Pledge: Volunteers or Inbound Call Service

Public media stations have been using inbound call centers and services for dozens of years now.  As the sophistication of such services grew along with the development of telephony, agent training, simple end-user interfaces, and database integration, the facilitation of inbound pledge-taking freed stations to commit staff and volunteer resources elsewhere.

Call Centers Equal Better Data

Professional agents are trained to walk donors through the pledge process in a friendly, efficient manner.  The training also results, in the majority of cases, in clean data capture, which not only makes your direct marketing program run better, but results in fewer credit card/EFT failures, quicker delivery of premiums, and happier donors.  While out-of-pocket cost is a consideration for stations, I’d also like to address hidden costs associated with taking pledges internally.

Stations spend time and money on data health, so getting accurate data initially is going to result in savings.  Because an inbound agent enters more accurate data, stations devote less time to cleaning up the data for future cultivation, solicitation, and stewardship.  That also results in more time for your data manager to produce reports that help provide guideposts for fundraising efforts, which is strategic rather than tactical in nature. The opportunity benefits (as opposed to opportunity costs) associated with shifting priorities from fixing bad data to helping raise more money through data-driven decision-making are significant.

It’s Donor-Centric

For stations that work with inbound call services that utilize fresh copies of the station’s database for each campaign, the donation process for the caller is even easier, because most of the donor’s data is pre-populated when the call is received (unless they are first-time donors).  Credit card/EFT processing is made easier, and the station can collect vital funds immediately, easing cash flow.

Effects on Staff

Your engineering team won’t have to spend precious time setting up the pledge room with phones and computers. Your membership folks won’t have to spend time managing the pledge room, ordering food, getting deliveries, cleaning up, etc.  They could spend that freed-up time developing station events that create stronger bonds with the community.

Volunteers who love to answer pledge phones can be reassigned to make Thank You Calls, which have been shown to increase member retention rates, which then makes them fundraisers rather than fundtakers.  Volunteers can also help run the events your station develops.

When you switch to an inbound service, staff will complain that the festive atmosphere and chaos of Campaign is gone.  They will miss the food, and volunteers wandering into the studio while live pitching is going on. I am not so sure the majority of listeners will miss it.  Listeners expect us to be professional, composed, and prepared, and using a call center can reduce distractions.  When we sound better, perhaps more people will stay with us during campaigns and our prospect list won’t shrink.

One solution when switching to an inbound service is to hold a launch party for staff prior to the campaign, with lots of food and beverages, to thank them in advance for the work they are about to do during Campaign week, and prepare them for the new approach.

Barry NelsonComment