Telephone Fundraising Part 1: How the phone delivers response rates at least 10x higher than other channels

Hearing that one in six charities may face closure next year is particularly worrying: It has never been more important to ensure that our fundraising programs are working as hard as possible to maximise income at every opportunity.

Speaking recently at Enlighten – a fab, new and not to mention affordable conference for smaller charities, I discussed how even the smallest charity can enhance its fundraising simply by adding the telephone to their channel mix. We discussed 1. Why the phone is a great fundraising tool 2. How the phone is used to drive performance of all sorts of different fundraising programs, and 3. how to go about designing and executing a campaign.   These three areas will be covered over the next three weeks in our ‘Telephone Fundraising’ series.

Part 1: Why the phone is a great fundraising tool

The phone is used extensively and very successfully by charities large and small – this year Pell & Bales will hold 3 Million conversations with supporters across 250+ campaigns.  The top 5 reasons the phone is such a great fundraising tool are as follows;

1) Higher Response Rates

As with any direct dialogue channel response rates are strong: around 10 times higher than response rates to mail for example. The table below shows one clients response rates to an upgrade campaign: The phone achieved an upgrade rate of 38% compared to 4% and 0.05% in the mail and email respectively;

Upgrade Response Rates by channel final

2)Decline in Traditional Channel Effectiveness

While response rates and ROIs on the phone have remained consistently strong over the years, performance of other more traditional channels such as DRTV, door drop and direct mail have declined. This is particularly evident in acquisition fundraising where for many, these more passive channels simply don’t stack up anymore (on their own at least).

3)Engagement and Retention

Well known principles of stewardship and drivers of engagement are listening to your supporters, interacting with them, personalising your communications, demonstrating ‘shared values’ building ‘trust’ and ‘taking them on a journey’. What better channel for this than the phone? What better vehicle than real life conversation with your supporters?

As illustrated below, Pell & Bales see time and time again that where you do speak with supporters on the phone they will go on to have lower attrition rates than those that don’t receive a call (yes, even when the phone call was a fundraising one, and where the donor declines to give during the call!)


4)Positive Impact on Future Giving

Sticking with improved engagement, it’s not only attrition rates that can be measured. The example below shows the positive impact a phone conversation can have on response rates to subsequent mail packs;

subsequent mail response graph2


Last but not least, the phone is flexible. One thing that can give traditional channels and almost any campaign a boost is channel integration, hence recent trends towards multi-channel, multi-stage campaigns, particularly in 2 stage acquisition for example. The phone is the one channel that can be applied universally and integrated seamlessly alongside any other channel across all types of campaign, for example follow-up SMS leads with a phone call or use the phone to announce an upcoming mailing.

So that’s why the phone is so powerful. Over the next 2 weeks we will also look at how the phone is used across different programs and how to go about designing and delivering a campaign. At the end of the series we will pull together a guide to using the phone in fundraising – if you are interested in receiving that, or a copy of the Enlighten presentation please leave a comment below so we can get in touch.

6 thoughts on “Telephone Fundraising Part 1: How the phone delivers response rates at least 10x higher than other channels

  1. Pingback: Telephone Fundraising Part 3- Designing and Delivering a Campaign « Pell & Bales

  2. I’ve moved away from Direct response fundraising for a few years and had assumed that the phone had gone the way of direct mail. I was really impressed by results from the phone for a couple of my clients and will be recommending that others look at it very seriously. Woull be great to get some more evidence….

  3. Hi Richard, thanks for commenting.
    We have definitely seen phone hold up where other traditional channels have declined. I am working on a blog which will provide more ‘evidence’ ie response rates and ROIs. Please do get in touch (via Twitter or if you would like to talk further, perhaps get your hands on specific case studies for your clients – always happy to help!

  4. Pingback: Why are we still hanging-up on the telephone? | Pell & Bales

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