The Art and Science of a Call Report

As someone who has been meeting with major donors and soliciting gifts for over 30 years, I find the Call Report to be an effective tool to construct strategies to move a
relationship toward the pathway for success. Crafted properly, it can serve the dual
purposes of recording information about a supporter as well as providing for greater
efficiencies in relaying the necessary follow up tasks to staff and board members.

The template for the Call Report is simple: (1) identification of meeting principals, their
roles in the organization and, if a fundraising campaign, their roles in the campaign; (2)
statement of meeting’s primary purpose; (3) brief bullet points describing major items
discussed; (4) consensual conclusions reached.

This is the “science” of the Call, simple and direct, without calling for excess text, thus
easy to apply to client related meetings. The true challenge, and value, comes into play
with analysis, which is the “art” of the Call.

From my perspective, “art” of the Call demands an ability to see beyond the basics of
spoken word. Here, I am called upon to use critical and creative thinking, assessing
the mood of the participants, reading their body language, facial expressions and
voice intonations. Strange as it may sound, for me this to be the fun aspect of the Call,
because it provides an opportunity for me to exercise a level of personal insight and
depth which I know will benefit the organization significantly.

Example: if it is solicitation and the spoken word is: “I’ll get back to you next week
after discussing with legal counsel and my significant other”, but the solicited party
responds in a lower voice, turns away from me, avoids eye contact, then I construe this
as being unreceptive to the ask, with low probability of success. With the same words
uttered, but with the solicited one facing me, strong eye contact, clear tone of voice,
leaning forward, I would construe this as engagement in the conversation, receptive
to the ask, with a high probability of success. This “read” of the prospect is an essential
element of the report.

With this confluence of “art” and “science” as equal and complementing components of
the Call, I then recommend action steps. Charting forward progress, the Call becomes a
“live” document, one to be integrated into an overarching strategy of action steps for the
relationship and one aligned with moves management. Hence, rather than spinning on
its own axis, the Call Report is integrated into the tapestry of the relationship between
major gifts officer, the organization, and the donor as well as integrated the flow of
actions and activities to guide the organization to achieve its goals.


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