Telephone fundraising during a pandemic

Charities everywhere are reeling from the ongoing impact of COVID-19; as we are all very aware, for almost a year now, mass participation events have been cancelled, public fundraising events have been severely limited, face-to-face fundraising has all but stopped, charity shops have experienced long periods of closure. The funding gaps continue to widen, and currently, there is no sign of this changing.

Across the sector, we are hearing that CEOs are gravely concerned for the future financial stability of their organisations. Some of the larger names such as Sue Ryder are reporting shortfalls of as much as £2 million a month, with the double whammy of hugely increased demand for their support services.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the scale, a third of ‘small’ charities were dipping into their reserves BEFORE the pandemic, while almost a quarter of those with an annual income of under £100k had none to dip into. Fundraising UK recently reported that while £370m of emergency government funding announced last April was distributed through the National Lottery Community Fund, only 16% of small charities expected to be able to access the scheme.

So how can charities possibly bounce back from the devastating impact of COVID-19?

One fundraising channel which is certainly seeing a strong success rate right now is the telephone.  

Telephone with old fashioned dial

We spoke to Sanita Guddu, legacy consultant and interim support for Royal Voluntary Service:

“Telephone fundraising is the most effective and easiest way to connect with supporters. Done well it can bring donors closer to the cause as well as gain an understanding of why donors support you.

“Since March 2020, telephone became the lifeline for many people. With many people cut off from their friends, family and society receiving calls was never more important. Whilst I was managing the legacy telephone campaign for Royal Voluntary Service, it became clear that their donors valued the call and wanted to talk about their support.”

At QTS, we’ve delivered telephone fundraising for charities for over 20 years, but the last 12 months have seen demand for this service grow exponentially.

Charities are having to flex and adapt quickly, making decisions as how best to connect with their existing and potential supporters in this challenging period. As Sanita observed, the telephone is the ideal medium; people are at home more, and open to having conversations with fundraisers. Our MD, Ben Suffell, expands on this:

“Despite their own worries, supporters are being incredibly generous. The majority feel a great deal of empathy for charities and the work they do. It’s actually been quite overwhelming to discover how keen some people are to talk and to help, and in many cases we are seeing an increase in fundraised amounts, which is incredible.

“But it’s not just about asking for emergency financial support for charities in need; we are making more ‘checking in’ calls than ever before. It might be a thank you for a donation or a welcome to a new membership. It could be an opportunity for a short satisfaction survey, or to see whether supporters are happy to switch from traditional (but expensive) print communications to more cost effective digital communications. Whatever the purpose, these opportunities have proved absolutely invaluable for connecting with supporters, and ensuring they know that they are valued and appreciated.”

Our fundraising team at QTS is especially sensitive to the fact that some supporters are finding this a particularly demanding time financially.

We know that a conversation might be the chance to present options to the supporter such as a payment holiday or decreasing the amount they give, as an alternative to losing their support completely. But it’s interesting to see how these instances are certainly in the minority, with most charities reporting very positive conversion rates.

Alfie Wright, Senior Individual Giving Manager with Sue Ryder, is forging ahead with telephone fundraising during this period and told us:

“The telephone has proved to be a vital channel for Sue Ryder to keep in touch and have meaningful conversations with our supporters.

“Through our Emergency Appeal, we have been fortunate to have experienced an outpouring of support, and by telephone we have been able to convert many one-time transactions or interactions into long term committed giving. This has been so important at a time when much of our planned committed giving activity has been paused.”

Alfie’s views are echoed by Trevin Chengabroyen, Campaign Manager for Regular Giving with  Wood Green, The Animals Charity:

“Unsure about how the Coronavirus would affect the telephone fundraising side of our work, we have been pleasantly surprised by the unselfish giving nature of the general public.”

What is becoming increasingly clear, is that now more than ever it’s important to connect with your supporters to keep your charity strong through this crisis.

Regardless of the work we undertake for clients, the consistent ethos at QTS is that we care deeply about this sector. As a team, we are dedicated to doing everything we can to represent you at the highest level when we speak to your supporters. Nothing is more important to us than the conversations we have with donors who are passionate about supporting your cause.

If you’re feeling the impact of these uncertain times, and would like to chat through the options in a friendly no-obligation chat, drop us a line or give us a call. We’d love to hear from you.

About the author: Ben Suffell