Three Ways to Retain Your Best Callers

By | June 29, 2018

It’s no secret that the phonathon has high turnover, especially during the first few weeks of a campaign. Whether it’s the pressure of asking or dealing with frequent rejection, you can expect a few people to leave. The callers who stick around long enough to improve their performance through experience, coaching and motivation are likely to be your most capable staff and the ones you need to retain to grow the program.

Keeping experienced callers on staff from one campaign to the next will avoid a drop in performance while novice callers are finding their feet. The learning curve for new callers will also be lessened by having talented mentors to guide them. If you haven’t already made any effort to do so, consider making some of the following ideas part of your caller retention strategy.

Stay in Touch

During the off-season, you can can completely lose the sense of camaraderie and focus that you strove to instill in your team throughout the campaign. It’s important that they feel remembered, recognized and welcome back to the table when your next campaign begins.

It’s important that they feel remembered, recognized and welcome back to the table when your next campaign begins.

Regardless of the platform, social media is a great tool to keep callers engaged with the phonathon. Utilize social media to provide frequent updates to your callers throughout the campaign and beyond, pulling out relevant statistics that speak to the impact of their work. Mentioning specific employees and touting their accomplishments will both motivate improving callers and boost the confidence of your star callers.

If your staff don’t socialize outside the call center, you might find it difficult to retain callers as their life and career priorities change. Hosting a phonathon field trip can bring your callers closer together, making it more attractive to stay involved. Local museums, cooking or art classes, scavenger hunts and karaoke are all good options, but you should definitely take suggestions from your staff.

When a campaign wraps up, there’s often a report produced that tracks key metrics, like donor retention, participation rates and average gifts. This report is usually an internal document, used to develop strategy going forward, but is rarely shared with the phonathon callers. Consider compiling relevant information into an abridged report to be distributed to the callers. Being open and transparent about your progress with the front-line staff will help to nurture a strong esprit de corps.

Advancement Opportunities

If you don’t have any opportunities for callers to take on more senior roles, you are missing an opportunity to retain your call center MVPs. While your phonathon organization structure can be restricted by the size and scope of your program, there are no limits on the extent to which callers can be involved in the management, assuming you have adequate data protection rules in place.

Create positions that emphasize developing skills like communication, fundraising, and public relations. Gaining marketable skills is a great incentive to stick around, especially if your callers are young and career-focused. By simply allowing them to play a role in the behind-the-scenes administration, you make the phonathon more attractive as career step.

Instead of separating the responsibilities of calling and managing, keep your senior staff making calls, even if only occasionally. Promoting a caller to a purely administrative role is going to take limit their ability to raise funds, so you should make the most of their talent when they do call.

Challenge your senior staff with management-based goals, like requiring them to coach a certain number of callers or produce a regular performance report. Not only will this aid in their own professional development, it’ll make them more effective instructors.

Appreciation Awards

Awards for caller performance are a common feature of many phonathons. They are often awarded annually or at the end of a seasonal cycle, such as an academic term. Outside of the day-to-day satisfaction of securing gifts, there’s little recognition for their overall accomplishments. Caller awards demonstrate that the entirety of their contribution is being recorded and acknowledged, which can be huge boost to their confidence and their dedication to the program.

Caller awards demonstrate that the entirety of their contribution is being recorded and acknowledged…

Choose awards based on specific goals. If your phonathon needs to increase their average gift, place emphasis on the highest average gift award. If you’re struggling in a particular group, make it known that you are looking to reward a caller for their performance in that segment. Competition can be powerful motivator and give your strongest callers a reason to stay on top.

Awards can be more than certificates. It doesn’t cost much to invite a caller to lunch or even to strategy meetings. Much like providing callers with a campaign report, the staff you welcome into the fold will feel more involved if they can participate in big-picture discussions.

Your appreciation awards should be awarded publicly. If you host an end of campaign party, dedicate some time to acknowledging your best performers. Calling them out to a wide audience on social media, organization-wide email or even your organization’s website makes the recognition more meaningful.

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