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How to call people you don’t know . . . yet

How to call people you don’t know . . . yet

Fundraising is a full contact sport. The best parts of our job happens away from our desk when we connect with people through a shared mission.

Some of our relationships are with existing donors, and people who are already connected to our organization. But some of our work involves reaching out to new people: people who we don’t know well . . . yet.

And that’s where the butterflies kick in. All these questions start to swirl in our heads: what will I say? What will they say? Will I be able to catch them at their desk? What do I do if I get a voicemail?

We are professionals. It’s our job to do outreach and build networks for the benefit of our mission. Last week I did a Facebook live about how to make successful outreach calls. The feedback from this video has been incredible! People really want to know how to connect with people they don’t know well . . . yet.

You can watch the 2 minute Facebook Live video here.

Here are three simple strategies that I use when I’m reaching out to people I don’t know well.

  1. Assume the person on the other end of the phone is an ally. You haven’t met them yet, so let’s give them the benefit of the doubt! I think about smiling through my voice so that I can connect with the person on the other end of the line. This significantly improves the flow of my conversations.
  2. Get clear on the reason for your call. Decide in advance why you are calling. Is it a thank you call? A request for a meeting call? Get clear in your head and heart what the purpose of your call. This sets your expectations for the call, and it gives you clarity in your head and your heart for why you’re reaching out.
  3. Decide in advance whether you’re leaving a voicemail or not. Write down your plan for the voicemail (or whether you’re going to leave one at all). Hint: if they don’t know you, the chances of them calling you back are slim to none. If you do leave a voicemail, be clear what action (if any) you want the person to take. Make your voicemails short, and specific. Make it easy for people to respond. A clear call to action is your best friend.



Reaching out to people you don’t know well . . . yet . . . is a skill that you get better and better at every time you practice. If you need to write down your text for the first few times, then go ahead and do it.

Every time you practice, you’ll get better. Step out of your comfort zone and start making those outreach calls.