This week's Thursday feature is an interview with Markus Jones, Senior Vice President for Development of the Sigma Nu Educational Foundation. His organization launched their first ever phonathon last year and I asked him some questions about the process and what the results have been for his organization.
Phonathon fundraising represented a method of communication that I felt our organization had not fully explored in the past. Likewise, it offered a unique opportunity to reach non-donors, friends and parents of our members, whom we had never previously contacted.
As a major gift fundraiser, I also saw the Phonathon as a means of prospect generation for future campaign efforts. We needed to resupply the pipeline for our mid-range and major gift officers to cultivate in the very near future. We have been very carefully referring outliers from this effort to those gift officers.
Additionally, we were met with similar concerns from other members of the staff who are not directly involved with the fundraising operations. I worked with our communications team and other fundraising staff to develop internal communications that addressed their concerns in advance of launching the campaign. We shared FAQs, details about database segments, call schedules, and sample call scripts with everyone on staff prior to making calls. We also invited them to actively engage with donors who may have questions or concerns along the way. After the first week of calling, we distributed “canned responses” to commonly heard objections to the staff assigned to the front desk at the Fraternity Headquarters.
We also created a page on our website dedicated to the Phonathon which carefully identified the company we contracted to conduct the calls, constituents who would receive the calls, why we were calling, and the timeframe in which calls would be made. This also helped to mitigate some push-back we received from outside constituents and, I believe, added some validity to the callers’ efforts.
Side note: Our vendor employs a very diverse group of callers and actually worked with us to recruit collegiate members from one of our Sigma Nu chapters near the call center. The feedback from the callers was also really great. They all enjoyed working on the campaign and speaking with our alumni on the phone. This was very encouraging for future partnerships.
More about Markus Jones: Prior to joining the staff of the Sigma Nu Educational Foundation, Markus served as a Development Officer at the University of Southern Mississippi Foundation. He began his career in nonprofit development and volunteer management following Hurricane Katrina as the Director of Marketing and Resource Development for the United Way of South Mississippi in Gulfport, MS. Markus has worked in the nonprofit development field for his entire professional career and strives to continue this path in the future. He holds a bachelor's degree in Advertising from The University of Southern Mississippi and in his spare time Markus enjoys books, the outdoors, volunteering and traveling.
Jessica Cloud, CFRE
I've been called the Tasmanian Devil of fundraising and I'm here to talk shop with you.