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Playing Telephone With Your Donors Gets Tougher

Few hands went in the air after Tara Kowsaluk, senior account director for Donor Services Group, asked who in the audience owned a landline phone. The informal poll placed a spotlight directly on the primary challenge facing organizations’ telemarketing teams. Landlines are a dying entity, cell phones are the future and telemarketing’s role in it all is not yet defined.

Are telemarketers permitted to call cellphones? They are, according to Kowsaluk, but there are plenty of restrictions causing gray areas. Guidelines prevent telemarketers from calling those who have not given consent. Newer challenges include a requirement that names of those solicited match the phone number used – a rule complicated by family plans that might have several numbers under one name.

Kowsaluk, Kate Sienicki, senior account executive and telemarketing director for Mal Warwick, and Katja Greeson, deputy director of marketing for the Democratic National Committee (DNC) discussed the challenges and potential solutions to telemarketing in the modern era during their session at the 2016 Bridge Conference in National Harbor, Md.

The DNC has been cautious in response to the restrictions, Greeson said, seeking written authorization. About two years ago, the DNC placed an assumptive phrase on its donation pages and mailings stating that it is assumed that any landline or cellphone number provided is acceptable to call. It is important to note, she said, that offers to call can be rescinded at any time and the DNC performs phone-matches for up-to-date numbers.

Strategy is important, Sienicki said, encouraging attendees to think about how their organizations define consent. Collection in itself can be perceived as consent, similar to that of email addresses. Sienicki encouraged inserting phone number asks into emails, calling on nights or weekends to avoid catching recipients driving or at work and seeking consent to text.

Other key challenges discussed included:

* Penetration rates continue to fall, down 3 percent year-over-year since 2008, according to Kowsaluk. Thank you calls and surveys are two strategies that can be used to teach call recipients that it’s OK to pick up the phone without fear of being hit with an ask, she said. Cleaning call files of those unlikely to be responsive is another way to avoid spending time and money with little to show for it;

* Funds pledged and funds actually arriving sometimes differ. Credit card rates are huge factors in having pledged money actually arrive, Sienicki said. Callers should be trained to both push credit-card transactions and accept potential rejections; and,

* Keeping callers excited and inspired is also important, according to Greeson. DNC leaders regularly update talking points and provide callers with new information in an effort to make them feel more included and excited. Providing callers with a variety of options within scripts has proven successful, giving the callers the flexibility to follow points that interest them and include updated information.

Using telemarketing to protect and upgrade existing donors was among the concepts recommended by the trio. Middle donors, for instance, sometimes receive inconsistent attention and telemarketing could be used as a means of cultivation, according to Sienicki.

Phone, email and snail mail could also be worked off of one another. A pre-call email, for instance, could alert a recipient of an upcoming call with a link to be included in a suppression file if they choose to donate directly in response to the email. “It’s not rocket science,” Sienicki said. “It is just a little bit more attention.”

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