Telemarketing: Friend or Foe

Recently, as I was preparing for an upcoming client meeting, I was once again reminded of the important role that telemarketing can play in a fundraising program. While most of us have a bias against telemarketing (I almost never answer my home phone thanks to caller ID), that’s not the case for many donors.

In my 17 years in this industry, I have seen telemarketing work time and again to improve the health of a client’s program. Whether it be acquiring new donors, retaining or upgrading current donors, or reactivating lapsed donors, a calling campaign can be a great enhancement to the overall communication program.

Clients are often reluctant to try this channel. I’ve had countless conversations with clients who are nervous to have someone else contact their donors by phone. I’m thankful to have worked with some great telemarketing partners who understand how precious these donors are, and have handled the campaigns with the care that the client needed to see. And as a result, some clients who had never allowed telemarketing now include it as a vital part of their ongoing fundraising program.

Here are some ways that I’ve seen telemarketing prove to be very effective:

  • Testing New Offers: The phone is a great vehicle for testing new offers before spending budget to drop a direct mail campaign on that new offer.
  • Fiscal or Calendar Year-end: A recent calendar year-end campaign for one of our clients generated 111% fulfillment — yes, you read that right. Fulfilled revenue was more than what donors had committed on the phone to give.
  • Follow-up to a Mail Piece: Conducting a follow-up calling campaign to a mail piece, including using a recorded message from the letter signer, can be a strong enhancement to a campaign. Some donors who may not read the letter will pick up the phone when the ministry calls.
  • Acquisition: One client’s telemarketing acquisition campaign generated new donors at a $4.74 net cost to acquire, which is much better than what they’re paying to acquire a donor in direct mail.
  • Emergency Campaigns: When a natural disaster or urgent need arises for a client, a call campaign is an excellent way to get in contact with donors almost immediately.
  • On-air Events: An outbound calling campaign can be a great tool for securing lead gifts heading in to an on-air event, like a Share-a-thon.

Another wonderful thing about telemarketing is our ability to be nimble. As marketers, tweaking scripts, offer language or suggested gift amounts in a flash — and receiving results quickly after the campaign — is something that can’t be done in the direct mail environment. So for an impatient person like myself, a call campaign provide almost instant feedback.

For those of us who aren’t fans of a telemarketing call, I’d encourage us to think differently about a call campaign. The phone can become a good — even great — friend of a fundraising program, and might even mean the difference in reaching or exceeding annual fundraising goals.

To learn more about telemarketing and other services Masterworks offers, email