Working telephone fundraising into multi-channel


This article by Bethan Holloway first appeared in Charities Management magazine


Working telephone fundraising into multi-channel


BETHAN HOLLOWAY, client services director at telemarketing agency PELL & BALES, says nowadays telephone fundraising has to be put into a multi-channel context

In the current economic climate, charities are facing one of the most challenging fundraising environments for some time. The cost of acquiring new donors continues to rise as more direct and less passive forms of fundraising are used. Meanwhile, an increased rate of donor attrition – the loss of existing donors – shows no sign of abating as people tighten their belts.

Unless charities make use of fundraising opportunities in new and imaginative ways to improve donor retention rates and generate more income from existing supporters, they are likely to see a fall in both the number of donors they retain and hence the income they bring in.

Although there is no single answer to the pressures that charities are facing, wiser heads will see the merits of integrated ‘multi-channel’ communication as fundraising teams look to connect with younger, technologically-savvy supporters. Charities which don’t want to be left behind should make sure that they are investing in the technology or working with agencies which will enable them to deliver this.

Communicating with supporters

Fundraising across multiple channels allows charities to communicate with their supporters in a way that fits with their lifestyle, preferences and media consumption habits. A narrow focus on single channel fundraising – for example, fundraising exclusively using direct mail – is no longer enough. The profile of the “typical” donor has changed significantly in the last ten years.

At the beginning of the last decade, direct mail was the favoured method. Donors today are younger and tend to use a variety of media – from web pages to SMS text messaging and social media – in their everyday lives. They don’t just want to give money. They also want to fundraise, advocate their chosen causes and engage in conversation with the organisations they are supporting.

Of course, telephone fundraisers have long understood that effective communication with donors requires an adaptable, tailored approach which means that people are hearing from them in a way that is appropriate and relevant. For telephone fundraisers this has often involved the use of different “voices” to reach out to supporters, using a different script, tone or style of dialogue depending on the person being called. Integrating multiple channels into a fundraising campaign can be seen as an extension of this.

Previously untapped support

By embracing channels that complement the telephone, and choosing a medium that fits with the profile of the target donor, shrewd telephone fundraisers have been able to use different channels to reach previously untapped sources of support.

For example, by using online channels in conjunction with the traditional telephone, fundraisers have been able to reach donors who might otherwise not have responded well to a cold “donor acquisition” call. One way that this has been done is to combine an online action and a phone call. For example, a charity’s website can be configured so that it features a “call me” or “register now” button which, when clicked, asks for a telephone number to be provided by the reader who, in turn, receives an instant call from a telephone fundraiser.

Alongside online channels, SMS text messaging is also popular as a way to enhance and extend the effectiveness of traditional fundraising techniques. SMS based calls to action generally involve asking a potential donor to text a word, such as “help”, to a five or six digit number. The donor then receives a call from a person on the telephone.

SMS calls to action

This method has two distinct advantages: SMS calls to action are short, giving them a versatility that allows them to be printed in many places, such as billboard posters, television adverts – even on the side of a disposable coffee cup. In sending an SMS text message, the sender is also providing the fundraiser with a validated phone number which they can call straight away or add to their database for future use.

Smartphones in particular present a hugely exciting opportunity for fundraisers who want to deliver content that can help retain donors and keep them informed. All content, conversations and fundraising “asks” can be delivered to one handset which never leaves a donor’s side. Reaching your supporters through their smartphones should increase “cut-through”.

People are more likely to read something that has been delivered to their phone rather than posted through their letterbox. Smartphones lend themselves well to instant responses to appeals and other calls to action. Telephone fundraising agencies have developed software which allows donors to make and control monthly gifts direct from their mobile phones and receive multi-media content, including email and video, in return.

Speed is of the essence

Of course, capability is one thing; making the best use of the capability is quite another. Speed is of the essence for the telephone fundraiser who wants to work effectively across multiple channels. It is important that all channels – telephone, online, SMS and video – are integrated together in such a way that provides the donor with a seamless experience. Minimising the time between a potential donor sending a text and receiving a follow-up call is important.

Fundraisers will get the best results if they speak with potential supporters while the original call to action is still fresh in their mind. The technology exists for this. For example, there is software which can plan telephone calls, generate emails and send SMS text messages from one platform. This means that communication across all channels can be planned, delivered and measured in an integrated way, rather than separately, in a silo, as might otherwise have been the case.

With the proliferation of an increasingly wide range of media and communications channels, the telephone can still play a pivotal role in any multi-channel fundraising programme. It is an engaging and interactive medium. Whether using voice, SMS text messaging or email, mobile telephones will be the platform that supports both inbound and outbound messages, allowing for real interaction and supporter-led fundraising. In addition, for conveying the emotional impact of a charity’s cause or campaign message, the telephone, still, reigns supreme.

This article by Bethan Holloway first appeared in Charities Management magazine

One thought on “Working telephone fundraising into multi-channel

  1. Pingback: IFC Round-Up 2013 | Pell & Bales

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