A day in the life of a telephone fundraiser…

danny image

Recently Danny Whiteside, Direct Giving Fundraiser and telemarketing specialist at Marie Curie spent a day at our Fundraising Academy. Even better, he kindly agreed to do a guest blog about his experience…

 “As a charity fundraiser specialising in telemarketing, I thought it would be useful to look at how Pell & Bales use their academy to attract new fundraisers, instill the core values and fundamentals of telephone fundraising, and what makes an effective telephone fundraiser.

Feeling apprehensive, I walked into a room full of budding fundraisers and received a warm welcome from Jill Patterson – trainer at Pell & Bales. From the start, it was clear to see that Jill was enthusiastic, passionate and very knowledgeable about telephone fundraising so the tone was set for the day ahead – which, I later discovered, is integral to every telephone conversation.

Here are three important points that every telephone fundraiser must remember:

1.‘Never assume anything’ – It is dangerous to assume when talking to donors on the phone. If you ring ‘Mr X’ and find he is angry with the call and interrupts by saying: “I give to charity when I can and I’m on a pension!” it is wrong to assume that he won’t go on to give a regular gift. It is equally wrong to believe that the sweet, talkative ‘Mrs X’ will give to you because you’ve had an engaging conversation about her garden or dogs. The fundraisers were given random call samples to listen to which demonstrated why it is wrong to assume, but more importantly, why it is important to read a script from start to finish.

If you stick to the call guide and add-in some good ol’ fundraising by listening to the donor, demonstrating that you have listened to them, and then suggest something that is more suitable to their needs then alas!the begrudged ‘Mr X’, who you assumed wouldn’t give a regular gift, agrees to give at the first ask.

2.‘Think about how you speak’ – Albert Mehrabian, a Professor in Psychology at UCLA in the U.S, is best known for his publications on human verbal and non-verbal communications – particularly the 7%-38%-55% rule. When you speak to someone face-to-face, the receiver judges you by the words you use (7%), your tone of voice (38%) and your body language (55%). Therefore, people pay more attention to your non-verbal behaviour than actually listening to the words you say. On the phone, the receiver is unable to assess your body language as they can’t see you (obviously!) so this is redistributed into your tone of voice. This means that 93% of the conversation depends on how you sound on the phone and 7% conveying the message you put across.

So, make sure you pace yourself by talking slower than in natural conversation, heighten your pitch to empathise those thank you’s and lower it when describing an emotive story, use punctuations such as full stops and commas to pause between lines, and most importantly adapt or change your tone to meet the donor – if the lady is softly spoken, then speak in a soft tone too. Mirror their voice

3.‘Keep it WARM’ – This fitting acronym helps new fundraisers deal with donors’ responses and interruptions during a call. It stands for:

W – Welcome

A – Active Listening

R – Respond

M – Move On

demonstrate warm

Trainers Ileia & Jill (LR) demonstrate how to use the ‘WARM’ technqiue using a tennis ball. Once the fundraisers catch-the ball they should WELCOME the supporter response, ACTIVELY listen, RESPOND and MOVE ON

Donors often wish to talk or interrupt during the conversation so it’s important that the fundraiser acknowledges this, and listens actively to what they have to say. Listening well gives the fundraiser an advantage as they can gauge the donors interest, personalise the conversation and ensure the ask is tailored to their needs. Once you have responded, it is also important to move on quickly.


…. and here is the training group doing the response handling ball exercise!

The day has changed the way I work and approach our telephone fundraisers. Usually, before any given campaign, I brief them on our charity, throw in some emotive stories and testimonials for good measure and declare it ‘job done’. But that’s not enough – I should do more to talk about our fundraising and also reward them for their efforts. Telephone fundraisers are an added front-line for charities, just like Supporter Services and Regional teams, so we need to treat them well and arm them with all the knowledge they need to make a successful call. At the end of one of our recent campaigns, I sat down with the fundraisers over a pizza and helped hand out awards for the most successful telephone fundraiser by campaign – and you could tell they really appreciated it. If they feel appreciated, then they will appreciate your work and your donors in the way you expect them to, and ultimately you will have a call that leave your donors feeling appreciated too.

Before I attended the fundraising academy weekend, I used to refer to the fundraisers as callers, but now I call them fundraisers.

Pell & Bales Culture and Values

Jill teaches Pell & Bales core values and principles to the training group

They are taught to think and speak like fundraisers – they understand the donors they are talking to, they use emotive stories, they give compelling and tangible reasons for giving, and always talk with the donor in mind i.e. donors are the beneficiary, not the organisation.

I thoroughly enjoyed the day and would encourage other charity fundraisers to spend a day at the academy too. My thanks go to Bethan and Meena for the kind invitation and Jill and Stuart, who were so welcoming and put on a great day.”


One thought on “A day in the life of a telephone fundraiser…

  1. Thanks Danny really loved the article. As a telephone fundraiser its wonderful to be recognised as a ‘fundraiser’, not just a ‘caller’. Its a tremendous set of skills that we acquire & having superb trainers like Jill & Ileia are so important.

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