How to Hunt Down a Donor’s Phone Number

David Hoyt, Consultant

Making the effort to call a donor can be priceless

A big check comes in from Mr. Jones, and a bolt of excitement hits your nervous system.  Success!  But now what?

A handwritten thank you note – obviously – but also, a phone call is in order. But, what if you don’t have a phone number for him in the database? Do you admit defeat and only send the trusty thank you card?  Of course not! The thank you phone call is an important opportunity to learn about your donor’s interests, to solidify the positive feelings toward your organization that inspired the gift, and perhaps to set the stage for a future meeting.

A donor should be thanked within 24 hours of receipt of a gift, and the phone call is the fastest and most personable way to do this. The clock is ticking, so what is the most efficient way for you to find the right phone number?

Start at home.  Depending on the size and complexity of your donor list, you may be able to find a number for Mr. Jones under another name (such as Steve instead of Stephen), a duplicate entry, a spouse’s name, or from one of your coworkers who also may have worked with that donor.

But what if no one at the organization has it?  Now it is time to be creative.

Strategic stalking.  Let’s take a step back and consider what exactly you are looking for.  There are basically three categories of phone numbers: home, work, and cell.  Every donor has different contact preferences, and you can’t know what they are until you ask, so it is best to try them all.

Behold the power of the internet.  Work phones are the easiest to find, so you will want to start there.  If you already know Mr. Jones’s place of employment, you can generally find the number fairly easily with a quick Google search.  If you find a direct line, that is great, but if not, calling the main number and asking for the donor often works, too.

If the gatekeeper hesitates to forward your call to the donor, it may help to say, you’re not calling for a donation or anything like that, but only to say thank you.  That answer informs the gatekeeper that your cause matters to the person you want to reach – and that the donor matters to you.

Workplace: unknown.  If the workplace is unknown, fear not. You can still find the information you need. Campaigns are required to list their donors’ employers, and are easily found online.  Politicalmoneyline.com is a very good resource, and there are many other sites with similar information.  Keep in mind that you absolutely cannot use FEC records to solicit funds, but you can glean information on a specific individual without concern.  Other good, online sources to discover employment are: LinkedIn, Manta, Bloomberg Executive Profiles, and Facebook.

What if Mr. Jones only works on his slice?  In that case, your new target is the home phone number.  The landscape of online phone number sites changes somewhat regularly, but as of now, the site with the most accurate home phone number is WhitePages.com.  It does have a subscription fee, but the price you pay pales in comparison to the benefits of talking directly with your donors. Other honorable mention websites include: Intelius, Spokeo, and ZabaSearch.  You’ll want to search by mailing address, email address, other aliases, and a spouse’s name(s).

If all of that doesn’t work…

Desperate times call for desperate measures.  The holy grail of contact info is, no doubt, the cell phone.  But they change often, and are very hard to find.  There is only one site that yields semi-reliable results for cell phones: Intelius.  It has a monthly fee, and it will give you a lot of false positives, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve waded through a half-dozen awkward “wrong number” conversations to find that one gem.  And once you get the right number, you have something of value no one else in your vertical has.

No matter how difficult it can be to find a donor’s phone number, taking the time to find it and then calling the donor to thank them for the gift – priceless. Talking on the phone with donors is quickly becoming a lost art, and if you make the effort, you can really make an impact in the donor’s mind.

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