29/03/2022 | Opinion | Gabrielle Gean

Telemarketing: Does It Hold Untapped Potential For Fundraising?

The fast-growing digital era has accelerated the way we live and conduct business. Data is all around us and content is king. With the abundance of available tools, fundraising decision-making can be difficult while traditional methods like direct mail and telemarketing are at times disregarded.  

The Ying Yang of the Digital Age  

In our digitally focused world, it is easy to think that this era spells the end for telemarketing as a fundraising tool. We beg to differ, and here is why:

Because of today’s artificial and non-organic style of presenting products and services, many have begun to see the value of direct connections. In the realm of digital fundraising, scams such as dodgy anonymous emails are common. Which is why hearing a pitch from someone over the phone is preferred as it is more genuine, natural and trustworthy, compared to other fundraising strategies.  

The story, however, does not end here. Unfortunately, with today’s technology, it’s simple to automate telemarketing and turn it into a low-effort script-reading fiesta that’s just as spammy as poorly written e-mails sent from a concealed identity. Hence, the answer to whether telemarketing is still effective now relies on the quality and legitimacy of the call. 

It doesn’t always pay off, but if done well, telemarketing could reward more.   

Picking up the phone and chatting to a stranger about donations may make some people, particularly millennials, uncomfortable. Let’s not forget the challenge of contacting a potential donor who may not be available or at a convenient location to take the call. There is a myriad of factors that make telemarketing a difficult and sometimes unpredictable fundraising method, however, that’s not to say the door should close on it. It’s far easier to pursue and persuade someone over the phone than it is over email or something similar. 

While it is effective, telemarketing is not simple. A good campaign takes time and thought to put together: 

Be ready with a good script. Never underestimate the necessity for a well-crafted script that can encourage the donor to engage with the caller. 

Equip with high-level ability and knowledge. A well-trained caller who can conduct a two-way conversation to not only encourage but also take comments gracefully from the potential donor. 

Be in-tune with the donor. It’s not all pitching from the script. It is crucial to understand the donor, from what is the buying signal to what prevents the donor from donating.   

Engage in a meaningful conversation. This is what makes a difference in conversing like a friend as opposed to talking like a robot delivering from a script.  

Consider prospects who are more responsive to calls. Cold calls don’t function well, and in this regard, measurement and analysis are crucial. List segmentation can raise telemarketing’s return on investment (ROI), but first, find the method that is ideal for the segment before adjusting the entire campaign. 

Follow-through after the contact is made. Commitments made over the phone may run the risk of low follow-through. This can be minimised, for example by sending a thank-you email immediately after the call. Alternatively, include a stamped return envelope with a handwritten thank you note. And if the donor declines a monthly gift, add them to your contact list for future annual gifts. 

Consider outsourcing as an option. Understandably, not all charities have the resources to run telemarketing efficiently, hence outsourcing may be necessary. However, care must be taken to ensure the vendor understands the campaign and the cause, and works in partnership with the charity. 

Even now, telemarketing is still a powerful tool to connect with donors.  

Case study

In an acquisition campaign for a client in Singapore, paid performance channels were combined with telemarketing. As this was a fundraising campaign focused on a specific type of donation, it required a stronger emotional appeal to attract audiences.  

The campaign opened with a landing page with well-aligned messaging across the social media ads. Communication was reinforced with pitches via telemarketing calls to strongly connect with potential donors. 

Unlike commercial advertisements, we believe that it is critical to learn from prospective donors via a two-way phone conversation. Charitable causes are unique in that they do not offer a product or service on the paid performance channels. Donors do not receive anything tangible other than gaining self-satisfaction and happiness (and potentially tax relief) from doing a goodwill.  

The campaign concluded with a success rate that was significantly higher than previous tests. In converting the leads, it proved that when telemarketing is used strategically for the right segments and to support the right campaigns, it can be a powerful fundraising tool. 

Although telemarketing is a traditional fundraising approach, there are ways to use it to remain ahead in an increasingly competitive, digitally driven market. At the end of the day, using phone conversations to talk to your supporters isn’t only about fundraising; it’s also about donor care and stewardship.

Read more: 
Tele-Converting One-Time Donors to Recurring Donors
Opening the Gateway to Donors: Is Data Analytics The Golden Key?

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