Awhile back we interviewed Ken Whitaker of Public Interest Communications, asking “Is tele-fundraising dead?”

To many fundraisers, too many, telephone solicitation is the neglected, even shunned, stepchild.

But Ken asserted that tele-fundraising was alive and well so long as one used the telephone in the right applications.

Recently, Matthew Guerin of Adams Hussey and Associates commented on that post, seconding Ken's emotion.

We thought Matty's comments were too important to be left in “Comment” limbo, so here they are:

“For more than 20 years I have engaged in telemarketing, in all of its varying forms, as my livelihood. I have witnessed firsthand the evolution of this art form. Starting with the days when calls were made by hand and our prospects were pages torn from phone books.

I have also been witness to the continuing evolution in the development of strategic integration of tele-fundraising with all other channels of fundraising, including most recently, on-line fundraising. While it may be true to say that there is less telemarketing going on now than there was a decade ago, I would make the assertion that this is the result of more strategic targeting of prospective donors, resulting in a significantly better return on the investment by the non-profit organization, as well as a dramatically improved public perception of telemarketing in the non-profit world.

I wish to reinforce the statements that were made by Ken Whitaker regarding the most effective uses of telemarketing today: Yes, it is still, by far, the most effective way to recruit into monthly giving programs — some of the non profits with whom I work garner as much as 98% of their sustainers via the telephone. It is also an extremely effective way to convert online activists into contributing members, as well as identifying donors who have great planned giving potential.

I also feel that he left out one of the newest and most lucrative uses of telemarketing — major donor recruitment and cultivation.

Unlike the telemarketing world of the 1980s and 1990s, most progressive telemarketing firms are able to pay their veteran callers a very competitive wage, and as a result, have managed to avoid the enormous turnover rates that are so prevalent in the telephone sales industry. Many of these veteran callers have had ten or more years with which to hone and perfect their telemarketing instincts and skills, as well as gain extensive knowledge about the organizations for which they call. These callers (but not all callers) have the ability to speak to mid and high level donors with confidence, a true sense of the organizations' missions as well as their pasts, and have been tremendously successful expanding major donor bases where they were struggling through other media efforts.

To cite a recent example, one of my clients is a relatively small, international conservation group with a healthy proportion of mid-level and major donors. For years, these donors were removed from most direct mail efforts and all telemarketing campaigns. The logic was that these donors would receive separate, higher touch pieces and personal contacts from a Major Gifts Officer. The only problem was that these actions were not happening to the extent that had been planned, and their major donor program was stagnant.

Enter TM. In the fall of 2006 a telemarketing appeal effort was launched to approximately 600 mid-level donors ($100-$999), and 300 donors in the major donor segment ($1,000-$4,999). Over the course of several weeks, with a small core of specially trained callers, over $50,000 was pledged and over 90% fulfilled by the end of the year. The result was an additional $40,000 in net income for the year. I am not aware of a small non-profit that would turn that down. Major Donor efforts are now a critical aspect of their current budget.

In closing, I'd like to echo Mr. Whitaker's sentiment — tele-fundraising is not dead … it has grown up.”

Very helpful comments, Matty. The Agitator thinks you deserve a raise!

Roger & Tom

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