Are you getting the most out of your non-profit telemarketing efforts? Is your vendor providing you with the best possible service? How do their results compare with other fundraising companies? With a little time and effort, you can make sure you are maximizing your telemarketing results by holding your fundraising company accountable. Here’s how.
Know Your Stats
You should monitor your telemarketing campaigns closely. While results can fluctuate day-to-day (every campaign can have its ups and downs), it’s important to watch for any trends that may develop. Insist on daily reporting – showing both the most recent shift results, as well as the campaign’s overall statistics.
First, pay special attention to the percent yes (i.e. number of “Yes” responses divided by total number of decisions – both “Yes” and “No”). This metric is a good indicator of the quality of calls being made to your donors. When agents get donors on the phone, how good are they at convincing them to contribute? If the percent yes is below expectations, you could be losing money. Second, take a look at the average pledge (dollars raised divided by the number of pledges). This is also a good indication of the types of calls being made. For example, if the average pledge on a renewal or lapsed campaign is below your minimum membership level, there’s a good chance something is going on in the phone calls to explain it. A third metric to follow is the percentage of pledges on credit cards. This number will generally be lower than your other fundraising efforts because donors did not initiate the call. However, a good rule of thumb is that credit card pledges should at least cover the cost of the telemarketing services. Finally, the most critical metric to watch is the campaign’s cost per dollar pledged, which tells you exactly how much it costs for every dollar raised.
Ask your contact at the fundraising firm to help you analyze the results. Be sure to ask good questions. “What’s going on with the percent yes? I was expecting it to be closer to 20%. How can we improve that?” Alternatively, “I’d like to see the percentage of credit cards a bit higher. What are they hearing on the phone and how can we overcome it?” Remember that changes can be made on the fly during a telemarketing campaign to maximize results. Don’t wait until it’s over to pay attention to the numbers.
Listen to Calls
There’s one surefire way to know exactly what’s going on in your fundraising calls- listen to them. Your telemarketing vendor should be able to provide you with recordings of phone calls, or even listen to live calls as they happen. In either case, listening to actual calls allows you to hear how the script sounds (Is it too wordy or long? Does it sound sincere? Is it conveying your organization’s message properly?), and how well agents are representing you on the phone (Do they sound professional? Are they polite and positive? Do they sound convincing without being pushy?).
Listening to fundraising calls gives you one other distinct advantage- hearing what your donors are saying. The specific objections and feedback offered by donors provides you with insight that you might not normally have. You’ll hear a wide range of feedback- from programming preferences to thoughts on your other fundraising efforts. Listen carefully. If you hear responses or objections that are not addressed in the script, work with your campaign manager to make necessary changes.
Want an even better way to evaluate the calls that are being made on your organization’s behalf? Experience them for yourself by seeding the list. “Seeding a list” involves adding records into a calling file with the purpose of assessing the quality of the calls being made. Add yourself and consider asking one or two colleagues if they would be willing to receive calls. You can then compare experiences and provide feedback to your telemarketing firm.
Remember the reports we talked about earlier? Those numbers might look good on paper, but all that matters is the fulfilled dollars. The true return on your investment won’t be realized until the pledges have had time to fulfill – 3 or 4 months following the end of the campaign. Typically, you should expect a fulfillment rate in the 70-80% range. Anything lower than that indicates room for improvement.
So who is responsible for the fulfillment numbers? Ultimately, the responsibility lies with the telemarketing firm. Good fulfillment starts with great fundraising calls – urgency, firm commitments, and a clear meeting of the minds. However, don’t forget about the critical importance of timely reminders. For donors who indicate they would like to pay by check, a pledge form and return envelope should go out in the mail by the next business day, at the latest. After that, donors who do not fulfill their pledge should receive (at a minimum) two more reminders, each timed about a month apart. Of course, you may find that additional reminders are still a cost-effective way to maximize fulfillment.
Some telemarketing firms send the reminders as part of the service they offer. If your vendor is sending the reminders, be sure to get them the paid files timely and verify that they sent the reminders on schedule. Some non-profits prefer to mail reminders directly. In either case, make sure it happens. Otherwise, you’re leaving money on the table.
One of the best ways to hold your fundraising company accountable is to periodically conduct A/B testing (also known as split testing). This involves sending a similar list to two or more vendors and then comparing the metrics upon completion of the campaign’s fulfillment cycle.
When testing, it’s important to keep a few things in mind. First, the test should be large enough to produce statistically relevant results. The larger the size of the list you send the vendors, the better. It’s generally a good idea to compare at least 500 decisions (yes’ and no’s) from each firm. You’ll need to send each company approximately 1,000 records to account for penetration (contact) rates. If you don’t have a list that size, consider running the test with smaller quantities over a longer period of time. For example, you might test your monthly renewals over three months. This can also give you more insight into the consistency of the results to expect.
Second, as the term “split testing” implies, be sure to send each of the telemarketing firms an equal sample from the same list. A single list randomly sorted and split evenly allows you to truly compare “apples to apples” when analyzing results.
Lastly, test everything. This is your opportunity to assess the full scope of your telemarketing company’s service. Compare fulfilled dollars. Compare the metrics we have discussed (paying particular attention to the cost per dollar raised). Compare scripts. Compare the quality of calls by listening and seeding the list. Compare customer service (Where they responsive to your requests? Did they provide timely and detailed reporting? Were they easy to work with?).
Be sure to share the results with your vendor. Ask for their thoughts and where they think they can improve. Even if you don’t end up switching, holding your current vendor’s feet to the fire should have a positive impact. A good vendor will rise to the occasion and welcome the feedback as an opportunity to improve the level of service they are offering.
If you aren’t meeting with your current telemarketing vendor at least annually, you should be. Annual planning allows you to map out the year’s fundraising goals and activities. But it’s also a great time to review the previous year’s results and identify areas of improvement. Ask questions that require your vendor to come up with a specific plan (“How can we improve the percent yes on our lapsed campaigns?” “How does our credit card percentage compare to other campaigns, and how can we inch it higher?”), or that explore other opportunities you may not yet have tapped into (“Should we be doing more to try and convert members to Sustainers?” “What other campaigns should we be calling?” “What are your other clients doing?” “What’s new and innovative that we should try?”).
Whether it’s an annual meeting, a daily stat sheet, or a full-blown test, there are plenty of opportunities to hold your fundraising company accountable and ensure your organization and members are receiving the very best service possible.