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9 Tips for Hosting a Successful Phonathon

Here are some tips for how to host a successful phonathon!

1. Write a script.

It can be intimidating to ask someone for a donation over the phone. You never know how the person on the other end of the phone will react, and it’s good to be prepared. That’s why it’s important to write a call script for your volunteers.

A comprehensive call script should start off with an introduction and statement of purpose to let potential donors know why you’re calling. Then, add details about how to appropriately ask for and confirm a donation. For calls that don’t end in a contribution, give volunteers a way to wrap up the call and maintain good relationships with your supporters.

2. Have your volunteers practice.

Another way to prepare your volunteers is with mock calls. That way, your callers can practice before they interact with real potential donors.

Make sure to introduce volunteers to different donor personas and various questions they may have. Doing so will help calm any nerves your volunteers may have and help them have more productive calls in the future.

3. Choose call times strategically.

There’s no use in calling potential donors when they won’t be available to pick up the time. To maximize your chances of reaching your donors, choose your call times strategically.

One of the best call times is any weekday (except for Friday) between 6 and 9 PM. During this time, most people are home from work but still awake to take your call.

Another opportune time is Sunday evenings between 5 and 9 PM. Again, this time is early enough so that people are awake and likely at home resting before the work week begins.

4. Set fundraising goals.

A good way to motivate your callers is by setting nightly or weekly fundraising goals. These goals will keep volunteers on track and make them feel accomplished once they achieve them.

You can also use these goals to track how well your volunteers are doing. Examining their results can help you identify which callers are very effective and can handle calls with important donors and which callers need a little extra help.

5. Use phonathon software.

Keep your phonathon organized with dedicated phonathon software. If you choose the right one, you can save your team a lot of time and money by automated some of your work.

Look for a phonathon software that can:

  • Update your donor database
  • Send emails automatically to follow up with donors
  • Track call results
  • Create campaign progress reports

Using phonathon software can make your volunteers’ jobs easier and improve your campaign’s efficiency.

6. Segment donors.

Segmentation is key to making the most of your callers’ time. It would be a waste to have your volunteers run down a list of potential donors and call them at random.

Prioritizing your donors can help you maximize your fundraising potential. For example, you’ll want to prioritize major donors and donors who have responded positively to calls in the past for the best chance of meeting your fundraising goals.

It’s also good practice to match up your callers and donors strategically. This could mean pairing your most patient callers with your most difficult donors, but it could also mean matching callers and donors based on interests or demographic factors that could help them bond and conduct a smoother conversation.

7. Anticipate donor questions.

During a phonathon, there are bound to be potential donors with questions. These questions could be as simple as “Why are you calling?” to as complicated as “Why should I donate to your organization over others?”

To help prepare your volunteers, keep a running list of common donor questions and how to answer them. To start, you’ll want to answer questions about your mission, your fundraising initiative, and how you accept donations. As you continue the phonathon, more questions will come up, and you can add them to your question list with their respective answers.

8. Start a competition.

A little healthy competition is an effective way to motivate your callers. You can divide your volunteers into different teams or have them compete as individuals. Then, see which team or individual can raise the most money for your cause.

To honor the winners, provide rewards. These could include branded merchandise, bonuses, or gift cards. 

If you really want to keep your callers’ motivation high, consider hosting a fundraising competition weekly or even daily.

9. Focus on your mission.

The most important thing to keep in mind throughout your phonathon is your organization’s mission. Your mission should guide how your volunteers approach their calls.

It’s more effective to call a potential donor and inform them about what their money will go towards than to simply ask for a donation. Have your volunteers practice talking about your organization’s mission and what it means to them.

Why Schools Are the Best Host Organizations for Phonathons

The most common host organizations for phonathons are schools, especially higher education institutions. While other nonprofits can certainly host a successful phonathon campaign, there are several reasons why schools and universities are best suited for this fundraiser type.

To start off, students and alumni share a common bond over their school. This connection can make your calls more personal. Students and alumni can discuss tried and true school traditions, their favorite professors and classes, and the best spots on campus. Alumni may come away from their conversations with students a little nostalgic for their college days and may consequently consider donating to their alma mater.

Another reason why phonathons are great for schools is that they provide a stable job for students. College students in particular are always looking for ways to raise a little extra money, making it easier for you to recruit volunteers for your phonathon. Make sure you advertise your campaign well around campus and let students know that you pay callers for their time.

Lastly, participating in a phonathon allows students to build their communication skills. School is all about working on skills that will benefit you in the real world, and phonathons provide a unique learning opportunity outside of classes. Students can learn how to effectively communicate and negotiate with others.

Additional Phonathon Resources

If you’re interested in hosting a phonathon but want to learn more before you get started, here are some helpful resources: