Editor’s Note: This article was prepared for in-house training of our CDS Campaign Directors, but the subject matter (anxiety about making phone calls is prevalent in so many areas of sales, fundraising and life) is universal and so is the helpful advice contained herein. Thus, we present this for your consumption as fundraising professionals, as one of your greatest challenges is, no doubt, getting anxious volunteers to make the phone calls that can bring them the money they need to fulfill the missions of the organizations they so love.
When you find yourself in an unfamiliar town conducting an eight-week fundraising feasibility study for a newly formed organization that has no administrative staff in place and you've promised to interview 100+ community leaders and potential donors, you don’t have a lot of time to waste getting the interviewees lined up. This is especially true if, like here at Custom Development Solutions, Inc. (CDS), the actual final study report is delivered at the end of the eight weeks, and not four to six week later like most other companies. What do you do? Thank goodness I had a “Dealing with Call Reluctance” course as part of my training for fundraising solicitation.
For those of you unfamiliar with the term, Call Reluctance is the disease from which we all suffer, to one degree or another. It can be virtually debilitating for many, but it can be overcome by most. In short, call reluctance is a fear of the telephone.
How totally ridiculous does this sound? Well let me tell you, each of us regularly faces one or more of the following symptoms while using or preparing to use the telephone: agonizing for hours, days or weeks before making the phone call to schedule a potentially large important donor for a personal interview; sweaty hands just before dialing that stranger; clearing your throat six times while the phone is ringing; subconsciously praying that the person doesn't answer so you can introduce who you are and why you are calling to an answering machine which doesn't talk back or hang up on you; and, in severe call reluctance cases, hanging up after only three rings and feeling relieved that you can wait until tomorrow before having to try again. Other common symptoms include: worrying that you will be asked a question to which you don’t know the answer,; fear of interrupting a meal; fear of calling too early or too late; and finally the greatest fear of all, the fear of rejection, the fear of being told “no.”
So what do you do to overcome these fears? Here are a few suggestions to help minimize the destruction that can occur:
- Stand up when you are making your calls. A good salesperson always stands when making a sale, whenever possible and appropriate. It will give you more confidence and your overall attitude to secure the interview will be strengthened. After all, the phone looks less intimidating if it is farther away and you are towering over it.
- Make sure you are totally schooled in the “case for support” for the study you are conducting. Take time to fully determine who the visionaries are for the proposed campaign and how these individuals interrelate, or in some cases don’t, with the person you are trying to schedule.
- Explain that you want to come share some exciting news about Our Daily Rest and I wonder if Dan (or your co-solicitor) and I can come see this Thursday at 2:00p.m.? If not, how about Friday at 4:00p.m. (have three or four options agreed upon with your co-solicitor)? Keep it brief, just get them to agree upon the time, the place (their home or office is best) and then tastefully disengage. If they ask for more details, explain that you are coming with some plans, drawings and some things you want to show them. Do not get drawn into a conversation about the project—explain that you will share the details when you get there. If they ask: “Are you coming to ask me for money?,” then I would say: “We are coming to share some exciting news about the new Shelter we are building and to ask for you help in getting it done, and that does involve raising some money—but let’s discuss it when we meet.”
- Realize that your task is simply to get the interview scheduled. Stay in control of the phone call in a pleasant and business-like manner. You will likely receive immediate respect for the brevity of your request and the professional manner with which you approached the task at hand.
- Don’t worry about whether you are interrupting them. Of course you are, but it is for a good cause.
- Don’t worry about not being able to answer one of their questions. If they are asking for too much detail on the phone, simply say that “I am running out the door to the meeting, I will explain it all to you when we meet Thursday at 2:00 in your office. In this way, there is no time for them to ask questions. The interview process itself allows adequate time for all questions to be answered properly.
- Finally, employ the wonderful Nike saying, Just Do It! Scheduling a week of interviews can be done in a couple of hours using the above approach.
Left unchecked, the common, everyday telephone will be in control of your effectiveness as a Campaign Feasibility Study Director. Recognizing that “Call Reluctance” truly does exist as a disease, and thereby employing some of the techniques mentioned will go a long way towards making the telephone a friend and not a foe.
Custom Development Solutions, Inc. (CDS) is among the most sought after fund raising consulting firms specializing in the strategic planning and tactical execution of capital campaigns for non-profits throughout the United States and Canada. If you have a fundraising question, please call CDS at 800-761-3833 or send an email to email@example.com.