Once you’ve been told never to call back, been hung up on countless times, and told “no” in so many variations ranging from “I’d love to, but I can’t afford it” to an expletive-filled, irrational rant, you just don’t worry about it anymore.
Callers carry this confidence into their working life whether they remain in fundraising or not. It’s like a secret superpower from working in the call center.
Not only do former phonathon callers have mad phone skills (friendly, engaging, polite, etc.) they have a rocking perspective on how to approach difficult situations.
Smile and you will change your chances of getting what you want. Believe you can do it and you can.
I still talk on the phone for hours a day as part of my job. Even though I’m an extravert, after I’m done with work, I’d rather have my nails pulled out than talk on the phone for “fun”. This pattern plays out amongst my friends who worked in call centers too.
Either way, though, call center work can take a naturally competitive person and turn them into an Olympic champion of smack-talk.
If you were a caller, you wouldn’t think twice about kicking your friends off the island if it meant they stood between you and a $25 Red Lobster gift card. Former phonathon callers exhibit this good-natured ruthlessness well beyond college and employ this trait in many different fields of endeavor.
Doing all of this when you know that your supervisor is listening in and you’re being evaluated, also no sweat. Phonathon callers can get it all done flawlessly.
Everyone who has been a caller has selected the wrong script, got lost in the middle of a sentence, drawn a blank on the name of the institution they are calling for, or called the prospect by the wrong name.
If you take yourself too seriously, you just won’t survive in phonathon. A sense of humor is a must.
Student supervisors and call center managers give callers tips on everything from overcoming objections to how many times you say “umm” in a sentence to the quality of your voice itself.
You can spot a former phonathon caller anywhere because they come to crave the kind of pointed and applicable feedback they got in the call center. They crave it because when implemented it immediately impacted results in a positive way.
Many great callers learned to read or complete homework assignments while the phone was dialing. You also learn to prep your script, ask your supervisor a question on mute, and place a bookmark in your chemistry book all while your prospect tells you about the Homecoming court of 1954.
When you’re done with all that, you seamlessly transition back into the conversation with a “How wonderful! Mrs. Smith, I don’t want to take up too much more of your time tonight. Let me tell you why I’m calling…”
In the call center, we become emotionally dependent upon thermometers, countdowns, and other displays of our progress and performance. For me, it manifests in the use of my bullet journal with lots of colors and goal charts.
Likewise, I love old school, goofy clip art with simple cartoonish lines. I like to use them in presentations to make folks laugh but also it brings me back to my call center days when results were often tied to being as goofy as possible to get the attention of the group.
This benefits these individuals later in their life because they aren’t afraid to negotiate for a raise, ask a spouse about preparing a will or be persistent to get a sale.
I hope you had as much fun reading this post as I did putting it together. What other traits do you think come from working in a call center or in fundraising in general? If you were a phonathon caller, do these seem true for you? Comments and questions are, as always, welcomed and encouraged!
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2/17/2017 06:14:46 pm
Jessica, as a telephone fundraising pioneer, I can tell you that I completely agree with the ten points you identified in your post. Many of my former employees who worked the phones went on to successful development careers throughout the nonprofit sector. Those looking to hire a fundraising professional should look carefully at candidates who have phone fundraising experience.
11/14/2022 12:00:27 am
Greatt post thanks
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Jessica Cloud, CFRE
I've been called the Tasmanian Devil of fundraising and I'm here to talk shop with you.