5 Cold Calling Tips to Meet Your Fundraising Goals

November 17, 2014  |  EveryAction Team

The fundraising call has always been a staple of donor outreach. However, changes + advancements in the ways you communicate with your audience means adjusting your approach to the dreaded cold call.

There's a certain amount of anxiety that goes along with calling your donors and asking for their support—and their money. These days, potential donors receive solicitations from a myriad of media sources, both online + off.

But nonprofit professionals know that fundraising never ends, especially at the end of the year, so how do you cut through the noise?

We asked our fundraising + development gurus to break down the cold calling process into five manageable steps to create the best call experience for your potential donor and (hopefully) raise some money for your organization. 

1. Introduction to your organization + you

At the outset, it's important to (re)introduce John Q. Donor to your nonprofit. A good place to start is with a brief overview of this year's successes + how your organization plans to build on that success in the next year.

You should focus less on going into detail at this point in the call (we'll get to that later) + more on speaking to your donor in their language, rather than in nonprofit-speak.

You should also talk a bit about yourself, your history with the organization, and why you've chosen to dedicate yourself to the work being done there. Your supporters may only know you by email or not at all, so take a moment to give your nonprofit introduction a personal touch.

The right introduction will help generate some excitement, make it easier to express how donations are used + why donations are critical to your success.

2. A little about them

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 is s/he most interested in?
  • What organizations does s/he support?
  • Does s/he 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 donor will help you gauge their interest in your organization + how likely they are to engage, both in terms of fundraising + as a champion for your message.

NB: if you're talking to someone who's given in the past, do some preliminary research on their history with your nonprofit. This will help you later on in your ask.

3. Deeper dive

At this point, you've established a rapport with your donor + they're more likely to be receptive to hearing the details surrounding your upcoming year. Grab this opportunity + dive deeper into the great work you're doing (and plan to do with their support!) 

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 organization plans to accomplish with the help of its supporters, like:

  • Realizing strategic priorities
  • Hosting upcoming projects
  • Hiring new employees
  • Expanding existing programs

If you're able to convince your donor of your ability to put their donation to good use, you'll accomplish your goal of gaining their buy-in.

4. The 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 + plans that you've discussed won't be possible without donor support.
  • 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 organization, etc.)

If you've successfully built upon each step of this process, the ask will be natural + your donor will feel more connected to your organization, 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 organization's cause.

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 nonprofit.

And, next year when you make another fundraising call, send an email, or issue a call-to-action, it will be that much easier to reengage with that person.

If you have any questions on how to perfect your cold call, feel free to ask us about ways you can improve your organization's fundraising strategy.

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