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Telephone fundraisers see increased engagement during coronavirus crisis

06 Apr 2020 News

There has been an increase in telephone fundraising activities during the coronavirus crisis, telephone fundraising agencies say.

They report that it is easier to contact people, that the public is generally keen to talk and help and that in some cases there has also been an increase in fundraised amounts.

Currently charities cannot carry out face-to-face activities due to social distancing measures meaning many face a cash flow crisis. Some charities are using telephone campaigns not only to ask for financial support, but also to keep in touch with their donors and find out how they have been impacted by the pandemic.

Positive trend

Telephone fundraising agency Purity, for example, which works with a number of national charities including Greenpeace and GOSH, says that hourly contact rates are up 12% across the board.

It said that while results vary from campaign to campaign, the trend is positive: “Results are fluctuating but all are experiencing stable response rates or uplift, with many smaller charities experiencing robust uplifts – for example, a wildlife charity is up 30% and a small charity focusing on FGM is running at 182% of target. For larger charities running high volume campaigns, response rates are positively stable with early signs of these also uplifting, with one of the largest experiencing a monthly uplift of 13% in March compared to February.”

Helen Mackenzie, chief executive of Purity, said: “Of course, there are still hard No’s from people who are not in a position to give, it’s a hugely sensitive time and there are many who have lost their jobs or who are worried about their incomes. But on the whole, people are being incredibly positive about being called with some of those people struggling with isolation pleased to have the contact and a chance to talk, even if they cannot make a gift. It really is an important time for charities to be checking-in with their supporters.”

Bristol-based telephone fundraising agency Ethicall reports similar findings. It says that overall it has seen an average increase of 20% in money raised, with some campaigns from charities on the frontline performing especially well.

Cristy Cunnick, managing director and co-founder of Ethicall, said: “To date we are receiving a really positive reaction to the calls we are making on behalf of our charity clients. The majority of people are really keen to help, no one wants to feel powerless and the public are embracing opportunities where they can make a difference.”

Face-to-face fundraisers could be trained for telephone fundraising

Both agencies said they have adapted their work to the current situation.

Purity is currently looking to hire face-to-face fundraisers. It said it is talking to charities and to face-to-face fundraising agencies to train staff if they want to switch to telephone fundraising.

Mackenzie said: “We are actively pursuing the use of professional face-to-face fundraisers who have been trained on campaigns, already have a good understanding of fundraising compliance, and who know their charity clients well. We are talking to clients in a joined-up way to figure out how we can make this happen.” 

Ethicall said it was devising new types of campaigns. 

Cunnick said: “We are also embarking on, with some of our clients, innovative types of telephone campaigns to engage with their donors at this time: from 'check in' calls for those whose beneficiaries are amongst the most vulnerable, to thank you calls offering the opportunity to give if appropriate or instead take a payment holiday. Whatever the campaign, it is imperative that it is reflective of the current world situation.”

Phone calls ‘welcomed on many levels’

Some of Purity's charity clients say that telephone has been an important way of keeping in touch with supporters now that events, community and face-to-face fundraising have all been halted.

Some say that results have been encouraging so far and phone calls have also helped them understand how the pandemic is affecting supporters.

Amy Oberholzer, head of individual giving at Prostate Cancer UK, said: “During this pandemic, when a large number of our activities have either been postponed or cancelled, our telemarketing programmes have never been so crucial. As coronavirus took hold a few weeks ago, we acted quickly to make changes and tweaks to the programme – ensuring our tone, script and propositions were appropriate and balanced. Truly putting our supporters at the heart of our work and working closely with our agency partners, we have been able to respond and adapt as the pandemic has evolved.

“Our calls have been welcomed on many levels, they enable us to gain additional insight into how this pandemic is affecting our supporters and this will feed into our wider programme of activities. The results for our Value Exchange and Conversion campaigns have remained consistent and are delivering to target, across all metrics we have set and have achieved over the last year.”

Karen Rothwell, director of fundraising at Greenpeace UK, said: “Being able to keep in direct contact with supporters has been even more important than usual, it's helping us find out how people are feeling as well as letting them know what we're doing. For many, these calls are very welcome human contact and we're finding that people are still very happy to talk and to help where they can.”

Katherine Newstead, fundraising manager of international aid charity Feed the Minds, said: “Some of our projects and local partner organisations are already affected by the pandemic and are trying to adapt to the new situation. So, there has never been a more important time for us all to reach out to our supporters and continue to raise funds for our work. With a recent uplift in conversions, the response and feedback we've heard so far has been encouraging."

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