The cold call has always been a staple of fundraising, and one of the best ways to solicit high-dollar donations. There's a certain amount of anxiety that goes along with calling potential donors and asking for their support - and their money. These days, potential donors receive solicitations from a myriad of media sources, both online and off. Fundraisers and campaigners know that prospecting never ends, especially towards the end of the cycle - so how do you cut through the noise?
We asked our fundraising and development gurus to break down the cold calling process into five manageable steps to create the best call experience for your donor, with the highest chance of persuading your potential donor to make a major contribution.
1. Get acquainted
The right introduction will help generate some excitement, and make it easier to explain why donations like theirs are critical to your success.
At the outset, it's important to (re)introduce your potential donor to your candidate and campaign. A good place to start is with a very brief overview of your candidate’s past, and the key message of your campaign.
You should focus less on going into detail at this point in the call (we'll get to that later) and more on speaking to your potential donor in their language, rather than in any campaign or policy-speak.
You can also talk a bit about yourself and why you've chosen to dedicate yourself to the campaign. Your supporters may only know your candidate by email, local media, or not at all, so take a moment to give your candidate and yourself a personal introduction.
2. Don’t Do All the Talking
While you don’t want to keep folks on the phone for too long, it’s important to spend time listening when you’ve got someone on the line with thoughts, concerns, or other tidbits to share.
One oft-overlooked quality of the cold call is that it's a two-way conversation. You should ask some questions to get a better sense of your donor, including:
- What issue areas are they most interested in?
- What other candidates do they support?
- Do they usually make one-off donations or regular, sustaining donations? (yearly, monthly, etc.)
- Get to know them personally as well! Building rapport is essential for a successful fundraising ask.
Interviewing your potential contributor will help you gauge their interest in your candidate and how likely they are to engage, both in terms of fundraising and as a champion for your campaign.
NB: if you're talking to someone who's given in the past, do some preliminary research on their history with your party or campaign. This will help you later on in your ask.
3. Get buy-in before asking
At this point, you've established a rapport with your donor and they're more likely to be receptive to hearing what you have to say. Grab this opportunity and dive deeper into the great work your candidate plans to do for your donor, and the community - and why the opposing candidate will make things worse for them.
Remember, this isn't where you ask for a donation. This is where you get a buy-in.
Your goal here should be to clearly explain what your candidate plans to accomplish if elected, what will happen if the opponent is elected, and finally how a contribution will help. Keep the message as localized and as personal to the donor as possible. If you can recall any personal information from earlier in the call, try and work it into your pitch to give it a more tailored appeal.
If you're able to convince your donor to open up a bit and chat with you about the issues first, you’re more likely to gain their buy-in when it counts: during your ask.
4. Structure Your Ask
This step is often the most challenging, as it has a few moving parts. Here's how they break down:
- It's important to reiterate that all of the goals that you've discussed won't be possible if your candidate is not elected, and your opposing party’s candidate is.
- You should plainly state your fundraising goal (target amount and/or deadline.)
- Ask for a specific dollar amount that you feel is appropriate for this donor(based on your conversation, their donor history with your campaign or party, etc.)
If you've successfully built upon each step of this process, the ask will be natural and your donor will feel more connected to your campaign, and thus be more compelled to give.
5. The Thank You
No matter the outcome of the call, the last and most important step is to thank them for their time, support, and commitment to your campaign (if appropriate).
This step is so crucial because, whether or not you're able to secure a donation on that particular call, every time you engage with your audience is an opportunity to cultivate their relationship with your campaign - and if they won’t donate now, they may do so down the track.
Finally, don’t forget to ask them to vote!