Making Your End Of The Year Calls Productive

End of the year often means scrambling.  Trying to get the most in before the new year is upon us.  For many nonprofits that means the infamous phone follow up to the annual appeal. This calling is critical—all studies show that a letter alone may get you a 5% response;  with a letter follow-up that number more than doubles.  If you are raising funds from very loyal donors or people who are currently benefitting from what you do (a school, a hospital, an animal shelter where you are calling on recent adopting families) your percentages will be much higher.

The more effective the calling, the more money you will raise. And be very clear—the purpose of this call is nothing more or less than raising money now.

For starters, recognize that when you call you have about 7 seconds to get and keep someone's attention.  Don’t waste time.  Get right to the point.

Ask to speak with the person and when you get that person on the phone, be very specific.

“Hi John.  My name is Janet and I’m following up on (our organization’s) annual campaign appeal.  Can we count on your support for a gift of ____.”  Here you need to decide if you are asking for a repeat of last year's gift?  Are you asking for an increased gift? For how much more? Or maybe you are asking just for a gift. Personally, I like an amount.

Never, ever ask if they received the mailing.  That doesn't matter—and besides, many will say they did not.  Rather, keep to the script:  You are calling to follow up on the Annual Campaign mailing. And then ask: Can we count on your support?  If they say, "I haven't received the mailing," the response is not to offer to resend but, rather, to tell them what it is about and then getting back on track:  Can we count on your support this year?

The purpose of this calling is to get commitments.  You can take the information on the phone.  If they don't want to do a credit card, fine.  You will follow up tomorrow and send them a pledge card and envelope so they can send in their check and/or commitment. They don't need for you to send them a second letter.  They've gotten it; they are just stalling for time.   In no case should you give people an "out"

The call is not the time to try to convince someone that your organization is great.  It is the time to try to get a commitment.  When you do—and even if you do not—thank the person, write down what occurred, and then pick up the phone and make another call.


Janet Levine works with nonprofits and educational organizations, helping them to increase fundraising capacity and build stronger, more effective boards.  Learn more at  While there, sign up for the free, monthly newsletter.