Stop Screening, Answer the Phone and Start Talking

Stop Screening, Answer the Phone and Start Talking.Millennials aren’t the only ones clamoring for yesteryear. The telephone is a primary means of inbound and outbound communication for many businesses and nonprofits.

Do you wonder why board members, volunteer leaders, and donors don’t get back to you? Could it be they had a negative experience when trying to reach you by phone? Maybe they did call, got frustrated, and hung up. Or maybe they left a message that never found its way to you.

While we appear to be so interconnected with technology and apps, there are a lot of people who still use the phone. And, they expect to talk to someone when they call. The following are a few things that could turn a caller off. Could any of these be happening at your organization? Imagine you are the caller.

Stop Screening, Answer the Phone and Start Talking.You can’t call and talk to the person you want. The process of trying to reach the CEO or chief fundraiser is a maze of voice prompts, irritating background music, intermittent lack luster voice announcements, prompts that may or may not work, and when you think you are about to be connected you are cut off and the line goes dead.

You reach a live voice, but the person has the personality of a door-knob. They try to be welcoming but don’t have the knowledge and skillset to engage you. They don’t recognize the name of the person you are calling for or they can’t figure out how to transfer the call.

You reach a recording, but the message conveys a sense of arrogance and “warmth” that will kill a bear.

You’re grilled. The person who answers the phone takes you through a litany of questions starting with “why you are calling.” This is the alert that lets a caller know they are being “screened.” Here’s another turnoff: “Does the person you are calling know why you are calling?” What if they don’t?

You wait for a return call. And you wait, and wait. Sometimes you know you’ll have to wait, for the message said, “I will get back to you within 24 hours.” The unintentional worst wait is when  the recording said “… I will get back to you at my earliest convenience.”

Stop Screening, Answer the Phone and Start Talking.Someone you don’t know returns your call. A third party calls on behalf of the person you were calling, but that person doesn’t have the proper information to engage you. Basically, they are another screen, letting you know, “so-and-so will get back with you, but I don’t know any more than that….”

Are voice mail systems a blessing or a curse? What if a major donor or grantmaker is calling? Here are three suggestions to turn your phone system into a blessing:

  1. Call into your organization and see what happens. Make adjustments as needed.
  2. Make sure everyone is trained in how to answer the phone, and have a printout with how to transfer a call next to each phone.
  3. Recruit volunteers to cover the phones. Train them. Appreciate them. Make life easy on your callers!

The margin of error in cultivating and securing a gift is extremely small: don’t let your phone get in the way.


Don’t forget:


Copyright 2019 – Mel and Pearl Shaw

When you are ready to build a fund development program, grow your fundraising, or increase board engagement we are here to help. (901) 522-8727. www.saadandshaw.com.

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