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Spring 2010

The newsletter of The Phone Room

Welcome to the second edition of our revamped client newsletter The Dog & Bone. I hope things are all settling down after the heavy snowfalls of January and that you’ve truly thrown yourself into 2010. We’ve a practical article on how to prepare a database ready for calling and Adrian Salmon from Leeds University delivers some top tips on alumni fundraising. There is also a fascinating item on how fundraising practices differ between the UK and other parts of Europe from The Phone Room’s Director David Dixon. We are introducing a raft of measures to help us improve the services we offer including setting up of focus groups and an online survey which we would love you to complete – there is a chance of winning a bottle of champagne if you do! Also, we have recently gone live with a new website, which is packed with interactive features such as Question of the Week and TPR Exchange where you’ll find plenty of interesting stuff posted by us and we will encourage you to do the same.

Adrian Phillips – Editor

Name: Shabana Kausur Age: 25 Job: Team Manager Previous experience: Shabana studied Computing Science at Oxford Brookes University before starting with The Phone Room as a Telephone Fundraiser in 2006. What began as a summer job has lead to her working her way up to Team Manager.

Best thing about working for The Phone Room: Any one day is never the same as the day before! The experience throws up lots of interesting surprises and is full of everyday enjoyable challenges. I particularly enjoy meeting a wide range of people on a daily basis.

! Alistair Buckley (Data Manager), Gemma Taylor (Account Manager) and Paula Downes (Analyst/Programmer) explain how a good data file can benefit your fundraising campaign. Starting an ‘Annual Fund’? Or have you been running one for a few years and wonder how to get better results?

Data is the cornerstone to any fundraising campaign – whether it’s telephone, mail or email. Here are our top 6 tips on how to get it right first time to ensure your campaign achieves its full potential.


Send your data in as soon as possible

It’s really very simple, as long as you always remember three basic principles:

Data is the starting point of a campaign, so always aim to send it in as early as you can. This will give your Account Manager plenty of time to identify any problems or missing information.

ᔢ Talk to the right alumni ᔢ Make them the right ‘offer’ ᔢ Give them timely and relevant feedback about how their gifts have helped

It also means we can look at several different segmentation options for you, and give advice on which we feel may be the most effective.


Talk to the right alumni

Include relevant, additional information By supplying a data file that includes a donors giving history, as well as other key information such as the theme of the last appeal responded to, or pet ownership, it allows us to segment the data appropriately and ensure the call team have the information to hand to make the donor feel valued when we call.


This information can also be used at the end of the campaign to give you meaningful insight into your donors giving patterns.


Spring clean your data In order to make sure the data cleaning and enhancing process is as successful as possible it is important to supply full names and addresses where possible. This will enable us to accurately search for donors on key suppression files to identify people who have moved or passed away. Additionally it provides the best possible match rate when searching for an up-todate contact number.


Allocate your funds wisely If budgets are tight, in our experience it can be a false economy to cut corners on data cleaning work. A small up front saving could be very costly further down the line. You can end up sending out expensive repeated mailings that are never seen by the intended recipient, or making phone calls that will never reach your donor.


Keep your database current At the end of a campaign we always provide a full data return containing the cleaned information. If this is uploaded into your system it means that when you select data for your next campaign, whether it is by mail or telephone, you can be confident that your donor details are as up to date as possible.

Get it right from the start From working with many different types and sizes of charities, we appreciate that often some key information can be missing from your database. We would recommend that at the donor recruitment stage, processes are put in place to ensure a good range of contact details are captured or requested, for example: phone number, mobile, email and of course a full address, including postcode. As technology evolves and develops, you never know when you might want to test contacting your donors via an SMS or email campaign. This information is updated during our standard fundraising campaigns, however you may also want to consider including an annual mailing giving your donors the opportunity to update their details and provide additional information.

If you would like further information or advice on creating data heaven, please get in touch.

This means understanding peoples’ life stage. Most universities find that the older their alumni are, the more likely they are to donate. The ‘toughest’ age group overall is graduates in their 30s and 40s, because they’re the ones with mortgages, kids and other financial commitments. However, as universities, we shouldn’t discount our younger potential donors – those alumni who only graduated 2 or 3 years ago. As long as we approach them with a proposition that seems affordable, they will give!

Make them the right ‘offer’ Of course the offer has to be right for you as well as them! When I talk about the offer, I mean three things:

What you’re asking people to give to Keep it simple! Many ‘Annual Funds’ across the UK support similar areas: student scholarships and hardship, facilities that benefit students, sport, and so on. But try to make the areas you support at your institution reflect some of its uniqueness. And resist the temptation to talk about everything you do over the phone – 3 well chosen areas will do!

Their method of donation To make the offer work for you, you have to focus on making giving by Direct Debit as attractive as possible! Donors who donate via Direct Debit, will on average, give 6 times as much to you over the whole course of their giving, as those who give by credit card or cash. And at least a third of those Direct Debit donors will be willing to increase their gifts every 2 years or so. So don’t be afraid of smallish Direct Debit gifts like £2 or £3 per month – they’re still worth a lot more to you in the long run than a £20 or £30 credit card gift. Which leads us on to…

The amount you want them to give Don’t be afraid of ‘under asking’! This is the cardinal sin of major donor fundraising, but only because you spend so much time and resource researching potential major donors. But the point of the Annual Fund is to build behaviour – a habit of giving. That

means finding the right amount for the right person at that time. Only they can tell you what that is. So: ᔢ Make sure that each alumni segment gets one initial ask amount ᔢ Assess it in one-year values – that’s the calculation they’ll be doing, even if you talk about so much per month ᔢ Remember life stage. In broad terms: ᔢ Mid-twenties to mid-thirties – a relatively high proportion of their income will be disposable, but overall income low. Don't go over £120 per year (i.e. £10 per month) here unless you have specific info to justify. ᔢ Mid thirties to late 40s - overall income high but relatively low proportion disposable (i.e. mortgage, school fees etc). However more chance of being on higher salaries. So a £120 to £240 per year (£10 - £20 per month) range might be appropriate here. ᔢ 50s upwards - moving into late professional/retirement bracket where both affinity and income becomes higher we hope! Our highest value DD donors are in this age bracket so this is where I would be targeting £240 - £360 per year asks ᔢ And remember that most charities do not ask for more than £10 per month over the phone without offering donors very specific justification for that amount! Don’t just ask for £20 per month without a reason.

Give them timely and relevant feedback about how their gifts have helped In many ways, this is the most important thing. Many people don’t give the full amount they’re capable of giving as their first gift – they test a charity to see how well it responds and acknowledges them first. Write engaging thank you letters that feel personal. 2 or 3 well written paragraphs will do. Don’t send big long reports, but short targeted feedback pieces, that clearly show how peoples’ gifts have helped. Email is a great tool for this, and so are postcards – we got some great feedback from a postcard we sent of our graduating scholars.

Adrian Salmon is Annual Fund Manager at Leeds University

Name: Melanie Paterson Age: 32 Job: Account Manager Previous experience: Melbourne born Melanie has a Diploma in Business Management and is a Certified Workplace Trainer and Assessor. She was previously an Account Manager with Dialogue Direct the face to face fundraising agency and has worked with various major charities across the industry.

Or sprechen Sie Telefon?, parlez vous téléphone?, sprek je telefoon?……telephone fundraising is now established all around Europe and David Dixon, a Director of The Phone Room, has visited many of these call centres and tells us all. The Phone Room has very good links with fundraising call centres around Europe and over the last few years I have visited sister organisations in Stockholm, Madrid, Berlin and Amsterdam, as well as a few here in Blighty. They look pretty much the same (unless you glance out of the window, of course) because the basic formula for success is the same from Alicante to Zagreb – committed and well-trained callers, lots of callcentre software, a powerful script and careful selection of data. Sadly, the calling agents in Spain don’t wear sombreros and there was a disappointing absence of clogs in the Netherlands (probably too noisy for a call-centre environment!). But delve more deeply and you do find plenty of differences. In Spain, for example, one of the biggest management problems is how to limit the length of the phone call. Spanish people love talking and far from resenting a call from a fundraiser, they welcome the chance to talk about anything and everything. Supervisors spend a lot of effort coaching their people about how to get back to the subject – when they do manage to get to the Ask, the Spanish are very generous to charity. The Italians like talking too but telephone fundraising doesn’t really work there – nothing wrong with the Italians who are just as generous as anyone else – but the banking system is split up between hundreds of little local banks who try to charge several Euros each month for actioning a direct debit, making it virtually impossible to generate regular gifts over the phone. In Germany the data protection authorities are extremely rigorous and question donor-communications which over in the UK are not remotely controversial. Meanwhile, in Sweden, I was not sure whether to be shocked or horrified to find that all tax returns are regarded as government information and available to enquirers. Yes, that does

Best thing about working for The Phone Room: This method of fundraising is such a powerful vehicle in ultimately connecting generous people with a great cause. I’m constantly inspired by the people and charities I get the privilege to work with and it’s a great opportunity to get involved in so many causes that I am passionate about.


mean that you can find out how much your neighbour earns and also makes the work of fundraisers that much easier. Our European links have been very useful to us, bringing us new ideas which have benefited us and our clients. For example, a few years ago we had consistent problems with donors not returning paper forms after agreeing to a direct debit over the phone. Our colleagues in Amsterdam told us they had virtually eliminated this problem by getting a supervisor to confirm the gift then and there with the donor; because the donor had now promised two people that they would return the form, they invariable do so. Paperless Direct Debit has reduced this problem in the meantime, but it improved donation rates. We are currently discussing a clever member-get-member programme pioneered by our friends in Madrid and hope to bring it to the UK this year and we, in our turn, have been telling them about TPR Connect, our online/telephone donor recruitment programme. There is a curious psychology amongst UK fundraisers who seem to think that fundraising wisdom can only flow west to east i.e. from the USA to the UK and then into Europe. I have no idea why UK fundraisers don’t actively research European fundraising; our experience is that there is much to learn. After all, face-to-face was invented in Austria. Who knows where the next big thing will come from – hopefully somewhere sunny with good coffee!

Unit 1 Watlington House, Watlington Road Oxford OX4 6NF

Tel 01865 713600

The Dog & Bone Spring 2010  

The latest edition of The Phone Room's newsletter