During the coronavirus pandemic – with direct public fundraising impacted due to social distancing restrictions and ‘normal’ fundraising activities largely on hold – charities have rediscovered the value and role of using the telephone to speak to supporters. Of course there are charities for whom telephone fundraising was always a vital part of their fundraising work and a valuable way of developing great relationships with supporters, but for some the move to different forms of communication and engagement had led to a shift away from active telephone fundraising over the last couple of years.
The pandemic has, and will continue to have, long-lasting impacts. Things which would have been held as gospel truths just a few months ago now don’t seem so untouchable, new ways of working may well be here to stay, and the importance we place on relationships and connections with and between people may well have been enhanced through lockdown when we have been kept apart from family and friends.
As charities respond and adapt – supported by partners in telephone agencies who continue to improve and deliver a professional and skilled service - the continued use of the telephone in fundraising looks set to stay.
However, delivering excellent fundraising through the telephone is not as simple as just dialling a number. Due diligence, monitoring of calls, following regulatory requirements, ensuring your charity has the legal basis for making the fundraising call to the supporter, and providing a framework for great conversations are all part of the mix. Charities and partner agencies who have been working on telephone through recent years will have undoubtedly continually adapted their approaches, improved practice, and raised the level of excellence for telephone fundraising. But, if you are returning to the telephone after some time away, then there may be improvements in practice you aren’t aware of, and some key elements of compliance that you need to ensure you cover.
And while we are all now getting used to having our workplaces in our kitchens, living rooms or bedrooms, it’s particularly important to agree the best ways to make fundraising calls from home while still adhering to standards and regulations.
In all cases, we would urge all charities and partner agencies who undertake telephone fundraising to:
- Follow the requirements in the Code of Fundraising Practice
- Read the Chartered Institute’s guidance on telephone fundraising – A Good Call and review the compliance checklist on page 22.
- Make sure that you have all the right policies and procedures in place (contracts with partner agencies, solicitation statements, policy on people in vulnerable circumstances)
- Ensure that any partners you work with are reaching the right standards and values for your organisation, including how they pay their staff, training protocols, monitoring of calls, and alignment with regulatory bodies and requirements
- Think broadly about how the telephone can help deliver the best experience for your supporters: many people have welcomed speaking to people during lockdown or while shielding and hearing more about the work of the charity and the difference their donation makes. Read a new guide from the Chartered Institute’s Supporter Experience Project – Fundraising in the time of COVID-19
The telephone is a hugely valuable part of charity fundraising, and the pandemic has reinforced the role that it can play. But we have seen in previous years, that it is also a fundraising method that is critical to get right and does attract focus from regulators and the press.
For any charities thinking of going back to telephone fundraising (whether using a partner agency or doing thus in-house), putting in place the right steps and ways of working first are fundamental. It will help you return to telephone fundraising in the right way and enable you to build the best relationships with your supporters for the months and years ahead.