When Donors Stop Answering Their Phones

Five steps fundraisers can take to keep the lines of donor communication open.

An explosion of technology options offer fundraisers innovative and efficient channels for donor communications. However, the phone call still arguably plays the most vital role in connecting with potential donors. When it comes to discussing timely, consequential, or complex issues research shows that a trusted phone call is more effective among the generations most likely to give.

However, two issues challenge fundraisers in their attempt to better communicate with donors. First, it is increasingly more difficult to properly contact the donor, because donor information is constantly changing. Every year, 37% of Americans change their name, home address, or phone number, and an estimated 5%–15% of typical donor files can become out-of-sync in a single month. Unless changes in donor records are pushed to fundraiser databases in near real-time, the inaccuracies mount incredibly quickly. How can a fundraiser using incorrect or incomplete information expect to connect with donors?

Second, donors no longer trust incoming calls due to the onslaught of unwanted robocalls, phone number spoofing, and fraud scams. In an effort to reduce the risk of phone scams, donors are often advised to ignore calls from unrecognized numbers. Of the more than 3.2 million reports of fraud the Federal Trade Commission received in 2019, phone calls were the most common way scammers contacted Americans. To help, phone carriers are now providing services to detect and flag “scam” and “fraudulent” calls. But legitimate fundraising calls are getting caught in the crossfire, incorrectly blocked, or tagged as spam.

How can fundraisers ensure that they can reach donors when donors don’t trust the call?

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