Does Telemarketing Still Help Raise Money?

In our nonprofit blog post “Typical Response Rates for Direct Marketing Efforts,” we noted that the Direct Marketing Association's 2015 survey response rates for telemarketing with house lists was 9–10%. Our own experience here at CampaignNow is 10–20% with house lists and 4–8% with prospect lists. The next best response rates are not quite 4% for direct mail and 0.1% for email.

So, as our headline asks, if you’re wondering if telemarketing still helps raise money, you probably don’t need to read any further—it is overwhelmingly the most successful of all the direct marketing options. 

Fundraising Rewards

Telemarketing is particularly effective at turning supporters (your house contact list) into donors. It allows you to open a dialogue via the phone that just can’t be duplicated through any other form of direct marketing. It allows you to gain direct feedback that can pay dividends with your other fundraising efforts. 

I like NonProfit Pro’s “3 Ways Fundraisers Can Leverage Telemarketing.” Their big keys are:

  • Message. Use the urgency inherent in a phone call to activate donations.
  • Listen. Learn from prospective donors via the two-way phone conversation. Then apply that learning to your other marketing.
  • Follow Up. Even if you’re turned down, the prospective donor is much more likely to donate based on a follow-up email or direct mail pitch that happens within the next 30 days. 

Telemarketing needs to be a key part of your integrated direct marketing program. It doesn’t stand on its own. But it is a key component within the mix of all your fundraising efforts. 

As just one example, it’s a great way to get people out to your upcoming event. You’ll, of course, first publish the event information on your website and ship off quite a few emails seeking registration prior to your event. But as it gets closer, telemarketing can really activate people to sign up and become motivated to attend. 

Fundraising Challenges

While it is effective, it isn’t easy. It takes time and thought to pull together a sound telemarketing campaign. You’ll need a well-written script that helps your donor engage with the caller. Then you’ll need a caller that can work a two-way conversation to not only encourage the prospective donor but accept feedback as well. That takes considerable skill and knowledge of your organization.

Also give careful consideration to the segments of your prospective donors who will actually respond to the calls. Cold calls really don’t work well—if at all—with it.  

Toward that end, measurement and analysis are keys. Return on investment (ROI) can be excellent for telemarketing but not without taking into account list segments–some will work and some won’t. You’ve got to find out which and fine tune your full campaign to take advantage of what approach works well for which segment.

The next big risk is pledges on the phone who don’t end up paying. You can start addressing this the moment you hang up the phone. Generate a thank you email. You did verify email address during your call, right? Or, send a written thank you note along with a stamped return envelope. Then, add the donor to your list for follow up on annual donations in the future.

Working with Experts

There’s a misperception that telemarketing organizations take a high percentage of the proceeds from any campaign. I like Dan Pallotta’s Harvard Business Review article “The Economics of Charity Telemarketing.” 

He does note the media stories about telemarketers pocketing a high percentage of any funds raised. But he refutes this short term focus by pointing out the enduring value of a supporter who steps up to donate via that first phone call. Over the years, their on-going donations pay many times over the initial investment for that first campaign.

This does, to a certain extent, emphasize that telemarketing is very, very sophisticated. It requires training, scripting, follow-up, and more. You’ll really need to work with the experts to ensure your campaign is successful.

Tap CampaignNow’s Experience and Expertise

CampaignNow can help. We bring years of experience and a broad range of expertise to developing and implementing these types of campaigns. We can run the full campaign or provide services to support your own efforts. We can also provide consulting insight into all aspects of your fundraising efforts. 

Give us a call and let's discuss how we can help.

Contact us at (855) 329-4327 or

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John Connors

John Connors

John is a passionate patriot and business owner. He launched Campaign Now in 2008 to help free-market oriented, American organizations increase their reach and achieve important results. When he’s not strategizing growth plans with clients, you can find him sharpening his history chops, playing tennis in the Texas heat, or spending time with family.


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