Call time is an integral part of any successful campaign. Let’s talk about what it is and how it should fit into your schedule.
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What is Political Call Time?
Political call time is the time candidates spend calling potential donors to ask for campaign donations for their campaign. These days, it may include digital communication through emails or texts.
The goal of political call time is to make one-on-one connections with potential donors. This individualized contact is the best way to raise large donations and paves the way to meeting your fundraising goals. Call time is typically used to ask for donations of $250 or more, although this may change depending on the level of your campaign.
What should be the focus of call time?
It’s no surprise to hear that campaigns are expensive. You need financial support from donors who believe in you. Most campaigns aim to raise 50-70% of their total budget through call time. The goal of call time, then, is to raise as much money as you can.
Although the focus of call time is raising money for your campaign, don’t allow yourself to lose sight of the other opportunities that these calls allow. Each conversation also helps you refine your pitch as a candidate and gain insight into what issues matter to supporters. Done wisely, call time is another way to strengthen your campaign even when potential donors say no.
Do I need a call time manager?
A call time manager is a valuable team member, but not necessary for every election. You would generally hire a finance director before hiring a call time manager. A campaign generally needs both a finance director and a call time manager for federal races where there are a significant number of fundraising events that your finance director must oversee
Remember, making phone calls is only a small portion of what goes into call time. A call time manager understands how to utilize detailed systems to make the most of every call time session and maximize the amount that you raise.
You can expect a call time manager to:
- Create a database of all potential contacts
- Work with the finance director to prioritize contacts to call
- Log notes and activity from each call
- Follow up on calls
- Prepare daily call lists in advance with all relevant information
- Track call time progress in relation to fundraising goals
How Much Call Time Do I Need?
As much as you can allow for.
Since the majority of your budget depends on call time, it’s important to prioritize the practice. Make call time a consistent part of your schedule by blocking off time every day. Plan for 2-4 hours of call time a day for a total of 10-30 hours a week.
It can be hard to get people on the phone. You’ll likely make 40-60 calls an hour but only reach 2-5 people during that time. Calls typically average between 5-15 minutes in length. While some sources encourage you to get off the phone as quickly as possible, we recommend taking the time to invest in a conversation when you get someone on the phone for several reasons.
First, longer phone calls lend themselves to more authentic conversations and relationships. Second, a potential donor isn’t going to appreciate being rushed off the phone the moment they say no or make a pledge. Third, time is a valuable and finite resource. As donors spend longer talking to you, they’re more likely to say yes or even agree to a higher contribution. Showing people that you value them– not just their wallets– will go a long way during your call time.
When Do Political Campaigns Start Calling?
Campaigns typically start up to two years before an election, although you may start campaigning less than a year before depending on the election level. With that in mind, it’s important to begin calling as soon as you begin your campaign. Early and aggressive fundraising strategies are critical to running a successful campaign.
The sooner you begin fundraising, the more money you have to dedicate to an effective political campaign. Whenever you begin, stick to reasonable hours, calling between 9 am and 8 pm on weekdays and 10 am and 5 pm on weekends.
How Does Political Call Time Work?
The process of call time is typically broken down into three distinct stages— plus the pre-work.
Stage 0: Getting started
Successful call time involves a great deal of pre-work before you ever dial a number. Early in the campaign, begin rolodexing all of your contacts to create a database of all potential donors. Include family, friends, colleagues, neighbors, business associates, and then go wider. Research institutional donors, friends of friends, and others who would be interested in supporting your campaign.
Every contact entry should include a donor bio that includes information such as:
- contact information
- where they live (especially if they’re in your district)
- what industry they work in & what company they work for
- where they went to college
- giving history
Stage 1: Before each call time session
While an overall database of potential donors is a valuable tool, each call time needs a specific list of people to contact for the day. This list will depend on your fundraising goals for the session and should include each donor bio.
Consider using themed call lists each day. This could include themes like:
- college friends
- small-dollar donors
- voters in district
- donors with certain policy interests
- donors working in a certain industry
Following a theme allows you to use and refine a consistent pitch as you work through the list. It also prevents burnout that can occur by jumping from topic to topic all session.
Prepare yourself for 2-4 hours of focused calling. Find somewhere comfortable to sit, grab a snack and drink, and bring your computer to work through your list and take notes.
Call time works best when it’s not done alone. While you, as the candidate, are the one actually making the calls, you should be accompanied by someone who can help. Ideally, this is a call time manager, but it could also be a campaign manager, volunteer, or supportive friend. No matter who it is, this person can keep you accountable for meeting your call time goal and take notes on each call so you can focus on the conversation. Round up your support person before you begin calling.
Stage 2: During call time
Start every conversation by building rapport before you jump into the ask. Maybe you share a common interest or attended the same university. This information will allow you to build a connection with someone in the first few minutes of the call.
When you make your donation request, be as specific as possible. Provide the reason you need a donation, the amount you’re asking for, and the timeframe you’d like to receive it.
Then stop talking.
This may feel uncomfortable, but this pause conveys your confidence in the request and prompts the listener to respond. Silently count to 10, then count to 10 again if you need to. Eventually, they will answer.
Be prepared to hear more no’s than yes’s, but know that yes’s will come! When they do, be ready to take a donation on the spot if they’re ready— have a way to take credit card information.
Throughout the call, you or your support person should be taking copious notes.
- Did you actually make contact or leave a voicemail?
- Did they pledge to donate? Hard commitment or soft commitment
- Are they willing to host a fundraiser for you?
- Do you need to reconnect in a few weeks/months?
- Personal notes– what issues matter to them? Are there upcoming life events?
These notes guide you in the way you follow up.
Remember that most people won’t answer the first time you call. They’re not avoiding you– they’re busy cooking dinner or in a meeting. Don’t be afraid to call once a week until you connect with a potential donor. This can increase to three times a week during the last week of the quarter.
Stage 3: After call time
Rarely will a single conversation be enough to secure a donation.
If someone makes a pledge, follow up with an email that includes a direct link to donate and/or instructions on how to mail a check. If someone requests that you connect later or doesn’t answer at all, create a system for reconnecting at a later date.
And, of course, your team should thank everyone who makes a donation. You could use a form letter for smaller donations and a handwritten note for larger contributions.
Best Resources for Call Time
Online tools can streamline the process, so you spend more time on the phone and less time performing research and data entry.
To research donors try using:
To rolodex donors and log call time information, you have several options including:
Numero is the only software that tracks and automatically fulfills your pledges in real time. It’s a one-stop solution that allows you to keep donor information and contribution information in one spot. We also help you keep track of ghosted contributions, so no money is left on the table!