If you don’t staff up quickly, you lose valuable momentum.
My career has been in higher education philanthropy and I can attest, if you ramp up slowly and lose those early weeks in September, you’ll struggle all year to build momentum. There’s nothing quite like the feeling during that hectic back-to-school timeframe and if you miss it, you’ll lose the warm-fuzzies from donors waiting for their annual fund call. You’ll also miss out on the most competent students, most of whom will have secured a part-time job by October.
Low volume of work is the most common reason a phonathon fails.
It’s not typically a bad script or lack of caller motivation that causes phonathons to stagnate or fail. It’s not even bad data alone. Usually, it is simply that not enough calls were placed. If you loaded 50,000 records and only complete 10,000 calls (a 20% completion rate), chances are that is why you aren’t raising any money. Sometimes, this low completion rate is due to improper budget resources for the size of your program, but more than likely it is simply a staffing issue. There weren’t enough callers in the seats and therefore not enough dialing took place.
The more effort you put into generating applications, the more selective you can be in hiring.
If you need to hire 10 new callers, and you have 14 applications on file, you’re doing pretty good, right? Wrong. You need at least 2.5 times the number of needed callers in applications. In this example you need 25 applications at minimum. This target is often a much higher number than you think is acceptable. Keep striving to recruit more applications and interview more. You can be much more selective with hiring decisions, which will save you time later dealing with bad employees and prevent turnover.
If you don’t use those funds budgeted for caller salaries, you’ll surely lose them.
As I mentioned in #4, if you have a problem year with staffing your results will suffer. However, the problem becomes systemic when you sit down with the higher-ups to discuss next year’s budget. You had a budget for 1,250 calling hours but you only used 825. “Surely, you can get by with only 900 this year, right?” Now, even if you use all 900 hours, your phonathon will not be working to its full potential. By not staffing properly, you may hinder your phone program for years to come.
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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.