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Hey Nonprofits! Pick up the Damn Phone!

No one asked me for money last week.

It was curious to me that for all the momentum our nonprofit sector has been building, all the hype over a singular annual event, and all the great results globally for nonprofits of all shapes and sizes were having…and no one called me to ask for a gift.

I was looking forward to clients and colleagues alike to have an awesome kick off to the end of the year.

I was ready to give!

But my phone didn’t ring.

Ok. To be fair, two did. (It sounds so much more dramatic to say NONE though, right?)

And I donated to both organizations. They understood the assignment.

But the hundreds of organizations we work with?

What happened?

Sure there were a boatload of social media posts directed at a very generic and very wide spread audience, but the fact that my phone wasn’t blowing up with nonprofits who I know and love and admire (and am aligned with!) didn’t reach out was a bit troubling.

In this incredibly hyper-personalized consumer-based world, nearly every bit of interaction you have with a business is tailored right to your wants and likes. From their mailings to the offerings, there’s enough data out there to make solicitation a breeze.

And because we’re aligned…well, we already talked about that, right!?

So why aren’t nonprofits on the phone?

I asked this same question to our Do Good YOUniversity members and got some interesting answers.

“I think in general, in our mobile phone age, we ALL have a fear of the phone…”


“…it's time. It's always time excuse. It's so much easier to do an email campaign or text outreach then chit chat.”

Two things:

1. It’s just a phone conversation with another human.

2. Make time. It’s worth it. Every time.

Whether it’s 20 minutes, 40 minutes or all day – carving out a dedicated amount of time to connect with your donors and supporters is one of the most important and organizationally beneficial things you can do as a nonprofit leader.

For the smaller nonprofits who struggle to grab the attention of the general public for your annual and specialized campaigns? It’s absolutely critical.

I had a new client stop by our office last week – two days after, what I’m calling “The Day Where No One Called.” Has a nice ring to it.

They happened to be in town, wanted to say “hi,” and I love any reason to host folks for a coffee and super nerdy fundraising conversations.

This organizational situation might sound familiar to a lot of you:

1. Small organization with a dedicated board

2. Great mission and vision

3. Needs money to provide services and expand

4. Has small but passionate donor base

5. Needs a bit of direction on what to prioritize first

That’s my jam. And my favorite type of groups to work with.

We talked about phone calls, and I asked how many they make to their supporters or folks who are in the community who they are connected to. (They also did their homework and downloaded a Connection Mapping worksheet – and it made this conversation a breeze!)

They weren’t calling. Whether it was lack of time or not knowing what exactly to say on the phone when the potential donor picked up, it was an all too familiar conversation with organizations of their size.

So, I decided to pull out the ol’ salesperson technique I learned WAY too long ago – pitch stress test time!

I had each pick out a current donor who they hoped would give at the end of the year. I had them tell me as much information as they knew about that individual, talked through a quick ask that would help reach their initial fundraising goal, and then made them call that supporter…right in front of me…and make an ask…on the phone.


Sure maybe a little if you’re not used to this kinda thing. (I spent time cold calling for political donations when I was younger. There isn’t a thing someone can say to me on the phone that I haven’t heard. HA!

But for an individual who is new to just a casual conversation about gifts, it’s a tad challenging.

However, they did it.

And they rocked it.

Both calls were just messages. They started with gratitude (hint-hint – always lead with gratitude) and talked about their past gifts and what it did for their nonprofit over the past year, what their goal was during their winter campaign, and invited them to give.

They left voicemails. Two of them.

We high fived, finished game-planning their donor calls. And I told them to get ready for gifts to come in.

Fast forward less than 24 hours later and I got THIS message:

“[Our voicemails] led to an in person visit worth $2k. Mine to a phone call worth $500 and a possible GOLDMINE of good ideas and potential leads. SUPER exciting week!!”

There you go.

2 calls. $2500.

I know it SOUNDS easy. But it really IS that easy.

Yes. All the emails and good will this organization built over the past few years is part of it. You have to build affinity for your organization.

Yes, they essentially followed the same script that works for any organization (It happens to be a free download here!) just tailored to their mission. You have to have a roadmap and thought process for when making solicitation calls – because people want to know what you want and how they can help!

Be clear over clever friends.

Yes, these were individuals who had previously shown support. But retention is the name of the game this year! Worry about getting donors back before you pursue new ones!

But each of them were spurred to give because they got a call.

A simple, quick, harmless, and authentically interesting phone call.

Use that supercomputer in your back pocket for something other than scrolling through a For You Page.

Pick the damn thing up, have fantastic conversations with your donors, and make a boatload of money as you race towards the end of the year.

Go get ‘em gang!



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