Your phonathon contact rate is a metric that measures your data integrity. It answers the question: How often does a completed call result in a solicitation of the correct individual?
Contact rate is defined as the percentage of your completed calls that are actual contacts. The formula is number of contacts divided by number of completes. As previously stated, all contacts (pledges, refusals, etc.) are completes but there are also other non-contact completes including deceased, wrong numbers, do not calls, disconnected, etc.
If your contact rate is 36%, this means that out of 100 completed calls, you are only asking 36 people for a gift. The other 64 calls are marked as wrong numbers, do not calls, etc. It is difficult to raise money in this data environment. A strong contact rate would be in the 60-70% range. The more times that you talk to the correct person, the more chances you have to raise money.
When contact rate improves, it becomes easier for the callers to raise money because they are making more solicitations per hour of work. When contact rate improves (even when call technique and caller performance does not improve), raising money becomes magically easier.
So, if you have a contact rate problem, what are some inexpensive ways that you can begin to improve this metric?
My first recommendation is always, begin with basic research.
Basic level research is a two-step process:
Essentially, this process looks for people who have recently moved and then searches for whether there is a phone number at the new address. These two services are very inexpensive to undertake but are the foundation of a strong research program for phonathon fundraising.
You should check with your advancement services staff to see if NCOA is being done regularly. Oftentimes this is standard procedure for advancement services to run an NCOA but a regular phone append process is less common. If your shop doesn’t already do this, begin lobbying for this to take place. I would recommend NCOA be done quarterly and a phone append annually or once per semester.
Another thing to keep in mind as you inquire about this with advancement service staff is timing. Ideally, you would like NCOA and a phone append run in the summer as close as possible to the time that you begin you phone program for the new fiscal year. (Just make sure the results are incorporated into the database before the calling data is pulled and loaded.)
Your effort will be rewarded. Any time spent on data integrity and research is like giving your callers a magical head-start on your fundraising goals.
Jessica Cloud, CFRE
I've been called the Tasmanian Devil of fundraising and I'm here to talk shop with you.