telephoneManaging the Campaign

Kick Off Your Campaign

The reason that telefundraising is such an effective technique is because it offers a personal touch. Callers can actively engage with your supporters to make them feel connected to your station.

Here are your top tips for telemarketing success with sustainer programs:

  • Work with your vendor — partner with each other
  • Make sure data processing is set up to handle upgrades and changes seamlessly
  • Prepare your customer service team for donor complaints
  • Use the strongest possible messaging to build your case
  • Select the right data — be sure to suppress do-not-call donors
  • Monitor calls up front and throughout the campaign
  • Pre-set your benchmarks for response and watch the numbers closely. Be prepared to react if the campaign effectiveness begins to soften.

In order to receive the best possible result, the callers should feel a connection to the station as well, even if they are from an entirely different region and watch their own PBS station, not yours.

In order to build a healthy relationship with your callers, it's important to have a kick off meeting, ideally just before calling starts. It's great if you can go in-person — particularly with a first campaign — to tell callers about your station and make them feel like a part of the team. However, traveling to the firm is not always an option, so a phone call can work as well.

To prepare for the call, expect to create a one-sheet about your station, what makes it wonderful and unique, what kind of special local programs you offer, and also any local issues or controversies involving your station that may come up in a conversation that your callers should be aware of and able to respond to in an effective way.

And remember — the same callers will likely be helping your sustainer program gain support on more than one campaign, so regard them as the valuable assets that they are. It's always a good idea to talk to the campaign manager to ask if a small station-branded item might help connect callers, or if it's appropriate to offer station incentives for strong performance as the campaign moves along.

Monitor Your Campaign

Be sure to schedule a time to monitor calls early in the campaign so that you can confirm the calls are proceeding as you wish, and so you can respond to make script adjustments if and as necessary. Since it can be difficult (and painstaking) to listen to live calls and have enough completed calls to get valuable information, ask the call center to send you a few completed calls from a variety of callers that represent yeses, hedgers and refusals. This should occur at least once, usually 2-3 days after calling begins. If you have cause for concern, a follow up monitoring can be helpful to make sure changes have been implemented properly.

As with any campaign, always consider how your telefundraising campaign integrates with your on-air drives and any other campaign you're running simultaneously. Particularly during on-air drives, you will want to supply the firm with daily suppression files of donors who just contributed so that you don't call a member and ask them to become a sustainer when they did just that yesterday.

While monitoring, listen for any misinformation or even names and words in the script that are being pronounced incorrectly. There could be gaps in information that you can help supply. Additionally, make sure callers aren't stopping before the final asks or, alternately, pushing too hard. How they respond to a refusal is critical in both securing maximum funds and in maintaining healthy relationships with your supporters.

Along with call monitoring comes the need to monitor your response numbers daily. A telefundraising campaign can turn south overnight, thus it is important to know where these key thresholds are in order to avoid investing too much in a file that has reached its maximum net potential.

Pledge Fulfillment

Even though the vast majority of donors will participate with new or upgraded contributions through their credit card or bank account, before you begin to call it's vital to build a fulfillment plan and a set of letters/bills to account for people who may wish to make a one-time pledge and pay later, or for the circumstance where a monthly donor is unwilling to share their credit card number over the phone.

The recommended fulfillment schedule is for the firm to send a reminder (or thank you to those who do pay by credit card or EFT) the next day. Then a follow-up reminder is sent 14 days out, with a third drop 21 days out.

To accomplish this, you will need to provide regular, weekly fulfillment files to your firm starting after the first week of calling and continuing for 6-8 weeks after a campaign ends. These will be required to avoid having the firm send pledge reminders to members who have already given, or have asked to be removed from calls or reminders.

Payment Processing

When setting up your campaign, it's important to check with your station's legal team and also with your telemarketing firm to see if taking EFT payments over the phone will be allowed or not. Ideally, converting upgrades to EFT on the phone can be an extremely fruitful exercise, as well as bringing in new sustainers in this manner. But all is not lost if you can't. Conducting an EFT conversion campaign later through direct mail can deliver a solid response and additional upgrades.

Additionally because of PCI compliance and data security issues, for upgrade calling callers will not have the donor's credit card information in front of them. Thus, when you reach a current sustainer to ask for an upgrade, they may get suspicious or confused if they have to give their credit card information again. After all, you should already have that on file, right? It's important for callers, and your customer service team, to be provided with a fluent, understandable answer for donors. Find out if your database will allow you to pull the last four digits of the donor's credit card number, and then automatically assign the upgrade to their account after the caller confirms the continued use of that card. If so, you'll have a good solution for both donors and the callers.