Preparing for Cold Calls

Posted on 04/01/2019

Making a cold call to a donor or prospective donor can be a difficult thing to do, but it’s an important skill to master if you’re going to be successful in fundraising. It doesn’t matter if you’re a gift officer, a volunteer, or a student caller—a botched call will not only be uncomfortable for you (and the person you’re calling!), it can also reflect poorly on your institution. To avoid this, it’s critical to be informed before picking up the phone.

So, the next time you’re getting ready to call someone out of the blue, consider these three ways to prepare:

  1. Know who you are calling. Do some research in advance. Look for information in your institution’s database, review their LinkedIn profile, or search their name on the web. Do they have any giving history? If so, what have they supported? What did they study? Have they attended any events or volunteered for your institution in the past? Has anyone from your institution met with them before? Are there any past contact reports that you can read? Arming yourself with information about them will give you ideas about what topics to discuss—and which ones to avoid.
  2. Understand why you’re reaching out. Are you calling to gather information, request a meeting, solicit a donation, recruit them a volunteer, extend an event invitation, or simply to say thanks? More importantly, be able to describe how that objective fits into the bigger picture of your institution’s mission. For example, if you’re calling for a donation, how will that benefit students and faculty? If you’re asking them to volunteer, how does that role help advance the organization?
  3. Identify how to help them take action. It’s not only important to clarify what it is that you’re asking someone to do; you should also be able to offer ways to make that easier for them. If you’re trying to collect information, keep it simple and ask yes/no questions whenever possible. If you want them to attend an event, offer to email them a calendar invitation after the call. And if you want them to make a donation, ask for a specific amount that takes their past giving into account—and be prepared to take their payment information over the phone or follow the call up with a link to an online giving form or pledge card.

Cold calls can be challenging in the best of circumstances, for even the most seasoned professional. The more you prepare and understand who, why, and how before making the call, the more smoothly the experience will go, increasing your likelihood of success.

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