Ready to cancel your telephone fundraising? Think carefully!

So Stanford University has shut down its annual fund telephone fundraising program.

Visionary? Delusional?

I don’t know. (It’s probably some of both.)

Whenever a big player does something big like this, it gets a lot of attention. They’re doing something many others wish that could do: Abandon a program that’s kind of a pain in the rear — and (reportedly) suffer no revenue loss by doing so.

The American Cancer Society stopped direct mail donor acquisition? That raised a similar buzz. You mean we could stop doing direct mail and it would be okay?

Hold your horses. Michael Rosen wisely urges caution at Stop Pretending that You Work for Stanford!. If you’re tempted to follow Stanford and kill off your telephone fundraising, consider these thoughts:

  • You do NOT work for Stanford, so don’t act like you do! (That is, you may not have the deep bench of support to ease you through the transition.)
  • Telephone fundraising is less effective than it was, but it still works. (Actually, if you do it right, it can be very effective. At TrueSense Marketing, we’re making the phone a powerful tool.)
  • Don’t judge all telephone fundraising by looking just at bad programs.
  • Master the fundamentals. (Maybe the reason the phone isn’t working is you aren’t getting it right!)
  • Be innovative. (Conditions and donor are changing. It might be you need to change your approach.)

When the Cancer Society shut down direct mail acquisition, many thought it was a visionary shift toward a more effective future. Guess who’s back to getting new donors through the mail?

Do things like that carefully, with wide-open eyes, not just because the program is a pain or your leadership thinks it’s not noble enough.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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