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From Call Reluctance to Call Enthusiasm: A 7-Step Approach

Prospect research is useless if nobody makes the call. Development professionals have it so easy in the twenty-first century! Or so you’d think. They’ve got access to technology nobody even dreamed of last century, like social media, specialized donor-management platforms, and the coolest, most insightful prospect research services ever. In spite of it all, the industry still suffers from a lack of productivity. In fact, Bristol Strategy Group’s long-term study of fundraising productivity, the Leaky Bucket Assessment for Effective Fundraising, with over 1,000 responses from every size of organization, sector, and continent on the planet, shows a median score of somewhere around C minus-D plus. There’s one piece of data the Leaky Bucket doesn’t test for, but anecdotal evidence shows it’s a widespread deterrent to fundraising success. It’s Call Reluctance, sometimes referred to as Ask Reluctance. Informal surveys of chief development officers and executive directors state it as one of their biggest frustrations. This little syndrome is a habit anyone can fall into, for any number of reasons. Don’t we all, at some time or another, procrastinate, avoid, delay, and hide behind myriad excuses not to make the call, or write the email, or schedule the appointment? Let’s spare ourselves the rationalizations, just in case we list something you hadn’t thought of before. “The dog ate my homework? Say, that’s a really great excuse!!!” Face it. You, or someone in your organization, is either experiencing Call Reluctance right this minute, experienced it recently, will probably experience it soon, or they’re lying. Why should you care? Because for one thing, Call Reluctance leads to another embarrassing syndrome, the Premature Ask. The caller becomes so anxious about making the call that he or she jumps from “hello” immediately to “give us some money quick or we’ll die!” thus instilling in the callee a sense of disgust often leading to the rapid end of both the call and the relationship. In this paper we’ll discuss how to (a) avoid Call Reluctance and (b) train ourselves out of the habit. To avoid Call Reluctance, we need to:
  1. Give the development team the right tools.
  2. Train the team to use the tools.
  3. Practice using the tools until they’re second nature and Call Reluctance begins to diminish.
To train ourselves out of the habit of Call Reluctance we need to: Establish easy-to-reach “conversation targets” with input from your development team. Conduct frequent non-judgmental reviews of performance against those targets.


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