What Not to Do on a Fundraising Call

Raheel Gauba - 08.28.2009

We have many informative posts on NetWits Think Tank about what to do, and how to do it. I thought I’d take a slightly different approach with a post about what not to do. This post is inspired by a true event that just took place a few minutes ago.

I received a call from the alumni association of the university that I attended about a chance to donate to a fundraising campaign –here is how the call went:

Caller: Hi, may I speak with Raheel Gauba?
Me: Speaking!
Caller: Hi, I am calling from the <University Name> Alumni and, um… wanted to…um, tell you about the <Library Name> Library.
Me: Ok...Go ahead.
Caller: Oh, um…do you receive our quarterly magazine?
Me: Yes, but I have not seen the last one you sent out since I have been on the road for the last 3-4 months.
Caller: Um, ok, so do you know the <Library Name> Library? You know which library I’m talking about?
Me: Yes, I’m an alum, I know which library you are talking about
Caller: Yea, so, we are, um…upgrading some electronic facilities, you know at the library, so would you like to contribute towards the upgrade?
Me: No, thank you.
Caller: Ok, thank you for your time.

I would have loved to contribute, if I was sold – but, unfortunately, I wasn’t.

What’s interesting to note is that this is not the first time this alumni organization has reached out to me and I have declined to give based on the same reasons. I even went as far as to let the caller know how I felt about the entire phone call experience. I did decide to give, once, just to see how they would change their approach towards me as a prior donor. But nothing changed – Same low energy phone call simply to ask for funds.

It is my opinion that most people on this planet enter a fundraising phone conversation with a default answer of ‘NO’ in their minds.

Here is how my ‘NO’ could have been converted to a ‘YES’:

  • Show enthusiasm about the cause you’re calling about
  • If you are speaking with a donor who has given in the past, thank them for their support and let them know that their contribution is recognized
  • Take some time to explain the details about the initiative, before you ask for money
  • Show how your initiative changes lives of students
  • If possible, try to relate back to how things were different during the alum's time at university
  • Don’t take the first no - especially when you have not explained the cause
  • Make some effort to engage the donor into a conversation

These rules aren't just for phone calls though, you can use these suggestions to your online fundraising strategy to make your appeals more, well...appealing.


The economy is tough on everyone right now– If you make sure you are putting in the appropriate effort into your cause, you will be surprised by the results!  What extra effort are you putting into your campaigns now?  Leave a comment and let us know!


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