3 Ways to Breathe New Life into a Tired Phonathon

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Successful fundraising phonathons are challenging, particularly as you are approaching the same prospect-base year upon year. How do you make sure past donors continue to donate, while also encouraging new donors? To ensure the campaign is effective, simply tweaking old material is not enough. Phonathon managers must examine – and recreate – their scripts, email templates, and other communication content on a regular basis. After all, if you remember the script from last year… your prospect probably does too!

Phonathon managers must examine – and recreate – their scripts, email templates, and other communication content on a regular basis. #fundraising Click To Tweet

The conclusion of each campaign represents a crucial opportunity to draw breath, re-assess, and consider how the next campaign could be rendered even more successful than the last. So, let’s consider three ways that phonathon managers can make impactful changes to their phonathons.

1. Add Personalization

It is becoming increasingly important to personalise your phone campaign approach to the prospect or donor in question whilst also finding new ways to bring additional value to your alumni over the phone. Ensuring your alumni feel like this call is about them and for them is crucial when it comes to improving your overall donor experience. Creating tailored scripts for your donor segments or constituent groups goes a long way to making sure the prospect has a more personal, positive interaction.

Adding more conversation into scripts does two things: 1) it helps eliminate the sense that the alumni are only being called for money, and 2) enables your callers to collect more information about your donor base. By asking more questions and collecting more data from your pool of contacts, you can define more accurate personas for focused campaigns in the future. For example, a follow-up email campaign about current research into biotech or environmental programs could generate greater success when targeting alumni with a specific interest in the environment. In this regard, refreshing your scripts and other associated campaign materials offers a quick and easy way to breathe new life into an otherwise tired phone campaign.

2. Review Your Tools

contact management system

At the heart of your phonathon are your callers. What tools are they using to manage call lists, understand their prospects, and record valuable information about them? How easy are these tools for them to use?

The right contact management and calling software tool is the foundation upon which successful phone campaigns can be built, modified, and executed. An effective calling solution should provide all the information your callers need in one interface, such as contact details, scripts, follow-up email templates, and gift processing.

It should also be easy for your callers to be trained on and ultimately use. Since many callers are new each campaign, they are likely learning the systems and processes for the first time. The time lost training new staff, the time lost by your callers as they try to remember processes, and time lost correcting preventable errors pose a significant setback to the success of many campaigns.

Probably the most important feature of any prospect management or engagement software is automation. Your calling software should be able to consistently route the best available prospects to your callers, automate the sending of emails and stewardship pieces, and manage the scheduling of follow-up calls.

The ideal phonathon tool will also help you to drive up contact rates, ensure consistent application of your outreach best practices, and support dynamic and light-hearted conversations with your alumni.  It should also save campaign managers as much time as possible, allowing them to invest this time in strategic and creative thought that optimizes the overall phonathon approach.

3. Collaborate with Colleagues

Drawing inspiration and insight from your peers can help you return to work rejuvenated and full of creative new ideas and strategies to apply in the year ahead. CASE conferences and other comparable events allow phonathon managers to seek advice and insight from their peers at other institutions. It also helps keep them on top of the latest trends and expert advice in marketing communications, fundraising, and other related topics.

Phonathon managers must not allow themselves to become complacent or to fall into the pattern of recycling tired phonathon materials. Instead, every campaign, shift and call, should represent an opportunity to hone and refine your phonathon approach so as to maximise engagement and participation over time.


We would love to hear your thoughts on how you keep your phonathons fresh and successful! VanillaSoft will be sponsoring the Fundraising Track at the CASE Europe Annual Conference August 27-29.

Please stop by our booth or attend the sessions hosted by our tele-fundraising expert, Rachel Spencer:

  • My Phonathon Journey (And Lessons Learned Along the Way!)
    Wednesday, August 28 from 10:15-11:00 in the Storytelling Corner
  • Transforming Your Telephone Campaign ROI
    Thursday, August 29th from 15:15 – 16:00 in the Session Showcase

And, if you would like to book some one-on-one time with Rachel at the conference, please click here to access her event calendar.