Ken Summerlin had such a good comment on my frustrated post about violence in the name of fund raising that as I started replying to it, I found out that it deserved it’s own post. Here’s a excerpt of Ken’s comment:
…Unfortunately, telemarketers and political candidates have so abused the phone as a contact medium, that I think we may need to consider surrendering it as a means of unsolicited communication. My wife and I are canceling our home phone service next month for this very reason. Most of our friends and family call us on our cell phones and the majority of calls we receive on our home phone are from solicitors and telemarketers or, at the moment, political robocalls…
…Is using the phone to set up appointments to share about your ministry absolutely necessary? I realize that calling is quicker and less costly than mailing but it may no longer be effective. Could you request an e-mail or snail-mail address rather than a phone number from someone who is giving you a referral? Would it be reasonable to ask the recipient to visit your website or respond to you via e-mail or a phone call if they would like to learn more about your ministry?
Ken, thanks for the comment, and your perspective. It’s a great reminder of what we have to differentiate ourselves from when on the phone. I realize that the phone is less than ideal. That’s why we are trained to not ask for money or referrals over the phone, but to try and get a face-to-face appointment. People just don’t give to causes over the phone, unless they are tricked into it (which you and I have both experienced — the salesman that talks so fast you’ve already confirmed your shipping address before you can tell them you aren’t interested.)
Regarding email: the non-profit industry standard for people OPENING their emails is less than 25%, and the industry standard for people that click on anything in the email is 7%. That means my odds of getting a response of any type is about 1%, and my odds of getting back money are less than that. And believe me, I have tried and found those numbers to be hauntingly accurate, even with people whom I know well. That’s not even counting people that I don’t know. I have to say something controversial in the subject line just to get the thing opened.
Regarding postal service fund raising: I’ve probably sent over 4000 appeal letters for financial support over the last eight years. And I’ve received back funds from (ball park guess here, but I’ll high-ball it just in case) 20% of those appeals. And I know with a few variations exactly which 20% will respond to a letter. Again, this is with people who know me, most of whom I’ve shared face-to-face my heart for ministry and our need for funds. And I can count on one hand the number of people that have joined our team on an ongoing basis from an email or a letter in the mail. Well over 90% of the funds we get from postal service asks are one-time gifts (we call them “special gifts” to avoid the permanence of “one-time.”)
That leaves the phone. One of the best ways we’ve found to “warm up” the cold call is by using the name of the referrer. “Jim and Judy Moneybags thought you’d be interested in hearing more about our ministry.” Other times we have preceded the phone call with a letter telling them we are going to call. All of those things help. Also, as you mentioned, getting someone’s mobile number is a leg-and-a-half up, and increases our chance of getting a face-to-face.
I’d love to prove the numbers wrong. I’d love to have people click links in my blog posts that allow them to set up ongoing financial contributions (see what I did, there?) or to have interested folks contact me. But most of the folks I meet with don’t know they are interested in helping out financially until they hear about the desperate need for the gospel on the college campus, and how we propose to trust the Lord to help bring the gospel to the campus. And they don’t hear that unless I can get a 30-45 minute appointment with them. And the majority of my appointments are made over the phone, and initiated by me.
Speaking of which, I’m gonna go now and make some phone calls. If you (not just Ken) have any suggestions for how I might get appointments without the phone, I could not possibly be listening any more intently. Comment below.