Non-Profit Telemarketing: Taking the Plunge
So you’ve decided to incorporate telemarketing into your non-profit’s marketing strategy for the first time? If you’re just getting started, there are a few things you’ll need to know and three things that are an absolute must in order to achieve success. Once these critical items are in place, your non-profit organization can truly start to experience the rewards that telemarketing can bring.
The first thing you’ll need is a qualified list of potential donors. The best leads are people who have previously given to your organization. They have already demonstrated a commitment to your organization and shown, through their financial contribution, that they support your mission. Previous donors are much more likely to give again and will provide you with the best return on your investment. When deciding on which past donors to call, always start with those that have given more recently and work backwards. Recent donors give at a much higher rate than those who gave long ago. Start with donors who have given in the last three years and then move to older leads. Always work with a firm that will monitor the results carefully so you can stop calling once it doesn’t become profitable.
The other type of list that can be effective is a “warm” acquisition list. This would consist of people who have not yet given to your organization but have some established interest. Perhaps they attended an event where you captured their information or maybe they responded to an offer other than a request for financial support. While the return on these potential donors isn’t as great as those who have previously given, they can turn out to be a cost-effective group to solicit.
What if you don’t have an established list of previous donors or qualified potential donors? Thinking about purchasing a list or using one provided by a telemarketing company? Don’t bother.
The return on a “cold” acquisition list (people who have never given to your organization and have no known affiliation) is break-even at best. You’re most likely to lose money, especially the first year. Any reputable telemarketing firm (one that doesn’t work on a commission basis), will steer you away from this approach. The one exception to this might be if your goal is simply to add donors in the short-term for long-term gain, which can be achieved through additional gift requests and renewals of those donors in subsequent years.
Established, Secure Website
The next thing you’re going to need to make your telemarketing campaign a success is an established and secure website with great content. Why does content matter? Because donors are going to go to your website, either to make a payment or to verify information about your organization. When they get to your site, what do you want them to see? Your site is a direct reflection of your organization. It needs to be professional and include content consistent with your organization’s mission and goals. Most importantly, your site needs to be secure, with a valid and working security certificate. A website security certificate is a validation and encryption tool which encrypts and secures data going back and forth between the user’s browser and your server. Your entire site needs to be secured, not just pages on which you accept payment. If not, donors will see a “Not Secure” message in their web browser, which definitely does not promote trust or encourage donors to provide you with their financial information.
Speaking of payment options, the most important thing you’ll need on your site is a way to accept payment from donors. If your organization doesn’t have a merchant account specifically setup to accept credit cards, get one. Don’t rely on PayPal alone. A site that only accepts PayPal or uses it to process credit cards is a turn-off for donors. Most donors who say “yes” via a telemarketing campaign do not provide their payment information over the phone. When a pledge is made and the donor wishes to be billed, they should receive reminders in a variety of ways- including mail, email, and text. All of those reminders should include a link to the secure page on your site where they can complete payment. When they are directed to your site to make payment, it needs to be safe, secure, and easy to use. Check with your web developer to make sure everything is in place before getting started.
The third thing you’ll need to get started with your non-profit’s telemarketing campaign is a strong commitment. It’s important to note that telemarketing is not a “one-off” event. It’s not a quick fix or a fast way to fill your coffers, especially when you’re just getting started. A successful telemarketing campaign takes time and effort and must be sustained for the long haul. In order for it to be successful, telemarketing needs to be part of a broader marketing strategy that incorporates mail, email, web, live events, and other efforts. Telemarketing has many other benefits outside of financial reward. A proper appeal over the phone allows you to reinforce your organization’s message, stress urgency, and cultivate donors for long-term giving. Work with your telemarketing firm to develop a strategy that makes the most sense for your organization and its goals.
Your commitment will also be financial. Most telemarketing firms charge a setup fee to get started. The fee can range anywhere from $500 to the thousands, depending on the firm. This initial setup fee helps cover the cost of setting up a campaign, developing scripts, training agents, and more. In addition, reputable telemarketing firms either charge per hour of work or per decision (donors who say “yes” or “no”). Avoid those promising big returns based on a commission. Chances are the commission-based telemarketing firm will reap all the rewards while you end up with very little (if anything at all). In addition, a non-profit fundraising report (mandatory in most states) that shows you kept 5% of the money raised while the telemarketing firm took 95% would be a public relations hit for your organization, and very likely lead to fewer and fewer donors as time goes on.
Be sure to work with an honest, respected telemarketing firm with experience in fundraising for non-profits. With a little effort and some guidance, your non-profit organization can fully realize the potential telemarketing has to offer.