Increasing phonathon pledge fulfillment by making a better case for credit cards

Elaine Ezrapour

Elaine Ezrapour

Program Center Manager at Ruffalo Noel Levitz
Elaine Ezrapour was a caller, supervisor and apprentice manager at Binghamton University and then became program center manager at the University of Rochester in 2013.
Elaine Ezrapour

Capturing gifts immediately on credit cards is the best way to improve phonathon pledge fulfillment and dollar fulfillment rates. The higher the percentage of pledges completed on the phone, the more pledges and dollars your institution has in the door right now.

Below are 5 simple credit card tips that are easy to implement and will have lasting results for your phonathon pledge fulfillment:

1. Recruitment

Credit card success starts at recruitment. Present your candidates with the fact the job requires them to process credit cards, because by doing so, it sets the precedent for the job’s priorities. Below is a recent flyer I used, which mentions credit card processing as part of the job.

Start increasing phonathon fulfillment rates by emphasizing credit card processing in your caller recruitment

As you may notice, there is no indication of pledge cards in the advertisement. By doing so, we set the precedent for our preferred fulfillment practice – credit cards.

2. Interviews

In the past, I’ve blogged about 1:1 interviews and group interviews. Regardless of how you hold interviews, when reviewing the job description with your candidates, be sure to address credit cards. Explain how they are utilized and why they are the preferred method of gift processing. If you have callers read through a sample phonathon script during the interview, have it include credit card asks. Avoid discussing the option of sending donors pledge cards at this stage.

3. Training

Initial training:

After you’ve selected your candidates for hire, train them to be credit card champions! Spend considerable time reviewing the importance of gift fulfillment and best practices. Set the bar high in terms of their credit card percentages. Only after you review the process of accepting credit cards extensively should you introduce the notion of pledge cards.

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What I learned from “The Why Axis”

Adrija Basu

Adrija Basu

Program Director at Ruffalo Noel Levitz
Adrija is program director at Rutgers University, a Ruffalo Noel Levitz on campus phonathon program. She joined RNL in 2012 after experience as a caller, supervisor and researcher.
Adrija Basu

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In fundraising, we work with constantly changing people (co-workers, whyaxisstudents, donors) on a daily basis. We always hope that people will change, start to do something different, or do something more—especially when it comes to donors. What makes some of us more successful than others when pleasing people, and more importantly, getting them to act or change their behavior?

We have all pondered at one point why someone made a decision, or why someone cared more than you did. In The Why Axis (published in 2014), economists John List and Uri Gneezy discuss incentives that motivate people and why. The authors are part of a new movement that is having a big impact on our field of fundraising: behavioral economics.

The Why Axis summarizes various field experiments in education, fundraising, and competition through behavior economics. This is new territory—economics in the past has mostly been based on theory and these authors sought to prove something. They’ve been the recipients of major grants and done some the controversial work in motivating students and consumers.

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Podcast: Autumn Horton talks phonathon and being a call center manager

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Brian Gawor

Vice President for Research at Ruffalo Noel Levitz
Brian Gawor, CFRE, is a former annual fund and major gift professional who now focuses on research and benchmarking to drive fundraising strategy. He is also a doctoral student studying higher education giving.
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Whenever I’m at a conference talking with a group of fundraisers, I realize very quickly that a whole bunch of us began our careers in call centers—either as phonathon callers, or managing a phone program for all or part of our first job in fundraising. It is a place where a lot of people start and catch the fundraising “bug.” I think the experience is powerful because making the ask on the phone is a good way to figure out if you want to continue on to a fundraising career.

Autumn Horton knows this. She started as a student caller, moved up as a supervisor, and eventually ran a program. Now she helps manage hundreds of them as vice president in the Fundraising Management division here at Ruffalo Noel Levitz. Autumn recently wrote about what the experience of managing a phonathon taught her, and we shared quotes from some other great professionals as well.

In our interview, we talk about what’s great about phonathon and working with student callers, how things are changing, and advice for people looking to start a career in philanthropy.

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3 Stages For Great Caller Group Interviews

Elaine Ezrapour

Elaine Ezrapour

Program Center Manager at Ruffalo Noel Levitz
Elaine Ezrapour was a caller, supervisor and apprentice manager at Binghamton University and then became program center manager at the University of Rochester in 2013.
Elaine Ezrapour

I don’t know about you, but we are in the thick of phonathon interviewing and hiring season here at University of Rochester.  We have so many great applicants, and it’s certainly difficult to make choices. I recently wrote a post about one-on-one phonathon interviews, and I thought that now would be a perfect time to expand on the subject and touch upon phonathon group interviews. Here are some tips for conducting group interviews across the pre-interview, interview, and post-interview stages:

Pre-Interview Stage

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Fundraising Voices: Being a Call Center Manager

Autumn Horton

Autumn Horton

Vice President of Fundraising Services at Ruffalo Noel Levitz
Autumn joined Ruffalo Noel Levitz in January of 2006. She has worked with many public and private institutions across the United States in managing their onsite phonathon programs, providing consultation on best practices, and designing specific strategic plans to meet their annual giving needs.
Autumn Horton

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Having fun, mentoring, being challenged, achieving goals, building and managing a team and being an extension of an annual giving team is what I reflect on most during my time as a call center manager. It was an invaluable learning experience and helped me grow into the professional I am today by working with a variety of institutions across the country. The role was challenging at times and very rewarding to think a small group of student callers could have that large of an impact on the private support given to an institution and that I was the direct link to that success.

I learned a lot during my first few years and still stay in touch with many of the callers that worked with me along the way. Quite a few have gone on to careers in higher education and as fundraisers. We share a bond of working tough nights and having some record-setting years. We learned a lot about ourselves and about connecting with donors in the process.

A large number of fundraising professionals were either phonathon callers or began their careers managing a call center. While many of us go on to do other things, there’s a lot to be learned from organizing direct personal contact with donors on the phone, and leading a group of student callers to make this connection.

I reached out to some great people that I’ve worked with at Ruffalo Noel Levitz who had the same start and asked this question to find out about their experience:

What have you learned from the experience of managing a call center and phonathon program that has helped you in your career?

“While managing four different call centers during my time as a Program Center Manager, I learned more than I could have through any other entry-level position. Not only did I learn fundraising and management skills, but I also learned about human resources, client relations, recruiting, and interviewing. The list of the valuable skills I learned could go on forever. Ultimately, being a PCM set me on a career path that could go in many different directions and has been the most valuable work experience in my life so far.”

  • Katie Wells, Program Director, The Ohio State University

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Six Ways To Recruit the Best Phonathon Callers

Scott Schwarzkopf

Scott Schwarzkopf

Associate Vice President at Ruffalo Noel Levitz
An experienced giving professional who has also worked in healthcare and insurance, Scott Schwarzkopf joined the Ruffalo Noel Levitz team in July 2014 as Associate Vice President in the Fundraising Management Division, where he assists clients worldwide with phonathon software and with other industry-leading servicesto meet their program improvement goals.
Scott Schwarzkopf

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As I’ve visited campuses over recent weeks and talked with CAMPUSCALL users, the topic which continues to top the list is caller recruitment.  The economy is improving, and whether you are ramping up your program, trying to compete with local businesses, or just trying to replace great senior callers who have graduated, you want the best possible students to apply for positions in your calling program. Here is a list of top strategies we picked up in our conversations with managers this fall:

Get the word out

This is where your posters, fliers, campus newspaper, table tents in the dining hall, website and even sidewalk chalk advertising comes into play. Make friends with everyone from the campus radio station DJs to the presidents of big clubs and organizations. Keep in mind the prizes you give in your call center, and put your logo on them, they will get worn and used out on campus to help spread the word. The buzz you create about the job is a long term investment to keep applications coming every year.

 

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Get personal

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Tips for Great Phonathon Interviews

Elaine Ezrapour

Elaine Ezrapour

Program Center Manager at Ruffalo Noel Levitz
Elaine Ezrapour was a caller, supervisor and apprentice manager at Binghamton University and then became program center manager at the University of Rochester in 2013.
Elaine Ezrapour

Fall is almost upon us…the season of peacoats, beautiful foliage, pumpkin spice lattes, and phonathon interviews! Here are some of my tips for conducting your one-on-one interviews with prospective student fundraisers:

Kicking off the Interview:

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6 Stages for Motivating Student Phonathon Callers

Elaine Ezrapour

Elaine Ezrapour

Program Center Manager at Ruffalo Noel Levitz
Elaine Ezrapour was a caller, supervisor and apprentice manager at Binghamton University and then became program center manager at the University of Rochester in 2013.
Elaine Ezrapour

motivationcroppedsmallAs a phonathon manager, student motivation is one of the most important aspects for me to consider in gearing up for a successful year of calling. When my student employees are satisfied in the workplace, their calls are more enthusiastic and personable. Motivated callers also mean less turnover, higher productivity, better calling expertise, and greater buy-in to the value of annual giving. Combined, these elements translate into better performance for the entire phone program.

Simply put, happy callers = results.

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2 Things to Improve Your Phonathon Fulfillment

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Josh Robertson

Vice President of Product Strategy at Ruffalo Noel Levitz
Josh has over 17 years of experience in the industry, oversees fundraising strategy, analytics and product development and has worked with over 100+ institutions.
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pledge_cubesPledges and pledge dollars are great metrics early in the year for the phonathon, but by the last quarter we all want gifts and dollars in the door. Below are some tips and strategies to ensure you improve your phonathon fulfillment potential before the end of your fiscal year. Continue Reading »

Connecting With Alumni Across the Pond

Ed Lang

Ed Lang

Managing Director at Buffalo Consulting UK
Ed has worked for over 10 years to advance the regular giving of clients in the UK and help raise millions of pounds for great causes.
Ed Lang

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Buffalo_UKSince 2004, our company has been raising funds for the non-profit sector in the United Kingdom. One way we do this is by calling many University alumni in both the UK and around Europe.

We’ve started to hear that more US institutions are considering connecting or re-connecting with alumni living abroad, so I thought I could offer some things we’ve learned as we have done more of this outreach. Continue Reading »

The Value of A Robust Phonathon

Cutler Andrews

Cutler Andrews

Executive Vice President and Senior Consultant at Ruffalo Noel Levitz
Cutler Andrews joined RuffaloCODY in December 2010, bringing with him years of advancement experience at a variety of organizations.
Cutler Andrews

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In the age of big money, it’s easy to focus on immediate rewards. Almost all institutions have increased their leadership, major and planned giving staff. Call it the “great wealth transfer” or whatever you want, we’re likely to see some big gift totals in the coming years. Donors are being very generous.

Are you losing donors faster than you are gaining them? Continue Reading »

Phonathon is a New Donor Engine

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Josh Robertson

Vice President of Product Strategy at Ruffalo Noel Levitz
Josh has over 17 years of experience in the industry, oversees fundraising strategy, analytics and product development and has worked with over 100+ institutions.
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This is an abstract from our latest white paper: The Value of Robust Phonathons.

Why is phonathon such an effective channel for acquiring new donors?

Our team pondered, debated and researched this question and came up with a few conclusions that we wanted to share with our readers. Continue Reading »

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