The Catholic Fundraiser

How to Use the Power of the Phone in Your Fundraising Strategy

Posted by Juddee Milito and Erica Waasdorp on 7/24/18 8:43 AM

The Power of Phones in FundraisingThese days, there’s so much interest in new channels and the latest next “new shiny thing,” but did you know that there’s one medium you use everyday that has evolved tremendously over the past few years?

That medium (the one that you’re holding in your hand right now or the one that’s very nearby!) is the ultimate key to retaining your donors: it’s your phone!

In a session at the 50th Annual NCDC Conference and Exposition, Juddee Millito and Erica Waasdorp discussed examples from organizations who are using the telephone most successfully in retaining donors through:

  • Thank you calls
  • Reactivation of lapsed donors
  • Asking for monthly donors
  • Asking for updated information to keep their monthly donors
  • Upgrading monthly donors to higher levels

As you know, donor retention rates have been steadily going down. And while most of you may know your retention rates, some don’t.

Here’s the calculation:

Take the number of donors giving in year one plus the number of donors giving in year two, divided by the number of donors who gave in year one. What’s your percentage? That’s your donor retention rate. Currently, it’s about 45 percent (Fundraising Effectiveness Project).

Know your donor audience:

You must remember that the typical faith-based donor is typically of an older generation. They love talking on the phone. They love hearing from the organization. They love hearing your stories. And most importantly, every donor loves personally hearing your gratitude!

Specifically, thank you calls are important:

An important part of any organization’s fundraising plan should include thank you calls. They are so easy to organize and they make such a huge difference! Penelope Burk in her annual Donor Survey and her book Donor Centered Fundraising has shared these statistics:

  • 95% of donors stated they’d appreciate a thank you call within a day or two of the organization receiving their donation.
  • 85% said such a thank you call would influence them to give again.
  • 84% said they would definitely or probably give a larger gift after a thank you call.

When donors were tracked after 14 months, the group that received a thank you calls gave 42 percent more on average compared to similar donors who did not receive a thank-you call. So, it’s fair to say that the phone keeps your donors happy and giving more than most other mediums of communication.

And practically, a thank you call is also the best way to confirm the information, ask how often the donor would like to hear from you and build that important relationship to make sure the donor stays with you. Even leaving a message makes a difference. You have to stand out from the crowd and the phone does exactly that.

Are you facing challenges in making calling donors a priority?

But, you may say, I just don’t have the staff.  Or perhaps you only have the resources to thank donors who’ve made gifts at the $1,000 level.

Well, you can either train some volunteers or you can outsource your calling. Outsourcing allows you to be very flexible and do so much more at a cost that’s truly minimal. Just think about the cost to acquire a new donor: Add a few more bucks, your retention goes up, and you’ll be paid back multifold!

Juddee Millito has been managing telephone campaigns for many years. Here’s one of Juddee’s rules:

Understand that not every phone call will end in a gift, but every call will

  • Foster a Relationship
  • Update Information
  • Educate and Inform
  • Answer Questions
  • Make a Friend for Your Organization

In short, you need to make calling your donors a priority.

If your organization is looking to increase your donor retention rate and be more donor-centric at the same time, the telephone should be a key part of your fundraising strategy!

Just think about it. How likely is it that you’ll keep your donors if you’re showing how grateful you are for that first, second, or next donation? I think it’s pretty likely.

Juddee Milito and Erica Waasdorp shared more about this topic at the 50th Annual NCDC Conference and Exposition, September 15-18, 2018 in Chicago.

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Written by Juddee Milito and Erica Waasdorp

Juddee Milito CFRE, President of J. Milito & Associates, Inc. has been serving and coaching clients for more than 21 years, specializing in telephone fundraising and follow up. Her company works with religious, private and independent schools, health and human services, community and arts organizations, throughout the United States. With her professional and personable calling team, Juddee has developed and executed thousands of direct response campaigns, grossing millions of dollars for her clients.

Erica Waasdorp is President of A Direct Solution, located on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Erica lives and breathes direct response and fundraising and can be considered a Philanthropyholic. She works with non-profit clients all over the country as well as internationally, helping them with their appeals, monthly giving, grant writing and PR. She is also the US Ambassador for the International Fundraising Congress (IFC), held in the Netherlands in October ( Erica Waasdorp published one of the very few books on monthly giving, called Monthly Giving. The Sleeping Giant. She recently created the Monthly Donor Road Map and the e-book Top 7 Questions about Monthly Giving. She co-authored the DonorPerfect Monthly Giving Starter and Marketing Kits and she regularly blogs and presents in person and via webinars on appeals, direct mail and monthly giving. She is an AFP Master Trainer and currently working on her next book. For more information, contact Erica at or see