I Just Called To Say I Love You

By Paul Tavatgis
On April 10, 2014 At 2:00 pm

Category : face-to-face, Latest posts, retention

Responses : 2 Comments

Stevie_Wonder_1973Stevie Wonder would make a great welcome caller, he could follow up with “You Are the Sunshine of My Life” and your new donor would be yours forever. But even if it isn’t Stevie isn’t calling all of the new donors from your face to face program – someone should 

We are always told that face to face is “great for volume, but the attrition rates could be better”. The first part of that statement is true, but does the second part always have to be? I don’t think so, and one of the reasons for this is the inspirational power of a great welcome call.

I spent ten years working for a F2F agency that put a huge effort into perfecting welcome calls. They tried to call every new donor and got through to over 70% of them most of the time. Once connected, the new donor received a lovely surprise. No-one asked them for money, no-one raced through a script; instead someone had a sincere conversation with them about what a lovely person they were. It was only one part of the “process” but the retention rates for these programs were about as good as it gets for face to face in Australia.

Data analysis showed that 70% of people that had received a welcome call were still giving after 12 months. The donors that hadn’t been contacted still had a retention rate around 65%, but for any regular giving program a 5% difference represents a massive difference in net income.

As a result I’m surprised by how many charities running face to face programs don’t bother with a welcome call. As well as reminding the donors what great people they are – after all they stopped to talk to a complete stranger, handed over their financial details and committed to years of monthly gifts – welcome calling has other powers to improve your face to face program.

Calling new donors within one or two days is a great opportunity to ask them how they felt about their conversation with your face to face fundraiser. This is the best form of quality control you can have. You can spot any negatives and feed them back to your face to face team management instantly, instead of wondering why your attrition rate is so terrible after three months, by which time it’s too late to fix it.

You can also pass on all the positives as well.  Face to face fundraisers don’t often hear people say nice things about them, so some glowing welcome call feedback will always be appreciated.

Want to reduce your zero-debit rate? If you call before the first debit, you can also increase the chance that the first gift will actually go through. You can confirm that the donor understands that they’ve committed to a long term gift, and you can also check bank details if you need to.  

An example is a charity using multiple face to face agencies that experiences vastly different zero-debit rates depending on whether the agency welcome calls donors or not.  Donors from an agency that does welcome call experienced around 10% zero debits, without a welcome call the outcome was 25% zero debits. If you pay your agency for all new donors, including the zero debits – this makes a massive difference to the cost of acquisition.

Even a good face to face agency can lose up to 15% of new donors at welcome calling, but isn’t better to know quickly that a donor is unlikely to be a long term giver than to keep bashing away with annoying and expensive declines programs for months afterwards?

So the ingredients of an effective welcome call?

  • Speed!
  • A warm, passionate and sincere thank you
  • A “why” – we’re so glad you’ve decided to support us, because of you we can (insert amazing thing you do here), thank you!
  • Trouble shooting – overcome objections, handle complaints, pass on feedback, fix data

All of this means that welcome callers need to be smart people who give a damn. They’re not reading a script, they’re saying thank you to someone who has given money to support a cause they believe in too. They’re welcoming a friend, not processing a batch.

It’s not that hard to pull all those ingredients together; you’ll know a great welcome call when you receive one. It might not be Stevie calling, but you’ll definitely feel the love.

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Paul Tavatgis (1 blogs on 101fundraising)

Paul is the founder and director of Whipbird Consulting, an agency dedicated to helping organisations make the most from their fundraising – especially in the areas of regular giving and face to face fundraising. Paul was with Cornucopia Consultancy, one of Australia and New Zealand’s leading face to face agencies for twelve years, and has worked with leading charities to develop high quality face to face programs. Prior to this he spent five years working in activism and campaigning for Amnesty International Australia. Paul believes that face to face fundraising, done well, is crucial to bringing about change in the world.


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