Some nonprofits hire companies to manage their ongoing, year-long phonathons, which seem to run like well-oiled machines. But if you can’t afford that, do you have to abandon this event altogether? No – not by a long shot.
Although it can be a boon to your campaign to have year-around calling, many nonprofits benefit from periodic volunteer phonathon events, both for the fundraising, but also as an opportunity to bring supporters together and teach them to be ambassadors for their organizations.
Make no mistake: All events are avenues for volunteers to shine and show their potential! As you train your callers, reviewing the script, goals, prizes, etc. for the evening, make a point to circulate and listen. In the beginning, all callers should start out with small donors’ names, as they practice.
While you’re listening, however, you’ll be able to discern between volunteers who can’t get beyond reading a script and those who are truly conversing with – and charming – your donors. These people need to be upgraded immediately to calling your larger donors, since they know how to ask for larger gifts.
After your phonathon is over, these same outstanding volunteers can be recruited for other committees, or perhaps your board.
It’s essential to make your event – wherever it’s held – feel welcoming and festive to your volunteers. This means including plenty of food, drinks and snacks. If your organization can afford it, you may want to have a decorative theme.
Remember that social media can be useful before, during and after your phonathon: Promoting the event and recruiting volunteers online prior to the phonathon will gain you additional workers. Posting highlights of your progress throughout the event helps keep your momentum going – and remember to take plenty of pictures! When the event is over, share the celebration and gratitude with everyone on all social media channels – as well as more photos. (Remember to get permission to tag people. Better yet, invite them to tag themselves in the pictures.)
Prizes for various levels of performance are important – although it’s a good idea to keep your goals in mind, too. For example, if reaching a high percentage of credit card gifts is vital to your organization, don’t give prizes for pledges – only credit card payments . . . but vary the prizes based upon this theme, such as the first credit card gift each hour, the largest credit card gift of the evening, etc.
With caller ID, where you’re calling from is a careful consideration to make. If your nonprofit opts to be identified – and has enough phones – it might make sense to have your volunteers work from your offices during the evening, using employees’ desks after hours.
On the other hand, depending upon your call list and volunteers, you might choose to have your callers each use their own cell phones. Particularly if your call location is less likely to be identified with your organization (on caller ID), this might be a better alternative.
Although some would argue that each volunteer can simply make such calls in their own home – on their own time – with a list and their cell phone, this doesn’t lead to the camaraderie that is felt when people come together and share an evening of helping an organization they care about.
It also doesn’t allow staff to handpick their new talent from eyewitness experience. Additionally, when supporters are called, they may have specific questions for volunteers that only a staff member can respond to. It’s best to have such a person on standby.
Because people’s schedules are so full, it will take a lot of work to arrange a phonathon – and a lot of work to convince people that it was worth it . . . so that they will do it again in the future.
However – done well – a phonathon can still pay off as a worthwhile investment: in funds, goodwill ambassadors, and future officers for your organization.
Keep the base of the pyramid strong