Making loyalty calls to your donors



This article by Bethan Holloway first appeared in Charities Management magazine


BETHAN HOLLOWAY of fundraising agency PELL & BALES says: Does the charity sector really need to be reminded of the importance of good manners, saying thank you and looking after donors? The answer, perhaps surprisingly, is yes

As charities have continued to feel the squeeze, many fundraising teams across the sector have understandably focused on acquiring new donors. However, a hard-nosed approach, which has income generation as its sole goal, will only take you so far. Charities need to also make sure that they are looking after and getting as much value as they can from existing donors.

Charities could learn a lesson or two from the commercial sector in this respect, which has led the way in using the telephone to make customers feel valued. Nearly four in every ten calls made to customers by commercial organisations are service calls. In other words, they are calls which do not contain a sales pitch or “ask”. In the charity sector, this type of call, often referred to as a loyalty call, accounts for just 1% of calls made to supporters.

Looking after donors means more than just making a positive impression. By giving donors that personal touch, loyalty calls can play an important role in helping to ensure that those who have decided to give continue to do so. Donor attrition – the rate at which existing donors stop making donations – is just one area that can be addressed by looking after your donors.

In the last decade attrition has become a major issue for fundraisers, driven by changes to the methods and channels used to sign donors up. In 2000, when a majority of donors were recruited using direct mail, fewer than one in ten people who signed up for regular giving stopped making donations within a year. By 2005 nearly one third stopped within a year and by 2011 the proportion had risen to nearly half – 41%.

There is no single solution to this, but there is evidence that a well timed loyalty call to give thanks or provide an update on a charity’s work can have a positive impact. Carefully timed thank you calls can reduce rates of donor attrition by as much as a third in the first year.

Charities need to put time, energy and – yes – money into looking after their donors and should not just do it as an afterthought. The “thank you” call – just one example of how a charity can look after its donors – serves to illustrate the point here. Careful thought should be given to the timing of the thank you call as there is no “one size fits all” approach. A one-off call could be made to a donor during those crucial first four weeks when attrition rates are high or, alternatively, charities could track their attrition rates over time and schedule thank you calls at those points when drop-off tends to be at its highest.

Some thought also needs to be given to the method by which donors are kept informed and made to feel valued. Despite the proliferation of media and communications channels in recent years the telephone remains one of the most effective mediums for making donors feel valued. It allows for a personalised approach that is difficult to replicate using other channels. Whatever their merits, direct mail and email simply do not convey the same level of personalised attention as a telephone call.

Among charities, the competition for supporters is intense, and those charities which remember the importance of good manners and take the time to look after their donors will have the edge over those that don’t. Remember – if you don’t keep your donors happy and engaged, someone else will.


This article by Bethan Holloway first appeared in Charities Management magazine

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