fundraising

7 Considerations for Phone Channel Outreach During COVID-19

Autumn Horton

Vice President, Client Services and Call Operations

March 16, 2020

With the closing of many campuses and important safety measures being taken to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, we’ve received a flood of questions about phonathon strategy during this time. We’ve put our own action plan into place in our RNL-managed centers. Many programs will be taking a break during this period—nearly 60% of our RNL-managed programs on college campuses have already stopped calling or are offering optional shifts just last week. It’s a dynamic situation, but we’re planning for a return in a few weeks and the quickly approaching fiscal year-end.

Here are seven recommended tactics to consider for phone channel outreach during COVID-19 that should help now as well as after the crisis period ends.

1. If you’re still managing or considering holding calling sessions, tell sick students to stay home. Make it clear that there is no penalty for students not attending shifts; this is the best way to prevent the spread of the virus.

2. Aggressively clean equipment, including all surfaces, between shifts. Have isolated trash receptacles for tissues and other items in your center. The CDC has posted recommendations on cleaning surfaces and offices.

3. Utilize as much social distancing as possible, including spreading student ambassadors or callers out in the room and holding pre-shift meetings at their stations instead of congregated as a group. Offer multiple shift times with smaller staff to aid in social distancing.

4. Pause potlucks and group meals during the crisis period. Simple strategies like buying individual snack bags rather than sharing from a common bowl or container are smart.

5. If your center is closed temporarily or indefinitely, stay engaged with your student ambassadors. Keep them up to date with school communication and center information. If you have student incentive plans scheduled through the end of the term that were abruptly halted, make sure you’re sharing information about adjustments that could impact student pay.

6. Thinking positively, when you’re up and running again, overschedule and open shifts to students looking for additional hours. After the crisis period ends and outreach starts again, many students will be looking for extra hours. If sessions are overstaffed, find alternative assignments such as sending personalized videos or handwritten thank-you notes.

7. If you are calling, texting, or sending videos now, be sure you have talking points about your campus response to the virus. Start drafting talking points for student ambassadors that can be ready when in-person classes resume. These can be started now and updated as the situation unfolds.

What if your center is done for the year?

Top of mind for many clients: “We’re basically done in our center for the year. That’s a big donor loss. What should we do?” Here are several ideas:

  • The prevailing advice in the industry right now is that you should not go silent with donors during the crisis. Donors want to know how this is impacting your campus and community. Get information out, and be sure to strike the right tone when delivering those messages.
  • When the time comes to solicit again, you’ll need to rely on quick, primarily digital methods to get started. Investigate texting, personalized video, and other ways to efficiently re-engage with donors.
  • Prepare for objections tied to the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the economy. It’s crucial to retain donors, even if they can’t give as much. Be ready to respond to those objections and highlight specific ways that donors make a real impact (including the power of collective gifts).

We’re here to help. Talk to us.

Our fundraising team is ready to help you. We can offer our collective insights and can expand on the ideas mentioned in this blog. Most importantly, we can help you find the right balance between keeping donors engaged and being sensitive to the seriousness of this crisis.

Reach out today and schedule a time to talk, and we hope you, your students, and your entire campus community stay safe.

Schedule a time to talk

About the Author

Autumn joined Ruffalo Noel Levitz in January of 2006 and has served as a program center manager, senior operations manager, director of operations, and most recently as vice president of onsite call center operations. She...

Read more about Autumn's experience and expertise

Reach Autumn by e-mail at Autumn.Horton@RuffaloNL.com.


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