Cold calling, for many fundraisers who dislike it, sits right up there with public speaking, which some surveys have found people fear more than dying.
Certainly, in our modern digital tech age, there must be a better way to engage major donors and supporters than cold calling them, right? Who uses a phone to call people anymore?
Well, as it turns out, a lot of people do – especially many of your top major donor prospects. Who are they? For many organizations, your biggest potential donors are elderly, retired women.
And as social media continues to isolate and disconnect people – the opposite of its stated intentions – the experience of an actual conversation over the phone feels like a breath of fresh air. Regardless of age.
In other words – your major donors and supporters want to talk on the phone.
They want to be engaged. They want to be valued. They want to be heard. They want to be appreciated. They want to be understood.
All of this happens far more easily in a heartfelt, sincere phone call than it can with a thousand emails, texts, or instant messages.
All that said, cold calling supporters presents some challenges, and it’s often difficult to get your team, or yourself, excited about it. And digital communication certainly plays a profound role in successful major donor cultivation and qualification.
But today, we’re talking about making more cold calls, being excited about it, and getting better at it.
So, here’s a three-step plan you can start using today to motivate your team and get them fully invested in making more cold calls to supporters and previous donors.
What’s even worse than cold calling supporters? Cold calling them all by yourself.
Your first step to motivate your team and get them excited about cold calling major donors is to put a spot on the schedule where the whole team will do it together. Have you seen those PBS pledge drive shows that go on for days? They always put the people answering phones in the background as one big group. One reason is because it makes the whole event feel like a community effort. We’re all in this together.
In the same way, by making your cold calling sessions a team effort, all happening at the same time and in the same room, you diffuse that empty pit in the stomach that happens when you work up the nerve to call someone and get hung up on. With fellow cold callers nearby, you can brush it off, commiserate, and then get back on the phone for the next one.
And what do we mean by “blitz”?
Blitzes happen fast. They involve lots of people pursuing a single goal at the same time. And, they are time-limited. Blitzes don’t last indefinitely. This isn’t a New Year’s resolution.
Here are a few attributes to include in your scheduled cold calling blitz:
Scarcity of Time
Limit the cold calling blitz to 2-4 hours. That’s long enough to get a lot accomplished, but not so long that your team members will get worn out. Adrenalin combined with the assurance of a clear end point will motivate your team to give everything they have for that short burst of time.
Positive Social Influence
Again, it feels better to succeed together, and it doesn’t hurt as bad to fail together as it does alone. Get a room that’s large enough for your whole team to work from. A failed call can be overcome much easier with other people around to cheer you on and keep your spirits up. You’re all in this together.
Promote It Well in Advance
Don’t just slap this blitz on the company calendar and then explain it the day it arrives. Promote it weeks ahead of time. Talk it up. Get people excited about. Sell it to your team. Equip them with skills and strategies for effective cold calling techniques. By the time the blitz day arrives, everyone on your team will be revved up and ready to go.
Incentives, Games, Contests
You can make the cold calling blitz even more fun with games and contests. You could compete over various metrics such as most dials, most connections, or longest conversations, for example.
Just be sure the incentives don’t override the quality of the calls or the reason you’re doing this. In other words, you don’t want your team members ending calls too early because they’re trying to win the contest for making the most calls. But that’s why having rewards for longest call, in addition to rewards for making the most calls, can work well in tandem. You’re rewarded for being on the phone either way.
If your team is large enough, you could also divide it into smaller teams and have them compete against each other, so it’s not every person competing alone.
Who ya gonna call? That’s one of the biggest stumbling blocks when it comes to cold calling supporters. You must empower your team. Don’t make them scour your CRM and choose supporters from lists of hundreds or thousands of names.
Don’t give your team the opportunity to hold themselves back figuring out who to call.
Give them a pre-determined list. And make sure they understand you want every person on that list to receive a call, with a report about what happened with each.
So, if you’re doing a cold calling blitz that will last three hours, give each team member a list that they can reasonably expect to get through in that amount of time. Then, have a few backup lists in case anyone gets through their list with time to spare.
Or, if your blitz involves smaller teams competing against each other, one person who finishes their list early can help out another team member who might have gotten on a longer call and still has lots of names left.
Another challenge with cold calling supporters comes from all the little annoyances. Listening to voicemail greetings, waiting while the phone rings, making notes about each call.
You can reduce the drudgery with phone calling technology such as Phone Burner. Their software allows you to make calls faster, reduce wasted time, and log information about each call with much less hassle. Plus, your team can upload the lists of names you gave them in step 2 so everything is kept in one place.
You could use any one of these three strategies, and your team’s efforts to cold call supporters and major donors will go better. It will be less frustrating, less emotionally draining, and more productive.
But by combining all three, your cold calling outcomes will be far better, and your team will look back on the experience as a positive one.
A common mistake when cold calling supporters is to jump too far ahead, too fast. Cold calling is not the time to start hitting up prospects with requests to make big donations. That will result in a much higher hang up rate.
Instead, cold calling is about initiating new conversations with donors and prospects who may have never heard from your organization, or who haven’t engaged with you in a long time.
We strongly recommend that nonprofits use cold calling to engage supporters first. Don’t ask for money, and don’t ask for an appointment. This first call is an engagement call. Click below to read about how to use engagement calls and deliver a better experience for the supporter.
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