The best phonathon programs comprehensively report on all major components related to the phone program- documenting the procedures used, changes made, and overall results following the final calls of the year. It is important to record detailed notes for reference purposes, especially if there is a managerial change expected for the next phonathon. In any case, having explanations as to strategies that worked and those that did not is extremely helpful in painting a picture of the chronological progress of the program and the efforts by management to move the numbers in a positive direction. Without this level of detail, there is no effective paper trail (or electronic trail as it may be today) to refer back to.
Simply counting last year’s donors and dollars only tells you a fraction of what you need to know to run a good phonathon program. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that the program is not that difficult to run, or that nothing much will need to change. That’s the precise recipe for stagnant results. Instead, phonathon managers need to challenge themselves to become immersed in the details of the program; taking all the phonathon components apart and putting them back together again to make sure it’s working correctly and at maximum effectiveness. Yes, there is another report to write. And yes, it will take time. But the amount of information and level of detail you can gather as a result is invaluable…and really needs to be made a priority for your program. Specifically, the following areas should be covered in great detail.
In the debriefing report, pay particular attention to the statistical results, especially as they compared to the original forecast. Identify those areas that fell below expectations and thoroughly explain why management feels the numbers ended where they did and the cause and effect of any change in strategy. Highlight positive examples and give opinions how those same strategies might best be applied in future campaigns. In particular, focus on the main statistical indicators, including participation, average pledge, dollars raised, specified pledges, contact percentage, completion percentage, credit card percentage, upgrade percentage, and time management figures such as total calling hours and the per hour averages of completes, contacts, and call attempts. Conduct this analysis by calling segment and give an overall opinion on the project in an executive summary. It is not enough to let the numbers speak for themselves. Management needs to take the time to record this data so that assumptions on behalf of future managers are based in fact, not guesswork.
Not every calling script or set of ask levels created works flawlessly. Sometimes changes need to be made during the program to improve results. While the final revisions are ultimately what need to be archived, the reasons why the changes were made should be documented and explained as well. Specifically focus on verbiage changes and alterations made to the reasons to give that callers used. These will be important during the next campaign as management needs to consider both consistency and including enough differences in the message when writing the subsequent set of scripts. In terms of ask amounts, be sure to share statistical results before and after the changes were implemented. Give a full analysis as to whether the amounts worked and how the negotiation process was enhanced by using them. And if no changes were made to either the script or ask amounts, you may need to question whether you should have made changes- especially if you finished below your goal!
Recruiting and Retention Numbers
Good phonathon planning starts with a keen understanding of the positive and negative results of the recruiting efforts from the previous year. Management should record the total number of hires, average length of tenure, origin of the applicants (and hires), reasons for resignation or termination, and turnover rate. In addition, actual examples of recruiting pieces should be archived in the debriefing and narrative written that explains the timing and strategy of the recruiting process. Then use this information next year to begin mapping out a better strategy that retains good callers, lowers costs and expenses through decreased attrition, and finds the most valuable employees during the interview process.
Caller Progress Notes
Calling programs are rarely static in terms of calling staff. Students leave for a variety of reasons, including graduation, voluntary resignation, and involuntary termination. For the student callers that stay and those considering returning next year, a list of strengths and weaknesses should be recorded and included in the end of year report so that future management (including the current manager if they stay) can refer back to the performance details. Included in the notes on individual callers should be their statistics in the main categories (including time management) and overall strengths and weakness.
There are many reasons why conducting a comprehensive analysis of your results may not be very much fun. Time involved, effort, reliving a bad experience, writing another report, other job responsibilities, and general relaxation after a hard-fought year are all things I have heard in the past when I asked my managers to perform this task. And I suppose at some level they are valid. But when it comes to taking your program to the next level and achieving goals, phonathon managers cannot take anything for granted and cannot leave any stone unturned. The answers are often right in front of you, but as time progresses our memories will inevitably fail us.
I actually found debriefing the year to be a challenging, but rewarding exercise in good business management. And after all, that is what we are running in phonathon- a business. To take your program to new heights you must first identify all those components that may have been weighing you down in the previous campaign. Once those are known, a smart and effective strategy for the future can be developed. For best results, invest one or two days at the end of this calling cycle to truly understand how your program ended where it did. Next year’s phonathon will be that much better for your efforts.