Is a Phonathon a Thing of the Past?

Last week, I received no less than 5 calls on my cell phone from a phone number I did not recognize…and, thus, did not answer!

Like many Americans, I no longer have a “land line” and rely on my smartphone for my calls. I did recognize the area code and know that the call was likely from my graduate school. Given the time of year, I deduced this was a student phone caller seeking my annual commitment.

And I didn’t answer it.

[By the way, if the development office would check their records carefully, they would note my history of giving and see that I am fairly consistent with the time and method of making my annual check – it’s always hand-delivered, the same time of the year, during a reunion week!]

All of this got me thinking – why are folks still undertaking a phonathon like this?

I recalled a blog that I read earlier this past year that offered some good thoughts on reaching out by telephone. It’s authored by Kevin MacDonnell of Cooldata – an analytics, predictive modeling group for higher education folks.

Kevin, who has worked as an annual fund director, has some interesting things to suggest about a phonathon, so read his blog. But more importantly, he really opened my eyes when he said, for reaching large numbers of your constituents, “The phone is no longer a mass-contact medium!”

He goes on to say that any mass-contact medium, even email, is only effective when “it reaches out to the right people at the right time.”

Once again, basic fundraising principles win out in the end:

  • Don’t treat everyone the same.
  • Get to know your donors as individuals.
  • Determine how they wish to be solicited and contacted.
  • Track what forms of communication media they use.

And, since it may not be realistic to actually come to know all of the donors in your database, perhaps you could benefit from an analytical study and the building of some predictive modeling examples.

So, to my good friends in the development office at my graduate school: Look at my record – you REALLY should know me by now!

And save the phone call – I’m not going to answer it anyway!