Why are we still hanging-up on the telephone?


Considering the contribution that the telephone makes to the sector, I am always surprised at the lack of content about the channel at fundraising conferences. If you exclude (the rather good session) on mobile and SMS fundraising there was barely a mention of the channel at the IFC this year. Odd when you consider that response rates on the phone eclipse all other channels . And surely there is much to learn from the millions of conversations we are having with donors every year?

Sure it got the odd mention, more so perhaps than previous years, what with SMS and mobile making the channel more exciting and fashionable ,  but really nothing more than a mention here and there.

One such mention came from Stephen Pidgeon, a strong advocate of the phone.  When talking of how SMS Prospecting was changing the fundraising landscape in the UK, he asked the audience how they should follow-up these prospects. His answer of course was “Phone, phone, phone  – always the phone.”  The room was full of people silently nodding along as he spoke.

Then, someone asked a question which went something like this: “…but won’t the phone become over used? Won’t the public tire over the use of the channel?” So, the only question asked by someone in the audience was a negative one.  Great!  This about sums-up what we tend to hear on the rare occasions that the phone is mentioned.

Where are the voices of those using the phone successfully to raise millions of pounds each year? Why are we shy to talk about the amazing conversations we are having with our donors? The Agitator was one of the first to be vocal on this subject, calling the channel the neglected stepchild of fundraising.

Considering that the key themes (all mentioned in Bethan’s blog last week) from the IFC focussed on engagement, emotional fundraising and integration – what better channel than the telephone to demonstrate these things through a real-time conversation?

I probed Stephen Pidgeon to find out a bit more about what he thought about this. He said:

“The phone has in the past been seen by some as intrusive, but now, particularly in the two-step recruitment methods that engage people first, building a relationship of interest both sides, well then….the ONLY media for conversion is the telephone. It eclipses all others…”

Like us, Stephen is excited about how in modern fundraising the channel can be one of our greatest tools.  With regards to engagement and loyalty, he is a great fan of the ‘thank you’ call for example,

“Gosh I would be thrilled to receive one of those [thank you calls]! Telephone will be used more and more as a connection device, thanking, bringing news, asking for more money or money in an emergency.  It’s got to be integrated of course, but then ALL media has to be integrated, most of all social media.”

So we know what we’re putting on our feedback form to the IFC this year – a big ‘yes please’ to more topics around the telephone.

Will our call for 2014 to be the year of the telephone be answered? We shall see.


‘Thank you – We Got It!’

Recently, Amnesty International gave me an experience (as a supporter) which has reinforced the way in which I think we should be talking to supporters.   It was a beautiful example of great  donor stewardship.

Firstly, it was based on a simple premise.   On the eve of their vote to finally create an Arms Trade treaty, the campaign encouraged me to just send simple emails in support of Amnesty’s lobbying of the UN General Assembly.

Amnesty made it easy for me to do this.  All I had to do was enter my name, mobile number and click send –  then they acknowledged my action immediately.   I received an instant bounce-back telling me my emails had gone and that the swell of support for this campaign was growing fast.

Get others involved.   I was then encouraged to forward the campaign email onto my friends, family, workmates – or anyone who I thought might want to get involved.  I felt good about doing this because I was joining Amnesty to help them with what they’re already fantastic at doing– mobilising opinion & inspiring others.

Kept me updated on progress.   I was sent SMS messages to my mobile  phone, updating me that Amnesty had received an overwhelming response and they were increasingly hopeful of success-  keeping me involved at every stage of the campaign.

Finally the day of the vote arrived.  What would happen?  Had we been able to make a difference?  I received an email that evening at 7:02pm.


‘Thank You We Got it!’ Five little words that had one big impact on my engagement with the charity!

A historic agreement that I helped to make happen.  Amnesty had made sure I understood that and crucially, they made me feel good about myself.

Not only did it inspire and motivate me to give again and again, but, more strongly than ever, it made me feel that I can and do make a difference every day by giving to this wonderful cause –  reminding me why I decided to support them in the first place!