How and When to Reconnect with Disengaging Alumni

Posted on 12/21/2016

There are five words that every phonathon caller dreads hearing: Take me off your list.

Applying a “Do Not Call” code (or any of the many “Do Not Contact” codes that exist in our databases) to a prospect record is a pretty extreme measure. That’s why it’s important that a prospect’s true intentions are clearly understood, accurately recorded, and kept up to date. But that isn’t always as simple as it sounds.

Intentions can be misunderstood or misnoted. For example, “Now is not a good time” might sound a lot like “Don’t ever call again!” when it’s coming out of the mouth of an irritated prospect. And it’s not uncommon for major gift officers to use “Do Not Call” codes to prevent their prospects from receiving annual fund appeals. (For the record, they should NEVER do this!)

The Annual Giving team at The University of Kentucky periodically reviews the comments associated with all of their “Do Not Call” requests. In doing so they have noticed that, while some records had been coded for very legitimate reasons (e.g., “hard of hearing”), there were other reasons that didn’t seem as credible.

“Quite a few of our prospects cited the performance of our basketball team as a reason for not wanting to be called,” says Anne Vanderhorst, Director of Annual Giving at The University of Kentucky. “But after winning our 8th National Championship, we thought it might be time to reconsider some of our exclusions.”

So they sent a “We Miss You” postcard to every person who had been coded “Do Not Call” three or more years ago. The postcard informed prospects that they would be returned to the university’s calling pool unless they contacted the office and requested otherwise. It included simple instructions for those who wanted to continue to be excluded.

“We sent the postcard to just under 5,500 prospects,” says Vanderhorst, “and we received less than 175 phone calls from prospects wanting to continue their exclusion. The remaining records were returned to the calling pool.”

Life is full of unexpected twists and turns. People can be misunderstood, or sometimes they simply change their minds. So, when someone uses extreme and permanent words like “forever” and “never,” it’s ok to follow up and make sure they mean it.

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