June 18, 2019
By Lily Doctoroff
There are three limited resources on every campaign: time, money, and people
Every campaign needs money in order to be successful, but there are only so many hours in the day and so many people to help you fundraise. So, knocking on every constituent’s door to ask for donations probably isn’t the best way to go about raising money.
What is the most efficient way to fundraise with limited resources then?
If you’ve been around a campaign for any amount of time you may have guessed it: call time!
Call time is simply calling people directly to ask for the money you need to win. This will give you the opportunity to talk to voters directly and give your supporters the opportunity to contribute to your campaign!
That being said, it’s important to know who to call, how to prepare, and how to make these calls!
(We’re going to cover the call time basics, but if you want to learn more, check out our Raising Money course that walks you through call time, fundraising mail, and more!)
Make Call Time a Priority
First thing’s first: call time has to be a priority.
If your campaign does not prioritize call time it will get pushed to the side and you could fall short of your fundraising goals. (no one wants that!)
So, in order to make sure call time is a priority you need to schedule specific call time blocks into your campaign plan and calendar. This is time set aside for you and any volunteers to sit down and devote your attention to calling potential donors.
By blocking out specific call time blocks during the week your campaign can maximize its interaction with supporters, as well as raise the money you need!
If you’re unsure about how much call time you should schedule per quarter take a look at our fundraising campaign plan template (and template guide for additional help). This will help you sort out how much you plan to raise through call time and how to reach those goals.
To figure out exactly who you’re going to call you should first refer to your campaign rolodex (or create one if you have not already). This is your list or database of your family, friends, colleagues, neighbors – really anyone you know personally!
(If you’re interested in how to compile or organize a campaign rolodex try taking out Building Your Network: Donors, Volunteers, and Validators (link) course to learn more or check out our blog post on rolodexing)
These are the people who already believe in the values and issues you’re prioritizing in your campaign, so they’re the most likely to consider donating! Before you begin calling voters you don’t know personally contact all the people in your rolodex.
An additional perk of contacting people in your campaign rolodex is since you know these people personally you can ask these supporters to recommend other people you should talk to. You can then add those recommendations to the list of folks you’re going to call in the future.
Once you’ve compiled this list/database of your personal supporters it’s time to look beyond your rolodex and research the donation histories of non-personal contacts.
Let’s be clear – you can’t use campaign finance reports to identify prospective donors (it’s illegal). Instead, you should try to get names of potential donors from several places including;
- Recommended contacts from friends and family
- Your Finance Committee’s list of potential donors
- The people you meet every day on the campaign trail
- A list of donors from other recent campaigns in your locality.
Once you have a list of names it’s time for research, specifically who the donor is and their giving history.
For research, your best friends will be Google and OpenSecrets (link).
First, for who the donor is, try simply googling the donor and take a look at their personal and professional social media presence. This will give you a better idea of who they are and what issues matter most to them. Maybe you share a common passion!
As for OpenSecrets, this combines all state and federal contributions into one easily searchable database. Here you can enter the donor’ name and find out who they’ve given to in the past and how much. This will give you a better idea of the type of candidate they tend to support and how much they’re willing to give.
Repeat this process for every potential donor you plan to call. It may seem tedious, but this info is incredibly important if you want to make the most out of you call time!
Once your research is ready to go, it’s time to sit down and make the calls.
There are many ways you can make calls, but there are several things to keep in mind in order to make your calls are as effective as possible.
Chose somewhere comfortable to make calls from. Someplace you won’t be interrupted or lose your focus. Grab some snacks, water, and, whatever else you want ready so you’re not distracted by trips to the kitchen.
Maybe even put a “do not disturb” sign on the door – whatever works so you can focus!
Easy Access to Info
You should have the contact information and notes for every person you’ll call ready before you start. The info will guide your calls and make sure you make the most of your interaction with your donors.
Along with your information, you should be ready to take notes on any donor during your call. This includes;
- Whether the person agreed to give
- If the person is interested in donating in the future
- If there was no answer
- Whether a voicemail was left and when
(We recommend not making the ask on voicemail. Instead, tell them who you are and ask them to call you back when you get a chance and call them back later.)
Also, if you’re working with volunteers it’s important to have a clear and concise system for making calls and recording info. This could be a template for volunteers to fill out for each call or an easy to navigate database that volunteers can fill in
A lot of your calls will go unanswered – that’s ok! You may have to call someone many times before they answer. Don’t let this discourage you! Track who you call and when you leave a message and just move onto the next call.
Be conscious of how often you call a donor. Make sure you space the calls out a reasonable amount and don’t leave a message every time. You don’t want to irritate the donor.
Make the Ask
If you’ve taken our course on Making the Ask you’re familiar with asking for donations. If you’re unfamiliar, the important thing to remember is for every ask you should be confident, ask for what you want, be specific in your request, and add urgency with a deadline.
(Take our course on Making the Ask for a ton of great information about fundraising!)
The first call and the first ask is always the hardest. Like anything else, it gets easier over time. Before you know it, asking for donations will be second nature!
Finally, like any type of fundraising, call time requires follow-up.
If you make a call and the person makes a contribution, send them a thank you email. If they made a pledge, have a form or a template email ready that includes a link and directions on how to give, and send it right away.
Whatever type of follow-up you send, it’s important to send it right after the call and track everything. This includes donations, pledges, declines, and specific notes about what you talked about with each donor. This information will help you know who you should call back and who you shouldn’t.
Ready to make some calls?
If you’re new to call time and nervous about making your first call – don’t be! The more calls you make, and the more prospective donors
you talk to, the more comfortable you’ll be.
But, if you’re looking for more information about call time or fundraising check out our online academy for plenty of courses on both!
Remember – the hardest call is the first one. It only gets easier from there.