The Essential Call Report

The Call Report is an effective tool to record observations and strategies following a donor (or prospective donor) meeting.  Used well, it serves the dual purposes of recording information and documenting the necessary follow up actions. The resulting document is saved electronically and/or in a paper file for future reference.

The template for the Call Report is simple:

(1) List attendees and their various roles;

(2) State the meeting purpose;

(3) Brief bullet points describing major items discussed;

(4) Record consensual conclusions reached or points of non-alignment.

The Call Report is short and sweet, avoiding excess text—it’s usually no longer than one page. The challenge (and real value) comes into play with analysis, which is where the “art” comes into play.

The “art” of the Call Report demands an ability to see beyond the spoken word and to use critical and creative thinking, assessing the mood of the participants, reading their body language, facial expressions and voice intonations.  This is where the fun begins, because you can exercise personal insight and depth to benefit the organization significantly.

For example, if the meeting is a donor solicitation and the spoken word is: “I’ll get back to you next week after discussion with my legal counsel and significant other,” but the solicited party responds in a lower voice, turns away from me, and avoids eye contact, then I construe this as being unreceptive to the ask, with a low probability of success.  By contrast, a prospective donor who uses the same words, but faces me, makes strong eye contact, has a clear tone of voice, and who leans forward, I would read as good engagement with a high probability of success. This read of the prospect is an essential element to record in the Call Report. With these observations recorded, you can next recommend actions. Charting forward progress, the Call Report is a “live” document, one to be integrated into an overarching strategy of deeper donor engagement.

Rather than spinning on its own axis, the Call Report information must be integrated into the relationship between the development officer, the organization and the donor, as well as be integrated into the flow of actions and activities to guide the organization to achieve its goals.

Yes, it is merely a tool, but it is an important one. The Report itself is held confidentially and should never be shared with the donor.

Bob Serow has been meeting with major donors and soliciting gifts for over 30 years. He serves as LAPA’s Senior Counsel for Campaigns and Advanced Fundraising Planning.

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