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Grassroots Fundraising:
Donor First Contact

by Doug Nash

The first contact a possible donor or member has with your organisation is critical. The experience can determine if the relationship will be brief or a long and mutually satisfying one. There is no point in putting a lot of hard work in getting noticed only to sabotage your efforts when the people call in to offer help. Here are a few points to consider converting the attention into tangible rewards.

When people call they want to get through and talk to someone, not ring out or talk to an answering machine. Make sure that the phones are adequately manned so that no call will go unanswered. Try to copy the commercial organisations in that they try to have all calls answered by the third ring. Of course the reality is that not all organisations have the people power nor resources to achieve this end, however the closer you get to meeting this goal the better your rewards will be.

By having all staff adequately trained means you won't have donors hanging up in frustration after being passed about from person to person like unwanted pet. Train all staff in the skill of answering an inquiry. Answering the phone is a skill. This skill needs to be supported by all staff be fully aware of the organisation. Who does what, where they do it and why they do it.

Before a first contact call is ended the member should have recorded the following information:

  • time of call,
  • callers name,
  • contact number and address,
  • reason for call,
  • why they called,
  • how they heard of you,
  • thank you!

Small organisations should have a specific donations line and contact person. This information should be made prominent in all relevant promotions, with the times that the phone will be attended. Once you state the hours will be attended then make sure that this is the case.

Another common failing is that there is no follow up. If a caller requests more information or a promise to call back is made than make sure that these promises are kept and kept in a timely fashion. If you post material only one day a week make sure to inform the caller of this fact, so they do not get the impression that you organisation is slack or slow to react. A sure way to lose faith by a caller is not to follow up.

If the request is in regards to a donation, consider including an addressed return envelope, pre stamped if you can afford to do so. Other items you may want to include are:

  • a membership application,
  • authority for regular donations from a bank account,
  • a letter of thank you with a real signature.

A follow up call a week or two later to ensure that the caller has received the appropriate action is always a good idea. This is a fail-safe function and a good way to monitor the effectiveness of your staff and training. It also send a strong message to the caller that they are valued.

A well thought out and implemented strategy of answering inquiries will be well worth the return of the efforts. The failure to have such a plan can be very costly and undermine all the hard work already invested.

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About the Author:

Doug Nash lives in Logan City in Queensland, Australia. He has graciously consented to share a fundraising idea with us every month. Although many of the ideas aren't new, each of them has a unique flair that comes from being developed and refined half a world away from ours.

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