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.


…Still trying to change the world

Thanks Paul for sharing your fuzzy feeling last week.

Paul shared the words of our founder Simon Pell on what drove him to set up Pell & Bales – inspirational stuff – and I’d like to think we are still driven by that same honesty, passion and a commitment to make the world a better place. We certainly try hard to keep our roots and sense of mission alive in everything we do.

When we started [Pell & Bales] we didn’t really have any marketing experience to speak of, and to be honest, we didn’t know that much about fundraising either.

We were basically campaigners and activists – members of CND, Greenpeace and the Labour Party who stumbled across a fabulous way of using a simple bit of technology – and the power of words, of persuasion – to raise money for causes we were deeply committed to. So we were campaigners who discovered the phone and a whole world of possibilities opened up.”   Simon Pell

We are still as amazed today by the power of the humble telephone as Simon was 20 odd years ago. And with technology evolving at an ever increasing pace, and the number of communication channels at our finger tips far greater than when Pell & Bales was founded (yes youngsters, back then we really did only have mail and the landline to communicate with our donors) I feel we are all are walking into the unknown, learning as we go along, just as Simon & Kevin were all those years ago. How exciting!

PS. I’ve shared a few fuzzy moments with Paul in my career. And while we’re being sentimental I’ll share another: I know this video will make Paul smile and like me he’ll never tire of watching it.

The video is amazing – a demonstration that it only takes one man to start a movement, one man to change the world.

Paul and I watched this together for the first time at an even more amazing session by the wonderful Bill Toliver at the IFC one year. Enjoy.

Who needs fundraisers anyway?

Earlier this year Vera Peerdemanwriting for 101 fundraising, talked of a Dutch magazine article which highlighted fundraising as a desirable profession sitting alongside other inspirational roles like ‘fertility doctor’ and ‘geriatric medicine specialist’.

And why shouldn’t it be – what’s more important than saving the world, stopping children from dying, beating cancer – none of which is possible without the humble fundraiser.

But I wonder – would a glossy magazine ever hold a frontline fundraiser in such esteem, (you know – those great guys and girls who speak to real people in the street and on the phone and do the asking)? Would they have put that fundraiser on a pedestal and celebrate the difference they make to the world?

I fear not. And why would they? We hardly set a good example – don’t we struggle ourselves to champion our frontline fundraisers, to speak up for and defend our fundraising practices?

At Pell & Bales, we speak to 1000’s of wonderful supporters every day, supporters who laugh with us, cry with us, and thank us for updating and sharing with them – yet I have to say it can sometimes seem that our calls are perceived by some at the charities as a ‘dirty little secret’. But that’s nothing compared to the rough deal street fundraisers get – we let them stand in the cold day after day doing our fundraising for us and then insult them by calling them a “chugger” (aka charity mugger) as if it were a term of endearment?

I know some of you are with me on this – Debra Allcock Tyler writing for Third Sector Magazine recently highlighted the vital work street fundraisers do in tough conditions, and Lisa Clavering, of Breakthrough Breast Cancer has been outspoken about her disgust in the use of the word chugger”

But with an estimated 900,000 donors recruited through direct dialogue each year this doesn’t seem enough. If we don’t champion and embrace our fundraising, if the only people speaking out are those that  find “chugging annoying and appalling”, or under-cover journalists looking for scandal, then we are leaving our fundraising open to huge risk of public backlash, threatening the longevity of our fundraising programs.

Please take a minute to respond below, and share your thoughts on why we as a sector don’t champion front line fundraisers as much as we could;

Freshen up your 2013 fundraising with free campaigns from Pell & Bales

Developing your supporter database your New Year’s resolution?

Offering you the chance to freshen-up your fundraising, Pell & Bales might have the answers to make your 2013 wishes come true! We’re now giving away more free campaigns to round-off our 21st Birthday celebrations, promising a prosperous start to the year for a host of lucky causes.

With six spaces left to fill, we’ve spent the last year working in close-partnership with charities such as AVERT, Breakthrough Breast Cancer, Tommy’s, RLSB and British Forces Foundation, raising over £123,000 in testing new fundraising techniques. This includes Monthly Giving through Mobile Phones, Donor get Donor & Advocate fundraising, Online Prospecting and Event fundraising.

Looking to be inspired by all your fundraising objectives, we can’t wait to hear what fundraising issues you want to address. We hope too that by removing the cost we are removing the risk of testing new fundraising initiatives – perhaps to you, ‘new’ is doing tele-fundraising full stop, or perhaps you might be inspired by some of the things that we would love to get our teeth into next year:

Connected – Why not be the latest client to test the game-changing monthly mobile giving platform. This new system allows supporters to take control of their monthly SMS gift direct from their mobile phone and delivers engaging content to that very same hand set. This regular giving platform is particularly attractive to small charities as the transactions, reporting and communication program are managed for you, from a hosted database.

•Donor Stewardship & Loyalty- We’re already leading the sector in using the phone to drive loyalty with our unique welcome and thank you calls, but we’re keen to take this further: Customer Services and Customer Satisfaction calls account for 38% of outbound phone calls in the commercial sector, yet account for just 1% in our sector! Why not choose 2013 to work with us and steward your donors with satisfaction surveys, SMS thank you’s, ‘wow’ moments, loyalty incentives and more shared, meaningful moments?

•Donor Led – Listening to the supporter, asking the right thing at the right time and presenting them with a choice in how they want to help your charity could yield huge rewards. And the phone can work extremely well as a channel for presenting those choices and guiding the donor through the decision making process towards supporting the charity in the way that they will have most impact.

•Integrating Channels & Multi Stage Campaigns – Maybe you already use the phone and would like to explore how integrating email or SMS can uplift results? Or perhaps you would like to use the phone to boost response rates to your mail pack? Why not take advantage of Pell & Bales multi-channel, integrated, CRM platform?

•2 Stage Recruitment – Acquisition of regular givers is tough, but acquisition becomes much easier when you break the process down into two stages however: 1. Attract the prospects or ‘hand raisers’, perhaps via SMS, Face to Face or from your website, and 2. Use the phone to convert them to Direct Debit. (This approach to acquisition deserves a whole other blog in itself – a blog we are sure to write up in the New Year!)

With the current batch of campaigns coming to an end and project reviews and case studies being pulled together, we are now looking forward to the exciting fundraising opportunities that lie ahead from the next set of lucky winners. So hurry and apply now to be in with a chance of winning!

Email rpatterson@pellandbales.co.uk for an application form. Application forms need to be completed by January 31st.

How to Reduce Donor Attrition by a Third in 3 Minutes

As we discussed in last week’s blog a 10% increase in donor loyalty today would enhance the lifetime value of your fundraising database by up to 200%!

At Pell & Bales we’re doing exactly that – helping our charity clients increase loyalty by at least 10% in one 3 minute conversation.

In the last 18 months we have developed a solid approach to loyalty calls that’s reducing attrition savings by a 3rd in the immediate few months after the call, delivering a year 1 ROI of 3:1 and breaking even by month 3.

In fact, for every £100 spent c. £1,000 is generated in year one income!

And that’s just measuring the savings in attrition. Beyond that there are other rewards to reap from enhanced loyalty & engagement. One client has reported a 50% increase in response to a subsequent event ask and another reports a 30% increase in response to an upgrade ask.

How it works

  • Design a call that is about the donor – not about the charity and definitely not about fundraising or the charity needs. The aim is to make giving feel good, rewarding, involving and impactful
  • Allow yourself a budget, time and resource to have a real conversation with supporters
  • It’s not so much about what you say, more about how you make donors feel: listen to what they have to say, let them visualize and contextualize the impact of their gift, inspire them. Make them feel part of the bigger picture, the solution, and reinforce that their vision is your vision; that you will deliver on your promises, on your joint mission
  • Create a check list of known drivers in loyalty and commitment and address them through conversation (we use Sargeant and Woodliffe research, gathered supporter insight and our own research here)
  • Weave anti-attrition messaging into the conversation: be flexible and accommodating – offer payment holidays or even downgrades where appropriate
  • Encourage multiple relationships and a greater involvement and increased interaction in the cause (but don’t ask them for more support)

Why it works

No other channel offers the personal human interaction of the telephone. Loyalty is about relationship building, but how are you going to do that if you can’t hear what the other person’s saying? The phone allows a supporter to tell you what’s important to them, to ask you questions and to build rapport in the way they just can’t do with a piece of paper or video.

Third Sector’s latest ‘Giving Trends’ research says that the telephone is the most effective way to solicit donations. Now we know it’s also the best way to retain and nurture donors.

A conversation like this sets the tone for the relationship between you and your supporter.  Calls work particularly well when placed early on in the donor relationship. With the most significant attrition happening within months 0-4 it is advisable to place a loyalty call before their first Direct Debit payment has been made.

Results by recruit source

Across multiple clients and various data sources we consistently see a reduction in attrition, post call of c.1/3rd

And while the effects of the call do start to taper off a little over time, there is still a lasting impact 16 months after the phone conversation!

Look out for further blogs where I will explore Sargeant and Woodliffe’s  ‘key drivers of commitment’ (Service Quality; Risk; Shared Beliefs; Learning; Personal Link; Multiple Engagements and Trust) and how they can be translated into your donor communications.


A Magic Moment


A couple of weeks ago Craig Linton [aka Fundraising Detective] came to our offices to talk to us about creating supporter ‘magic moments’

Magic Moments; Surprise & Delight; Wow Moments: these are the buzz words in the sector and on the lips of those in-the-know about great donor stewardship

We love the concept here at Pell & Bales, and I’ll be sure to write a blog about this subject and the telephone very soon. But in the mean time we would like to share our very own Magic Moment. It came less than 24 hours after Craig’s visit and quite literally had us ‘wowing’ in the office. Thank you team bibic….


Dear Pell & Bales,

We are totally and utterly over the moon!!! Thank you so much for choosing bibic to benefit from one of your free campaigns – we are so excited at the opportunity. It is bibic’s 40th birthday this year and you could not have given us a better gift!…

….The team here are really looking forward to working with Pell & Bales as you can see below… the photo is a bit blurry because it was taken by our Accounts Manager and he gets a bit excitable when we talk about regular giving! 

 I hope that you have a brilliant Bank Holiday weekend and, once again, thank you for your tremendous support of our work to transform the lives of disabled children.

With very best wishes

Jess Winchester, Fundraising & Communications Manager, bibic


4 Lessons from 5 Amazing Fundraisers


4 Lessons from 5 Amazing Fundraisers

There was much celebration in the P&B office last week upon raising our £1 Billionth. Last week I blogged about some of the numbers, this week it’s all about the people.

A special accolade goes out to five very special individuals who have each been fundraising with P&B for over ten years. Between them have spoken to over 300,000 donors, and raised a phenomenal £12 Million.

For those that have ever worked with or for Pell & Bales it is more than likely that you will recognise these names. Please join us in congratulating them, and every fundraiser to have worked with us in our 21 years.

So what can we learn from these amazing fundraisers? What in their view makes a great fundraising campaign and what inspires and compels them after all these years?


When I caught up with our ‘super fundraisers’ I was really humbled to hear that what motivates them is “When the supporter thanks you for calling” or “when you’re congratulated for doing a great job and helping the cause.” 

Darlene simply enjoys “conversations where the supporter has relaxed with me and there is laughter”

It is clear that what makes these individuals amazing telephone fundraisers is that they really do enjoy talking to donors.


Often the easiest causes to engage with are those that as a fundraiser you can relate to directly, for many an example of this would be a cancer charity. But Tom also mentions the power of “charities that are passionate, non-apologetic and not scared to say it how it is.” Ingredients that of course go a long way towards truly engaging conversations.

It was unanimously agreed that a great briefing is key. It will lead to great conversations and great fundraising.

So what makes a good briefing? Held up were examples of visits: to science labs, heritage sites, hospices and centres. Welcome are speakers: midwives, survivors, field workers. Appreciated are personalised fundraiser newsletters, updates, thank you’s and awards.

Unfortunately we don’t do this enough. Next year I will make it my mission to do more.


Campaigns remembered most fondly are those with a real sense of urgency, where the supporter passionately believes in the cause: believes that they can change if not the world, then at least one person’s life.

Amongst supporter groups remembered for being really engaged are Labour Party supporters and their determination to secure a win in the ‘97 elections, those that have experienced first-hand the impact of a MacMillan Cancer Nurse, and the community of outraged people stepping up to support Save the Children UK in the 2009 Gaza crisis.

These campaigns were life changing, award winning and one of a kind. Speak to anyone at Pell & Bales who was involved in these campaigns and the pride is tangible.

These campaigns also teach us the value of finding prospects and supporters who share your beliefs: supporters who will be truly passionate about your cause. Not only will this ensure the most successful appeals, but the most engaged supporters too. And if we are to believe that ‘commitment’, ‘shared values’ and ‘engagement’ are key drivers of loyalty then donor retention will be great too.


Tom remembers fondly the day Simon Pell hired a lecture theatre and marched the whole office across London because we simply had to watch The Orphans of Nikandla. He knew if we watched that documentary together, as the group of amazing compassionate fundraisers that we were, that we could not walk away from that room without committing to change the lives of everyone living in that village.

Simon no longer works here, but he has left with us an amazing legacy that is Pell & Bales: A unique place full of committed and passionate people, determined to change the world.

Thank you Pauline, Patricia, Tom, Ariel and Darlene for the time you have spent with our supporters. And for the life changing sums of money you have raised.