You’ve made the decision to incorporate telemarketing into your non-profit’s marketing plan. The projections look great. The scripts are done, the list is prepared, data entry has been tested, and the firm you’ve hired is ready to start calling. The money should start rolling in right away, right?
Not so fast. The truth is, the phone call is just the first step in a successful telemarketing campaign. A specific, committed, timely, and multi-faceted reminder effort is necessary to maximize the fulfillment of those hard-earned dollars. Why?
Unless you’re conducting a campaign in which the only accepted forms of payment are immediate (credit card, EFT), the majority of donors who say “yes” over the phone probably will not provide their payment information during the call. Donors refuse to pay over the phone for a variety of reasons, often because they are skeptical since they didn’t initiate the call or because they are busy and don’t want to complete the transaction at that time.
What can you expect? It depends on a number of factors, including the campaign, your market, and the quality of the phone call and message. For example, a typical lapsed donor campaign might fetch somewhere between 30% and 40% of the initial “yes” pledges via credit card or EFT over the phone. That means the remaining 60-70% of the donors who pledged have indicated they will pay on their own. That’s when the work really starts.
In reality, 100% of the donors who said “Yes” over the phone will not fulfill that pledge. Some forget or simply change their mind. So, what’s considered a “good” fulfillment percentage on most telemarketing campaigns? Generally, successful campaigns will yield a fulfillment rate somewhere between 70-80%. But it takes work and a series of reminders.
Firm Commitment from donor (Phone Call- urgency, commitment)
The first step to maximize fulfillment always starts with the quality of the call to the donor. Otherwise everything else is meaningless. Reported pledges should reflect a firm commitment made by the donor. It’s up to the Agent and firm you’ve hired to ensure best-practice techniques are used to shore-up that commitment. That includes confirming the dollar amount of any pledge, asking the donor to use a credit card (and asking again with a reason if they say “no” at first), and securing a committed day of return of payment for anyone that indicates they will pay later- all of which increase the sense of urgency with the donor so they are more likely to fulfill their pledge.
Ask your vendor to send you some of the calls they are making on your behalf. Do donors sound convinced and committed when they say yes? What techniques are the Agents using to secure a high credit card rate, but also ensure strong commitments from those that don’t pay over the phone? In addition to low fulfillment, you don’t want to run into a situation where donors are receiving confirmations for commitments they didn’t really make. One sure way to upset a donor is to say “Thank You. Please pay now,” when they didn’t really make a pledge.
Once the phone call is complete, the reminder process should begin immediately. As the old saying goes, strike while the iron is hot. You need to remind the donor of the phone call and their commitment quickly. If the reminder cannot be sent immediately, it should be within a maximum 24 hours of the call. Make sure the process is in place before calling begins. If you are not doing the reminders yourself, hire a telemarketing firm that will do it for you. Otherwise it’s out of site, out of mind. Those reminders should made via various methods. In today’s fast-paced, high-tech world, you’ll need to cut through the noise to grab your donor’s attention and get them to pay.
Reminders can take different forms. We recommend the following:
SMS (Text Messages)
Fast, immediate, and powerful- text reminders make it easy for donors to respond quickly by simply clicking a link you provide to pay for their donation. Let’s face it, nearly everyone has a smart phone these days and many people communicate and do business via text. It’s a simple way to provide your donors with an easy way to pay. A note regarding SMS text messages: As a non-profit, you must have verbal permission from the donor to send them the reminder text to avoid any trouble with anti-spam laws. That verbal permission should be recorded and saved in case there are any questions in the future. Also, make sure you honor any opt-out requests for future text communications.
Email is another fast, electronic method to communicate with your donors and remind them of their pledge. Perhaps they didn’t respond to the SMS message but intended to complete it later. Email gives them another reminder via a device with which they can quickly pay. Make sure your email contains three critical components- a thank you, a reminder of their pledge, and an easy way to pay (like a direct link). Keep in mind that just like SMS messages, you need to have verbal (recorded) donor permission to email them and honor any opt-out requests.
Good old regular “snail mail” is also an effective type of reminder. A mail reminder should contain the same elements of other reminders- a thank you, a reminder of the pledge, and an easy way to pay (website address, return envelope for check, etc.). The reminder of the pledge amount and their conversation (“Thank you for speaking with us on the phone…”) is important to help distinguish the reminder from other general solicitations. The formatting is important, too. A pledge reminder will be far more effective if it resembles a bill (perforated 3-up form) versus a letter formatted like so many other requests for money. Finally, use first class postage on the reminders, which helps further distinguish it from mass mailings and makes it much more likely the donor will open the envelope.
So, the calls were completed. Some payments were made immediately while many other donors said they would pay on their own. The initial reminder series (SMS, email, mail) was sent within 24 hours of the call. We’re done, right? Not even close. People forget. They get distracted. They procrastinate. And they need to be reminded again.
At a minimum, we strongly recommend sending at least three reminder series to all unfulfilled donors from the campaign (SMS, email, mail). Anything less and you risk your campaign’s ROI. Typically, it’s best to space reminders out by about 4 weeks, but don’t go much longer than that. To recap, reminders should be sent within 24 hours of the initial call, and then 30 and again 60 days later. Some organizations find success sending even more reminders (sometimes up to 7 or 8) to help further maximize fulfillment. What’s right for your organization should be determined by your fulfillment results and the ROI produced with each subsequent reminder effort.
About Falcon Fundraising, Inc.
Falcon Fundraising provides telemarketing services to non-profit organizations across the United States and Canada. To learn more about us, including our full suite of fulfillment services, get in touch here.