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What is a call flow diagram?

A phone combined with a call phone diagram is a doorway to a whole new world of fundraising.

There was a time in my life when I worked as a customer service rep for the phone company. I talked to 10,000 angry people a year about their phone bill and then tried to sell them additional phone products. While this sounds like a nearly impossible task, it actually worked remarkably well. The secret sauce that made it possible? A Call Flow Diagram.

Practically speaking, it’s impossible to predict what another person is going to say once you get them on the line, so a detailed script has limited usefulness. A call flow diagram is kind of like a script, but instead of providing line by line what you should say, it provides a general structure for how the call ought to go.

Structure makes it easier.

The structure gives you the confidence to take control of the call without sounding controlling. It enables you to enter into a real conversation with the very real person on the end of the line but still get your point across.

When fundraising over the phone, knowing what you want to say is a big deal. Calling people  you don’t know will to ask them for money can be very intimidating. If the cat gets your tongue, it can be very hard to recover. The call flow diagram will help you keep on track or find your way back if you get derailed.

A call flow diagram provides a visual structure for the basic structure of the call that you’re trying to make. It’s not a full script, because it takes into account that you’re going to be having a conversation. But it can help by having scripted elements, like a greeting, transition, and closing, so you have a general idea of what you’re going to say. These scripted elements are also a big help when your brain turns to mush in the middle of a call, which it will at least once or twice. Per hour. The call flow diagram comes from the telemarketing industry, which uses the tool to train phone representatives on how to handle a phone call.

Call flow structure gives you freedom.

The call flow  depends on what you’re doing. Are you thanking a donor? Are you inviting them to a big event? Are you asking them to give again? Are you asking them to get more involved?

For example, below is a call flow diagram that that I got from the college I attended. Of course, you can use as a template for your own phone fundraising by modifying it to fit your needs.

My example is an actual phone call . A student called to invite me to give to the annual alumni fund. (In the interest of full disclosure, I didn’t give because I’m still paying off my student loans.)

The call flow diagram gives structure to the call, allowing the call to sound natural, but focusing on a desired result.

Breaking it down

  1. Introduction – Ask for the person that you are calling by name. Once they are on the line, introduce yourself and the organization that you represent. In this example, the reason given for the call is to confirm contact information.
  2. Engage – While contact information was part of the reason for the call, it was not the ultimate reason. Therefore, the caller used information from my school records to asked about a major activity in my life while I was at school. During the engage portion of the call, the caller is trying to build more connection with the potential donor.
  3. Transition – The small talk established a connection, now let’s get to business. The alumni giving society is introduced and the call begins to move towards the ask. The benefits of giving to the school are firmly established during the transition phase.
  4. Ask! – It’s not fundraising if there’s no ask. The ask doesn’t have to be long and drawn out, and in fact it shouldn’t be. Be straightforward and direct. And then be quiet. Wait for the person to respond, because they will.
  5. Thank – If the donor says yes, thank them and take their donation information.
  6. Maintain the offer – If the potential donor says no, don’t wilt like flowers in the desert. Be confident! Maintaining the offer can come in a couple different forms. It might be to ask what would prevent the donor from being able to give immediately. It should definitely sell the benefits of giving. Don’t back down immediately, many donors will give at the initial level if you are able to speak persuasively about the benefits of giving.
  7. Thank – If the donor says yes, thank them and take their donation information.
  8. Fall Back – If the donor persists in saying no, ask if they would be able to make a smaller recurring gift or a one time gift. Don’t worry, the donor has been on the phone with you this long, they’ll listen to you for a little longer.
  9. Thank – If at this point, the donor gives or does not give, thank them graciously for their time.
  10. Close – Wrap up the call, thank them again, and say goodbye.

I know I’m not the best infographic artist in the world, but you can see how the structure of the call flow diagram enables you to follow the general pattern of a successful phone call, while allowing you enough flexibility to sound like a human being.

Create your own call flow.

I actually received this phone call, and I carefully noted the structure the caller used. This call flow works especially well for a college, because it establishes a connection between the college and the donor. If you are a human service agency, you might tailor it to include information about the new services you’re providing to the community or to share a story that will hopefully resonate with the donor. It’s important to think about how you’re going to move the conversation from the introduction to the ask smoothly, while stirring the donor’s interest and connection to your agency.

Your call flow might be much simpler if you’re doing a thank-a-thon, or have more information if you’re a local orchestra. No matter what you decide to put in the call flow, breaking it down will make calling easier for your volunteers and paid staff. Knowing what to say at crucial points in the call makes a huge difference by giving your callers confidence and will provide a big boost in the success of the campaign.


Looking for more articles on phone fundraising? Try these:

Check out The Fundraiser’s Playbook for a full list of fundraising articles.

Would you like to learn more about raising money for Church and Ministry? Check out Letters From The Almoner, now available on Amazon.com.
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com, via Creative Commons License, no rights reserved.