Answering the Call (The Right Way)

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Many people in the world of causes and NPOs say that they got started because they felt they had a calling. That is not the kind of call I want to talk to you about today, however. I mean something much more traditional and old-fashioned. I mean answering the phone call.

This topic came to mind because of something that happened to a friend mine with whom I am working on a project. My friend made a call to an organization (it happens to be a shelter for animals in need of rescue) and she could not stop talking about how terrible the people were that she was talking to. We have sort of declared this organization one of our mortal enemies at this point, and their rude behavior on the phone is certainly not doing them any favors.

As an NPO, you are probably focused on how best to use all of the new communication tools at your disposal. How can you use Facebook to drive donations? What about Pinterest and Instagram? It can be easy to forget about the more traditional means of communication in the rush to stay on top of all of the new technology out there. However, so long as your organization is reachable by phone, you could be doing your organization a great disservice by failing to review phone answering skills with your employees and volunteers.

Understand, we are not saying that you need to have a script that everyone uses. You don’t want people calling you to feel like you are too big for your britches or inaccessible. However, there are other ways you can help assure that people won’t feel like your organization is mean, short-tempered, or difficult to work with, all of which can be very bad PR for an NPO. Here are some pointers to review with the people who are answering your organization’s phones.

  • Make sure absolutely everyone is on board with your organization’s brand. You should have a general idea of what the voice of your cause should be so that you can pass on that image to employees and/or volunteers.
  • Make sure anyone who answers the phone understands how to handle pressure effectively. No matter how busy the day, a person should never feel like they are being rushed through a call when they reach out to you.
  • Make sure that anyone who answers the phone is able to answer the most common questions that your organization receives, or start a blog or an FAQ page that your team can refer callers to.
  • Make sure anyone taking phone calls knows to whom they should refer questions they can’t answer. There should be a sort of flowchart in your organization so that there is always a “point person” available.

While it’s true that social media can be the environment in which you make first contact with a potential donor, the fact is that phones still present that potential as well. A person who calls up your organization is likely to formulate their impression of your entire effort based on how that first call goes. That’s just the way people are wired. Make sure your front line is not turning people away!

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