Thank You Phone Calls – 5 Best Practices for Nonprofits

Frankly, I almost never get a thank you phone call from a charity.

Because they are so infrequent, I am always pleasantly surprised. Those hackles that immediately arise when I hear a voice say “This is Susan, calling for XYZ charity,” magically convert to a smile. I put the brakes on my at-the-ready “no,” and respond with something like, “Oh…well, thank you for calling.”

I’m not alone. Penelope Burk reports

 that, in her donor research, 34 percent of donors who got a personal thank you call gave again to that charity, because of the call. In another test, reported by The NonProfitTimes, a thank you phone call increased later giving by 47 percent. Calling even when a thank you letter had been sent improved subsequent giving by 22 percent. Those later donations were also larger.

But there are still right and wrong ways to thank a donor over the phone. One of my favorite bloggers, Lori Jacobwith, put together a list of best practices for phone thanking. Here are just a few of her tips with my own embellishments:

  1. Use my name. Seems obvious, but sometimes callers forget and just launch in. Using my name gives me a heads up and may reassure me that the call is benign.
  2. Mention my last gift or that I’ve been a donor for 10 years, or that I just upgraded to a monthly gift. Let me know that you know about me and my history with your charity. Don’t ask for another gift! Just stick to saying thanks. Don’t be rattled if the donor doesn’t remember giving to your organization. Just say, “Well, we remember you! And we want to say thanks.”
  1. Leave a warm voice mail, if I’m not available. For me, getting a voice mail is almost as good as the real thing. These days, you’re more likely to have to leave a message anyway. People screen their calls, or they’re out and about. If you can leave a nice message, consider it mission accomplished
  2. Ask me a couple of questions, if I seem willing to chat. Good questions are “what keeps me giving?” Or “how has the charity affected my life or the life of someone I know?” You might be surprised at the motives you uncover and stories that inspire you.
  3. Get your volunteers and board members involved. Have a phonathon just for thanking. Make it an event and have fun. Provide some basic training and then set your phoners free. If you ask people to make those calls from home, do give them a list of tips and even let them do a practice run on you so you can provide feedback.

What about young donors? Do they care about phone calls?

Some research found that millennials use their smart phones for just about anything other than making and receiving phone calls. And they especially won’t welcome phone calls or texts from a charity. That research applies to solicitations, and we really don’t know how they would view a thank-you call, voice mail message or text. If your donors are in this generation, test first before you roll out a phone thanking program.

Add phone thank yous to your donor retention to-do list and see how those phone calls work their magic. 

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