try to commandeer their time. For those of you on the receiving end of those calls, I sincerely apologize for interrupting and annoying you.
I guess hindsight is 20/20 but I feel like we (especially me) should have recognized that you simply can’t build a relationship without trust and value. Trust is the cornerstone in the foundation of any relationship. And, an exchange of money only happens when a proper exchange of value exists.
Then it hit me like a bag of rocks. People kept asking us to remove them from our list. Others quietly unsubscribed from my blog. The negatives were outweighing the positives and they were piling up fast. Our cold-calling wasn’t working! The interruptive, ‘us against you’ nature of our outreach was actually ruining our opportunities, not enhancing them. So we pivoted. And now, thankfully, we no longer take that approach. Instead, we employ engagement fundraising principles to ensure that our marketing outreach is fair. In other words, we practice what we preach. We employ engagement calling!
Better late than never, right? Now we’re setting up more appointments with fundraisers than ever. They trust us more and they are much more qualified to buy. If you’ll learn from our mistakes, you’ll arrange many more meetings too but, of course, with major and legacy gift prospects who trust you and are ready to talk.
1. Build rapport and trust quickly by offering and/or providing value immediately in the first 5 – 20 seconds of the initial call. This builds a bridge over the valley of distrust (I’ll explain more about this later);
2. Immediately after that, make sure to project a spirit of service and partnership. Operate like a facilitator and problem solver as you ask poignant questions about each prospect’s needs. Use these questions to probe gently and uncover problems, interests, passions and desires (reasons why they care). This is essentially the discovery stage;
3. Then make it all about them. Deliver value. Seek to provide deeper engagement opportunities, information and involvement offers for them (give, don’t take);
4. Next, ask for permission to follow-up (and prescribe when).
NOTE: YOU MAY NOT ASK FOR AN APPOINTMENT OR A DONATION DURING THIS CALL (unless the donor begs to give or meet)!
5. On the agreed upon date, call again and begin asking more questions to determine whether or not we provided value and if our products and services might be a good fit. DO NOT ASK IF THEY GOT THE INFORMATION. Never! That’s question will do nothing for you. Instead, ask about them more. If you do, they’ll talk about their favorite subject… them! And that’s what you want because it’s all about them.
6. If there’s potential for a win-win partnership, offer the next step— a call/meeting with you to discuss how they can realize the best version of themselves by giving. Let them know you will not be asking them for money; you’ll only talk more about them and how you can help them achieve their philanthropic goals.
It’s that simple.
- Get over the chasm (valley of distrust)
- Provide service and value
- Offer solutions that match needs
- Project confidence and enthusiasm. Attitude is 80% of the battle. People can sense it even on the telephone.
- Speak clearly and succinctly. Many of your supporters might be older and hard of hearing. Plus, you only have 5 to 20 seconds!
- Introduce yourself and instantly set them at ease by saying, “Hi Mrs. Williams. This is _________ calling from __________ charity. I’m not calling to ask for a donation.”
- Then, without delay, go right into the purpose of your call (to add value) by saying, “I’m calling from the donor appreciation team. My job is to reach out to special supporters like you to say ‘thank you’ and to find out how we can give you what you need to make sure you feel good about your investment in our charity.” How about that? You’re calling to give to her and make her feel good— not ask for a donation! That will put her at ease.
- Next, without pausing or taking a breath of air, start asking questions by saying, “But first, I was wondering what inspired your gift of $_______ on _________, 2018? ” or “Why do you care about our mission?”
In most cases, you will cross the chasm and your donor will answer your question(s). She’ll tell you about her connection to your cause.
Whew! You did it! You set her at ease! You provided value! Engaged with a donor at last!!