- National Democratic Training Committee

Every campaign needs money. Political fundraising calls are the most efficient way to fundraise with limited resources. This practice is known as call time, and it’s the single most important fundraising tool your campaign has

You may not know how to get started with call time. Don’t worry: there’s a simple process to follow. Today, let’s cover everything you need to know about this essential pillar of your campaign’s fundraising. 

Understand Call Time 

Traditional call time involves you or your candidate personally calling potential donors to solicit individual donations, one by one. The key distinction is the individual connection. Unlike your blast email or other digital fundraising programs, call time is about making that one-on-one ask. This is why it’s usually used to raise medium and large-dollar donations. It’s the personal connection that elicits the most generous offers. 

Call Time Flow

Call time should be broken into three separate phases: pre-work, call time itself, and post-work. Let’s go over what each of these phases looks like.

Pre-Work

Map Your Network: Rolodexing & Donor Research

Your first step is rolodexing. Most of the money you raise early in the campaign comes from people you personally know. So set aside some time, gather all your contacts into one spreadsheet (or another tool), and remove any duplicates. Then, go through and rank your contacts on their capacity and likelihood to give. Use the scale in our Leveraging Your Network lesson to help you do this.

Doing this work upfront is crucial to the success of your fundraising program, especially for building early momentum.

If you’re having trouble identifying potential donors, start in these areas: 

  • Recommended contacts from friends and family.
  • The people you meet every day on the campaign trail.
  • Reach out to your local Democratic Party, progressive organizations, or current elected officials for direction.
  • Online resources such as Google, LinkedIn, and other social media. 

Just remember, you can’t use campaign finance reports to identify prospective donors.  It’s illegal to use data from the FEC and aggregators such as OpenSecrets.org, as your starting source of new donor research. 

That means you can’t look at a list of donors who donated to your district’s Democrats in years prior when determining whether or not to call someone, or how much money to ask for.  However, if you identify someone as a potential donor through a conversation with an aligned organization, you can use FEC information to inform your decisions about whether to call them and what your fundraising goal should be. Be sure to check out our Candidate’s Network and Finding New Donors courses to learn the best ways to identify donor prospects. Also, familiarize yourself with other campaign finance laws to ensure your campaign is within legal compliance at all times. 

Set Goals 

Before you ever start dialing, set ambitious, yet realistic campaign goals. Have a clear idea of your campaign’s financial needs, and aim to meet those needs with the goals you set. Sketch out a budget and decide how much time is required to achieve success. Your budget—especially early on—will be based on the strength of your network, which is another reason why good rolodexing is so important. 

On average, 60-70 percent of any campaign’s budget is raised through call time. Remember that when setting your goals and schedule. Make call time a priority by blocking out specific times during the week for your efforts. 

If you’re unsure about how much call time you should schedule per quarter, take a look at our fundraising plan template and template guide for additional help. 

Build Today’s List

Calling from your full database can be overwhelming and messy. That’s why narrowing your list is vital. Use your donor’s past interactions, giving history, and biographical info to answer these questions:

  • Who is a top priority based on capacity and likelihood to give? 
  • Who haven’t you reached lately?
  • Is it time to re-solicit? (more on that later)

Context helps calls run more smoothly. The more you have, the better you can use the time of your campaign staff and volunteers. 

ProTip:  Choose somewhere comfortable to make calls from. Find someplace where you won’t be interrupted or lose focus. Grab some snacks, water, and whatever else you need on hand, so you’re not distracted by trips to the kitchen. Also, whenever possible, schedule someone to support you during call time. 

During Call Time

Making Calls, Taking Notes, Raising Money

When you’re on the phone, take great notes on conversations to help with future outreach. You’ll appreciate these notes every time you come back to that prospect.

Log the outcomes of calls in a consistent, actionable way. Did they pledge to give? Was there no answer? Did they agree to attend a fundraiser? Did they want more information? The outcomes of calls determine the appropriate follow-up. So it’s important to have it all recorded in a way you can easily search and act accordingly. Great notes and great record-keeping supercharge your fundraising. Use the call time template for an easy way to keep track of all of this information.

Also, your prep work from earlier should help you minimize transition times!  Your goal is to move as quickly from one potential donor to the next, having whatever information you need at-a-glance. This way, you’re ready to reach out without much delay. 

Finally, be ready to take money. There’s no time like the present. And you’ll save time on follow-up if someone is ready to pay by credit card over the phone.

Consider using a call time management software that can help quickly log outcomes, capture notes, and provide easy-to-read dashboard-views of each of your contacts. The more you keep your call time activities directly in the platform (i.e., place calls, send emails/texts, etc.) the better. That way, you don’t have to worry about logging, because it’s done automatically! 

Post-Work

Thanking Donors & Following Up

Managing hundreds and thousands of individual relationships is challenging. Nearly everyone you reach out requires more than one “touch” before you secure their donations.

Again, smart technology choices provide a major assist here with tools that 1) automate follow-ups based on outcome and 2) remind you when it’s time to get back in touch with someone. But no matter how you’re managing your follow up, keep in mind a couple of important things: 

  • Don’t let money slip through the cracks. Follow up with pledges soon, so they can be fulfilled quickly.
  • Don’t let people slip through the cracks. Have a system for returning the calls of those who ask you to call back, or that you are having trouble reaching first.
  • Don’t stop at political fundraising calls! Try following up with emails, texts, and other means, where appropriate.
  • Adjust and optimize if you find certain calls, donors, or strategies more effective than others.
  • Plan to re-solicit: any good fundraising plan involves asking donors who can give more to do so. This may involve another call to ask for a donation, inviting them to an in-person event, or finding another way they can donate.
  • Thank every person that donates to your campaign: they have just made an investment in you and in our democracy! Stewardship is your best friend. 

It won’t be long before you will have amassed a treasure trove of data related to your call time program. Use it to your advantage!

Track your performance. Keep tabs on key metrics, like average calls per hour, and average dollars raised per call.

Adjust your plan. Use that performance data to monitor progress towards your fundraising goal, and to update it as needed.

Optimize your approach. Look out for trends in your data that can help you make smarter choices about who to reach, when to reach them, and how to reach them.

Test different approaches for everything from how you ask to follow-up strategies, to the time of day you make your calls. Keep track of what works best, and do more of it! The more focused you are on building and running a smart call time program, the more successful you will be. You’ll have more resources to communicate your vision to voters, but—more importantly—you’ll have more time to spend with voters.

We understand: organizing a robust call time workflow can seem difficult at first. That’s okay—we can teach you! If you’re new to 1:1 fundraising interactions, don’t hesitate to take our course on Making The Ask! This course teaches key skills that every fundraiser will need to know by heart to run a great operation. Click the link below to get started! 

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Asim Thakore

Asim is an Instructional Designer for the Fundraising track at NDTC. After working in politics out of college, he spent over a decade working in telemedicine operations and training before returning to the political sphere with NDTC. He also serves in the leadership of his local Democratic club.