Phonathons, once the lifeblood of most annual giving programs, are facing new challenges every year. In 2013, the average phonathon accounted for less than 30% of annual fund donors and less than 15% of annual fund revenue at U.S. educational institutions.
As the world becomes more mobile and negative stigmas persist around telemarketing, phonathon contact rates continue to decline. Today, there’s only a 50% chance that someone will answer the phone each time a caller dials.
The truth is that running a phonathon program has never been easy. It’s just plain hard work. With staff retention rates often at or below 65%, every program needs an incentive plan. While “free food” continues to be a simple and effective way to motivate callers, other effective incentives today include guest speakers, “caller of the week” awards, and parties to celebrate milestone achievements.
At Southern New Hampshire University, the phonathon team wanted to create a point-based incentive system that not only rewarded callers for productivity, but also underscored that some outcomes were more desirable than others. They awarded extra credit for acquiring a new donor, upgrading an existing donor, or securing a credit card payment.
They also looked for ways to include callers in decisions about segmentation and script development. “We want our students to love their job,” said Lisa St. Hilaire, Director of Annual Giving at Southern New Hampshire. “We believe that the more the students are involved, the more motivated they’ll be to succeed on the phone.
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