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Don’t let call aversion’ hinder your fundraising
Simple tips to keep your campaign on track
By Dee Vandeventer and Justin Tolan
Mathis, Earnest & Vandeventer
Cedar Falls, IA
It happens to the best of us. You need to call a potential donor, but you just can’t seem to pick up the phone. You stare at it. You find another task to complete. You procrastinate. Something, anything seems better that having to make your calls. The mental anguish is almost unbearable.
It may even become physical. Beads of sweat form on your brow. A knot tightens in your stomach. We call this inability to make personal contact with potential givers "call aversion." But no matter what you call it, it gets you nowhere.
People experiencing call aversion fall into one of four categories:
Dealing with call aversion
Call aversion doesn’t have to keep you from making those calls. First, think of the last time you experienced call aversion. Create a mental movie of how you felt. The next time you feel those same emotions, detach yourself by watching your "movie."
Second, do something physical when you first experience those emotions. Stand up and walk around your office. Say out loud what you are thinking.
Third, substitute that negative experience with a positive one. Recall a successful phone call, how easy it seemed at the time and how good it made you feel.
Finally, give yourself a reward after every call, even if you didn’t connect with the potential donor. Your reward can be anything, from coffee to a piece of candy. It will positively reinforce the experience of making the call and increase the likelihood that you will make another.
It is imperative that hospices train their volunteers in how to avoid call aversion because volunteers play such a large role in fundraising. Volunteers are the group most prone to call aversion because they don’t make donor calls every day like professional fundraising staff.
If you are a fundraising professional who oversees volunteers, proper training can lessen or even eliminate call aversion. During a scheduled volunteer training session, include a section on call aversion.
Begin training by clearly outlining the goals and objectives of the campaign. Don’t assume the volunteers have the same motivation you do for the campaign. Set an example for them by being enthusiastic yourself.
Provide volunteers with a time line and job description, and make sure they understand what is required. Cover the types of call aversion and how to deal with it, and then have volunteers participate in role-playing exercises. Include some worst-case scenarios, followed by discussion on how best to handle the situations. This can be a great confidence-booster for them and can help you determine areas where volunteers need more training.
Once the training session ends, stay in touch with your volunteers until all the calls are completed. This gives them an opportunity to discuss their concerns and allows you to address any small problems before they become bigger ones.
For those volunteers who have more difficulty than others in overcoming call aversion, let them accompany you while you make calls. By joining you on calls, they will observe you and gain confidence in their ability.
Give credit to volunteers when they do stare call aversion in the face and make contact with potential donors. This positive reinforcement will keep them focused and motivated for the duration.
Other tips to keep in mind that will help avoid call aversion:
• Nothing happens unless someone is asked.
The No. 1 reason people don’t give is because they’re not asked. Give them the opportunity to experience the joy of giving.
• A "no" is one step closer to a "yes."
A "no" isn’t always a "no." Sometimes the timing isn’t right, or the donor needs to speak with a spouse, attorney, business partner, or family before making a gift.
• The worst that can happen is someone says "no."
In fact, the person turning you down may feel as uncomfortable saying "no" as you were making the call.
• Don’t take it personally.
There are many reasons a person may decline to give. Rarely do those reasons include you.
• Be proud to ask.
Don’t be ashamed of working for a nonprofit. The gift you’re asking for will make the world a better place, for both the giver and the receiver.
• Make a gift yourself.
A fundraiser who authentically supports a cause is a powerful draw for a financial campaign. If you don’t make a gift yourself, how you can ask someone else to?
So the next time your hand shakes before picking up the phone, remember these tips, take a deep breath, and let your love of hospice shine through.
[Editor’s note: Dee Vandeventer is president and Justin Tolan is chief fundraising adviser of Mathis, Earnest & Vandeventer, a marketing and fundraising company. They can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephone at (319) 268-9151.]