Series on Call Time: Part 2 – The First Call


Fundraising Tips Mar. 6th, 2024

So, you have your call list set and ready, and you are now looking at the 10 digits staring back at you. You are ready to hit the phone icon when you realize you have no idea what you are going to say. What do you do?!

Getting Ready for the First Call

Odds are very good that the first fundraising phone call you make will be clunky. You will stutter, you will forget to say things, and you will probably not get a donation – and you know what? That’s okay. As the old saying goes: “you have to walk before you can run.” Here are a few tips to go from stumble to saunter to sprint.

Write a Script, Memorize It, And Then Throw it Away

The most common thing people will say to themselves to avoid making a call is to simply think “I don’t know what to say.” This thought can torpedo any fundraising call and is also one of the easiest to overcome. How? By writing a script that provides guidance to you – we will even provide a sample call script to help get you started.

Take the time to write out your opening, as well as some basic responses to some of the most common questions you might expect, such as why you are running and how their donation might be used. Some people may prefer full paragraphs while others might work better with bullet points – but as long as you commit your thoughts to paper, it doesn’t really matter how you go about it. 

Keep in mind that aside from your open, you really can’t predict how a phone call is going to go. It is for this reason that you should largely throw away your script once you have the basics down – If you can’t adapt to a conversation as questions pop up, your donation ask will sound forced and robotic, you will get flustered, and you may not get a donation. 

Kill Them With Kindness

There are some psychological shortcuts you can take to help make the call go smoother and to hopefully secure a donation.

The first step is to simply start by getting them to say yes. Questions like “Is this (caller’s Name)?”, “Is now a good time to call?” and “did you know that there is an election coming up?” will (most likely) result in “yes” responses. Not only is it polite to confirm these things, but once they have started to say yes, they will mentally be primed to say yes when you finally make an ask for a contribution.

You also want to make sure that you find a good balance between making an ask too early and having a conversation that is eating into your call time. This is as much an art as it is a science, but it is always better to err on the side of letting the donor talk. 

If you feel that things are dragging on too much, you can always say “you know, (caller’s name), I have really enjoyed our conversation and I would love to talk to you more at a future event, but I do need to contact as many people as possible to get the word out about my campaign. Before I let you go, I did want to ask you for a campaign contribution today…” Most potential donors are understanding and would take you up on your offer to talk further, especially if they make the turn and become an actual donor.

More Tips and Best Practices

Some other good tips include always talking with a smile. As corny as it may sound, your voice will sound more open and pleasant with even the fakest of smiles you may be making; the cadence and timbre simply come out of your mouth more pleasantly when you make this small change. 

Also, don’t call after 9 PM. It may seem obvious, but people don’t really like it when you wake up the kids. The best call times are generally 4:30 – 8:30 PM Monday through Friday and 10 AM to 2 PM on weekends. Also, be aware of cultural significance to certain days of the week or specific dates: some religions set aside Monday for family time, others know that Thursday is the night for high school football, and the night of the big game in general is never a good choice. Choose your targets wisely and be sensitive to their time. 

You have made it through the call, and you are ready to actually ask for a donation – but what does that process look like?


To learn how to turn a social call into a donation, click here for Part 3!

Eric Bloom

With 17 years of experience, I have become accustomed to identifying key issues in order to craft impactful operational strategies, while fostering trust through exceeding expectations. My cross-industry experience (from politics to finance to healthcare to name a few) informs innovative solutions, tailored to address unique concerns and bolster the reach and effectiveness of initiatives.