Campaign Fundraising: The Keys to Successful Call Time

by Joe Fuld (He/Him)

Phones hanging from their cords, one orange one stands out

Campaign Fundraising: Call Time Brings Success 

Let’s face it, campaign fundraising is hard, and call time is often the most dreaded part of it. No candidate wants to press pause on the many other duties of their campaign to dial for dollars. Every candidate will say the same thing: “I just hate asking people for money!” But whether you’re running for town supervisor or president, call time is a critical part of campaign fundraising efforts—and therefore, a critical part of every campaign. In this blog, we will provide you with some quick tips on doing call time like a pro. But first, let’s run through the basics.

  • What is call time? Call time—sometimes referred to as “dialing for dollars”—is the time candidates spend making direct calls to potential donors to ask them for money. 
  • Why do I have to do call time? Campaigns are expensive. As much as we like to think otherwise, money is a crucial part of any campaign—it is the engine that drives everything else. Without money, you cannot pay your staff, run a communications program, or have a headquarters. And there is no substitute for candidate call time when it comes to campaign fundraising. You could be the best candidate in the world, but if you won’t commit to call time, you won’t make it very far. 
  • How often should I do call time? Every day. Set aside time for call time every single day. Just do it. If you only do it a couple of times a week, you will end up dreading it and putting it off more. Get into the habit of doing it every day. If you stick with it consistently enough, after a while, you may even start enjoying it. It’s just like going to the gym—you just have to do it until it becomes a habit. 

Now that we have a basic understanding of call time and why it is an important part of campaign fundraising, let’s talk about how to execute it. Often, people think of call time only as the time the candidate is actually sitting down and calling donors. However, it’s much more than that. There are three steps to call time: preparing, making calls, and following up. 

Step One: Prepare

Before you sit down and start dialing for dollars, it’s important to do some preparation work. This way, once you start making campaign fundraising calls, you can stay focused and won’t get distracted by any other little tasks. If possible, this preparation work should be a task delegated to any staff or support you have available.

First, for each call time session, you should cut a list of the people that you will call. Then, you should gather some basic background information on these people. To start, you should investigate their giving history to inform how much your ask will be. You should also prepare some contextual information on the potential donors. Not only will this help inform how you talk to them, but it also may reveal that you have mutual friends or went to the same college as them. These are the types of things that could make or break whether someone decides to donate to your campaign.

Step Two: Making Calls

Now that you’re properly prepared, you can start campaign call time. Below are a few tips for an effective call time session: 

  • Have someone do it with you. In another post, we talk about the importance of hiring a campaign manager. Whether it’s your campaign manager, a dedicated campaign call time manager/fundraiser, or a supportive partner or friend, don’t do it alone. You need someone both to hold your feet to the fire to get your calls done and commiserate with you on the boring ones.
  • Remember to follow the RAT method. Reason, Amount, Time. Every time you call a potential donor, you should include the reason you need their donation, the amount that you need, and when you need it by. For example: “Hey Brad, good to talk to you again. I’m calling to update you on the campaign. I have a critical campaign fundraising deadline. It’s the last one before the primary election, and I want to close out strong. I know you’ve given me $1,000 already, but I could really use another $1,000 to show my opponents that I mean business when I say we are going to fight for better schools and jobs. Can you overnight me a check today?”
  • Take careful notes on the calls. It’s important that you, or ideally, whoever is sitting through call time with you, take notes on how the call went. There are countless different ways a call can go, and it’s crucial to take notes on each call so that you can look back to them when you reach out to the donor again in the future. For example, a potential donor may say they are not ready to donate yet but will ask you to give them a call in a couple months. You don’t want to forget that. Keeping good notes early on will ensure that you are as successful as you can be in campaign fundraising calls moving forward.

Step Three: Following Up 

The final step, which is too often undervalued, is follow-up. Again, if possible, this is something that can be delegated to someone else, though it is critically important here that you trust the person to write a proper email that reflects the tone of your campaign. With a majority of the campaign fundraising calls you make, you will not actually speak with the potential donor and will have to leave a voicemail. If you have the donor’s email address, it’s best practice to follow up with an email. Depending on the nature of your relationship with the donor and how many times you have spoken to them, you can either ask to set up a time for a call or make a direct ask in the email itself. You should have a template ready that you can customize based on these factors.

You should also follow up if you are able to connect with a donor and you have a positive interaction. If they say that they will donate, you should follow up with an email with instructions on how to donate. You should include both a link to the donation page on your website, as well as instructions on how to mail in a check. If the donor does not necessarily make a pledge to donate but does express interest in your campaign, you can follow up with more information about your campaign in order to further engage with them. 

Have more questions about call time or campaign fundraising generally? Check out our blog on the fundamentals of campaign fundraising or checkout our podcast on fundraising software