Is Phon-a-thon dead?

The viability of phon-a-thon is hot topic around the water cooler in many advancement offices across the country. For years the phon-a-thon was the go to tool of advancement professionals who needed to raise money from a large pool of constituents. Phon-a-thons were cost effective and pretty easy to put together. All you needed were callers, calling cards, and a venue with enough phones.

So what happened?

Some advancement professionals will say caller ID has deterred constituents from picking up the phone. Some will argue is the current transition from landlines to cell phones. Others will say caller churn and the burden of hiring and training new callers. Most advancement professionals will agree that the cost of conducting traditional phon-a-thons is increasing while the returns are decreasing or at best, plateaued. 

Will traditional phon-a-thons just go away? Yes and no. For some programs the traditional call center is still the most effective way to engage their constituents. Some programs have invested in call automation software to cut down on administrative costs. While for others the traditional model was just more trouble than it was worth and moved to a decentralized peer to peer calling plan utilizing volunteers.   

So how do we replace the traditional phon-a-thon? With better technology.

  • What if you could customize calling screens based on caller preference and/or calling segment?
  • What if you could remotely deploy calling campaigns to desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones?
  • What if callers could make calls from their couch, office or in a traditional calling center?
  • What if you could include survey questions in your calling campaigns?
  • What if you were able to automatically match callers with constituents based on data similarities?

With the smartCommunicator new Phone-a-Friend new calling interface you can do all of that and more. The Phone-a-Friend web interface is designed for desktops, laptops, tablets, and smartphones that enable callers to make calls while at home, work or in a traditional calling room. 

Phone-a-Friend is powered by smartForm and smartPortal, two of smartCommunicator’s newest modules.

With smartForm you are able to create detailed calling screens the way that you want to. No more printing and sorting thousands of paper cards or being limited to a one size fits all calling screen. You can even include survey questions in your calling screens to help you better identify constituent sentiment and opinions that help you identify their ‘hook’ into your organization.

smartPortal is smartCommunicator’s web based caller management hub. Callers log into smartPortal, select their calling campaign and begin calling no matter if they are at home on the couch, at the office or in a traditional calling room. With smartPortal, you can host training materials, videos, and promote calling campaigns via the web and social media to build awareness about your organization, upcoming calling campaigns, and promote caller successes.

In addition, smartPortal is able to intelligently match callers and constituents based on similarities. This process, called mind-linked, uses known data from your database, caller questionnaires, and opt-in social integration to automatically create calling queues that pairs callers with like minded individuals. Reduce cold calling, improve call quality, and caller satisfaction automatically with mind-linked.

smartCommunicator’s Phone-a-Friend calling interface gives you the flexibility to customize your organizations outreach efforts based on what works for you. If you need to rejuvenate your traditional phon-a-thon program or need better tools to manage decentralized volunteer calling efforts Phone-a-Friend is the tool that can do the job.

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Alan Pitner has almost nine years working in higher education fundraising all in annual giving.  I have been fortunate to dabble in many different responsibilities such as student and parent phonathons, senior gift, class volunteers and reunion campaigns.

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