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#91 The perfect call

New Year everyone, have you seen the face to face fundraisers have re-emerged from hibernation again? Looks like rumours of their extinction have been proved wrong once again and they are back out there – highly visible, super enthusiastic advocates for your cause. But hold, wait a minute, do you know what they and their colleagues are actually saying to potential donors…? You don’t, hmm that could make things interesting…

Australian and NZ charities are paying hundreds of thousands of dollars per month to their f2f suppliers for new donors. Some know what their f2f fundraisers look like on the street. Some know what their fundraisers are saying about their cause. Some know what they are doing whilst representing them. Some even know how their donors feel about the interaction – often the first ever interaction with their charity. Some know all of this. Unfortunately many know nothing – which gives them a problem. Fear not dear reader, we have a solution for this….

Years of mystery shopping has shown us that there are some brilliant fundraisers out there and some that are enthusiastic but that need retraining. There are some wonderful agency owners that care deeply about their causes and their people and some that are just in the game out of self-interest. So it is wise to remember that outsourcing fundraising does not mean outsourcing responsibility for quality. As professional fundraisers it is essential to know what is being said in your name by people wearing your logo on their shirt.

One easy way to do this, is to listen to verification calls. We have been running Verification Call Audits for a number of clients who now understand what is happening in their name making early intervention to fix quality issues much easier.

The headlines are:

  • 10% of the agency-made verification calls we listened to qualify for a refund or potential refund due a breach of contract or COVID guidelines.

  • Verification Call Agents rarely stick to the agreed script.

  • Fundraisers are often vague or misleading to the nature of the commitment to the cause required by the donor.

  • Amazing Verification Call Agents are sometimes handicapped by time pressures and targets.

Although one in ten is high, we believe it will drop over time. By running the Audit, we can give timely feedback to the fundraisers and reduce this through better training. In the meantime, the 10% easily covers the costs of the program!

The script issue is a sticky one. To be fair to the callers, it not always their fault. Scripts are often written by a charity or supplier without any consultation with the callers. Some scripts are just no good, and others have a few lines that the callers can’t get their tongues around in a convincing manner. Some callers prefer a call guide rather than a script as it gives them the flexibility to interact with the donors more naturally, which is fine if all the bases are covered.

A bigger issue, and one that we see all the time in Mystery Shopping as well, is the vagueness of the donor’s commitment. Again, not 100% the fault of the caller. The fundraiser laid the groundwork for this one and any deviation from the contracted requirement to inform the donors of a two-year minimum commitment is hard to turnaround on these calls, but some callers don’t even try. If the donor cannot reasonably commit to this requirement their pledge should not be sold to the charity. It will lose the charity money.

Time pressures and targets can ruin a great caller. We regularly hear calls that are cut short and donors who are spoken over so that the caller can tick a box and get the donor off the phone quickly. When targets and workloads are this high, we cannot reasonably call these ‘welcome calls’, they are just a recap of the admin on the pledge form. No passion. No heart. No enjoyed and relived connection to the cause. No inspiration. Just robotic and apologetic admin.

We also found that the quality of the call can be predicted by who is doing the calling. There are some very good callers and some with many areas for development. Some who are honest and passionate but some who are happy to sell pledges to charities that they know have attempted to cancel or who are a vulnerable person.

The Verification Call Audit service allows our clients to be sure that their reputation and bottom line is being protected. But don’t just take our word for it; Erin McCabe from Royal Flying Doctor Service Qld Section is also a fan:

“Paul, Adam and Peter have been undertaking audits of our verification/welcome calls since our Face to Face program launched and their knowledge of the Face to Face sector and insight into donor centered best practice has proven to be invaluable time and time again.

It has allowed us to be specific with our feedback to our supplier, resulting in better experiences for us as the client and our donors.”

If you need an extra pair of ears to ensure the effectiveness and compliance of your program (and to save yourself some money), give us a call or flick us an email at If you don’t think you need this, ask yourself if you’d be happy for your CEO or Board to be signed up and then called – how relaxed would you feel about that happening?


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