What’s In a Call Report?

I’m often asked, “What is best practice to include in a summary of a fundraising donor visit?”

Here’s what I do:

To me, they’re “call reports.”  Never include anything in a call report you would not want your donor to read.  The odds are, they never will, but donors do have the legal right to read information gathered about them.  I’ve heard of that happening and of the fallout when less-than-flattering comments are read.

Type your call report directly into the donor’s record on your database.  Donor Perfect and Raiser’s Edge have places for this and I assume other donor management systems do, too.  Don’t use a database that does not have this capability.

Call reports should be “to the point.”  100-400 words, tops.  You are just getting information down, not writing prose.  If you tend to write too much it will deter you from getting your call reports completed which is not a good thing.

You want to jot down notes from the visit in the parking lot or around the corner; in other words, right away.  You will use those notes to write your call report and you’d be amazed how much you can forget on the way back to the office.

Biggest thing to remember: complete the call report as soon as you can.  Many databases are “in the cloud” so you can write the call report while you are on the road.  Otherwise, get it done as soon as you possibly can when you are back at your desk.

What to include?  When and where did you meet.  Who was present.  Any gift or token that you gave the donor.  Then, I try to summarize the visit as succinctly as I can, knowing that some nugget may come in handy in the future.  Did I ask the donor to consider a gift?  For advice?  For help with someone else?  What was the response?  What’s the next step?  Do I have any “to-do’s” from this visit?

Bottom line, I just want to remember what happened.  The next thing to do is sending an expression of thanks to the donor for the visit, and completing any of the “to-do’s.”

Pat yourself on the back if those three things; call report, the thank you, and the to-do’s, get done before anything else.

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