Deciding on how to limit the number of call attempts can be difficult. If you call too much, you risk damaging relationships and your future campaigns. If you call too little, you’re likely missing opportunities to make connections. While there’s disagreement over the best practice, we’re fortunate to have access to studies that examine where it is most efficient to place the cut-off point.
In 2011, CoolData published an excellent study by Peter Wylie and John Sammis that looked at the question. Predictably, they found that as the number of call attempts increased, the contact rate decreased. Their overall figures showed there’s no exact number of attempts at which it becomes totally unreasonable to continue calling. For a more definitive picture, they built a predictive model from a number of variables that assigned prospects a contact score. They demonstrated that the higher the contact score, the more sense it makes to continue calling them. It depends on the profile of donors you’re calling, but it’s safe to say that choosing an arbitrary cap on attempts isn’t going to be particularly efficient. Consider conducting a thorough data analysis on your prospect pool before setting any limits.
Lynne Wester wrote about the donor relations angle of Stanford axing their phonathon program in 2016. She explains that the problem with phonathons is that they disregard donor preference. Excessively calling donors who don’t answer is ignoring the message they’re sending you. If your donors don’t like to give through the phonathon, don’t call them at all. Put your donors in the driver’s seat and focus your energy on meeting their expectations.
Throughout the course of a campaign, it’s almost unavoidable that certain donors will be called more than others. It’s usually the case that your most recent donor segments are smaller than your future donor segments, so they will cycle back to the front of the line sooner. It’s crucial that you carefully monitor the contact rate in your donor segments and give them plenty of time between attempts.