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Warming Up to a Cold Call

telephone ice

Cold calls. Even the moniker of these usually dreaded method of outreach is, well, cold. But the best gifts, and relationships, always emerge from conversations, and they’ve got to start somewhere. I was recently asked address a meeting of chief advancement officers representing specialty post-graduate colleges. When asked what they would most like to learn about, the group came to a quick and universal consensus: how to make cold calling easier.

Here’s one hard, cold fact to consider: an advancement officer should never be in a position to make a “cold” call. There should always be a pretext for the call. For example, call…
1. To thank someone for their recent gift and to learn what motivated them to give so generously.

“Ms. Smith, I am just calling to thank you for your contribution which is especially meaningful in this tough economy. May I ask why you decided to give to us instead of other organizations this year?”

2. To follow up on the recommendation of a mutual colleague who thought they would be interested in learning about created newly created program or service.

“John, our board member Betsy Adler mentioned that you are very interested in after school mentoring programs for teen-aged girls, and we are just launching a brand new one here. “

3. To try and schedule a time to meet a loyal, longtime donor and hear why they have been so faithful to the origination.
“Ben, you have been a friend to this organization for five years, and we’ve never even met. I’d love to thank you in person and learn more about you; can we meet for coffee soon?”

4. To engage new prospects for high visibility committees, such as events and galas.

“Tracey, I am contacting you at the suggestion of Mary Wallingford, who is chairing our gala committee. She is hoping you would entertain the possibility of joining the committee, or even becoming a sponsor of the event. May I send you some materials?”

5. To ask for business help and advice.

“Steve, your name came up at a recent committee meeting as having great success in the field of insurance, and I need some professional advice in that area for our organization. Do you have a moment to talk?”

6. To request an introduction or insight into a person of interest for the organization.

“Carol, I am giving you a call in the hopes that you know Pete Lowery well enough to be able to shed some light on his recent involvement on the board of the United Way.”
Even these sorts of calls can be challenging. But, if in your mind you can define a real reason for the call, you have a fighting chance of making it a productive one. It then becomes the foundation for a continued conversation – and relationship.
Of course, it goes without saying if you start the conversation with something like… “I’m calling because you are wealthy and I hope to get you interested in our organization…” you may as well do some filing because it will be more productive.
It is the responsibility – for better or worse – of an advancement officer to find just the right hook, pick up the phone, and make these sorts of calls. But before you do that, here are two simple and effective behaviors that will make initiating the call, and the ensuing conversation, much more comfortable.
First hallucinate. Yes, you heard me right. If you think about it, all those worries you have about how the call can fail are nothing but hallucinations. Nothing has happened yet and you are already thinking about the potential negative outcomes. It is pure fabrication, and in reality, worry is just a misuse of your imagination. Instead, hallucinate something positive. Hallucinate three positive ways the call can go well.
Second, smile for 30 seconds. The act of smiling actually releases neurotransmitters that sharpen your thinking, give you a more positive attitude, and provide renewed energy to your voice. It’s absolutely true that people can “hear” you smiling over the phone and hear the warmth in your voice. And that’s certainly the opposite of a cold call.
Your takes:
1. Have a reason for making a call.
2. Think of positive outcomes.
3. Smile before and during – and hopefully after – the call.

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