Imagine - CallCenterby Sherri W. Morr

Those of us in the fundraising business constantly complain of too much work and not enough time or hours in the day to get it done. Most agencies need more staff but cannot afford it. Most agencies are lucky in that they hire very dedicated people, some who do not have a significant other life (SOL) and therefore overwork, rushing from one task to the next. These are the very people who rarely use allotted vacation time, work when sick, and even worse bring sick family members to the office! The very idea of calling people and just thanking, or schmoozing on email is just not realistic. What follows is but one way in which to organize and prioritize cultivation/stewardship while raising money at the same time.


State of the art. A big, very big 2 story building with divided cubicles. Each cubicle has a computer a phone, head sets, cell phone, comfy chairs, and cork boards for work reminders, talking points, and photos of smiling children and pets. There’s also a second computer, sort of a ticker tape of statistics, economics, and goals met and not met.

The cavernous room holds 75 to 100 people easily; surrounding the perimeters are enclosed rooms … conference rooms, small offices, a private lounge area and way off to the side is the kitchen. A very big kitchen with labeled cabinets so staff can find things quickly and easily and not waste time. And not leave so many smudges on the cabinets. There are 2 tables for lunch and a few bean bag chairs. The cabinets are grouped by meals, (BLD) snacks, crackers, cookies etc. The double door refrigerator is filled with cheeses, yogurts, drinks, waters, milk and fruit trays. 3 or 4 toasters are on the counter as well as jumbo coffee pots with a coffee specialty machine for a latte or espresso. Staff usually brings their lunch; management pays all beverages, fruit and the snacks. Staff adding to the cabinets is frowned upon … less mess, less wasted food and less money for the staff to spend. At the beginning of every quarterly meeting staff is asked to rate the food choices and recommend anything missing.

Some of the cubicles have removable partitions to so that 2 or 3 callers can brainstorm without leaving their desks. If a caller feels more comfortable making a particular call in private they can sign up to use one of the smaller conference rooms. These rooms are available for 15 minute slots. More than 15 minutes has to be approved by management.

So what goes on here? Perhaps a real estate office, or a financial management operation; maybe a credit card call center, or inside sales for particular products. Maybe its Mayor Bloomberg’s expanded bull pen of the future.

Something goes on here, something important, something big enough to create such a space and put the emphasis on the caller (staff and volunteers) being happy and content, and also much focused on work. All equaling high productivity.

Whatever goes on here, it makes money, that’s for sure. And it goes on 24/7.

Ladies and gentlemen, staff and leadership, volunteers, students meet the Call Center of the Future. One Call Center. One message. One happy well fed family of staff and volunteers who share a common bond or passion for a particular mission.


What can go on here … donor relations, making money, making friends, asking opinions, giving opinions/answers, saying thank you, calling or emailing for … ‘are you coming?’ Asking: where is your payment? Are you going on the mission, where is your deposit? Are you coming to the breakfast meeting? Are you bringing a guest? Did you send your list of who is at your table? Did I say, saying thank you? And information, just tell them things, good things is always better.

Who could use this … any community organization, church, synagogue, school or agency that qualifies as a 501.c3.

How best to use it … by using it to call and email wherever needs are necessary.

For example: Perhaps the women’s dept in Kansas City has a big luncheon with small attendance. They need to get on the phone, and send mass emails. 10 rows over are staff refining the training people read on the computer screens, and another 10 rows over is the San Francisco day school parents calling to remind people to send in reservations for the endowment dinner. Volunteers and staff are calling people in Manhattan, Hartford and Baltimore to solicit year end appeals, and calls to Hawaii are to thank donors and ask what they thought of the recent Israel informational mailing.

CRMs (customer relationship management) are used; bells and whistles accompany the phoning: prizes, contests, which caller got a new gift for $500 in the last hour wins dinner for two at a new hot restaurant. Larger donations, larger prizes. One full week at a day camp for a caller who has the highest cumulative total raised during a particular week. If you are calling for meeting/event attendance, the highest number of reservations counts as well. Something for everyone.

All at once. All at one time and all by staff and volunteers. People who need jobs, students who need community service credits, and boomers who need something meaningful to do, and volunteers who want to gain experience so they can get a job. The young adults have conceived the algorithms and the technical varieties that make it all work, all at one time, and all together. The staff members are sharing the important tasks, allowing themselves to collaborate, and to have time for other tasks or maybe even taking a vacation.


Sherri W. Morr has spent the last several decades working and consulting in the Jewish community as a fundraiser, a teacher, and trainer, most recently as Director of the Western U.S. at the Jewish National Fund for 12 years. She has completed an MA and received an honorary doctorate from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. Her work outside of the Jewish world at independent schools, the Baltimore Symphony and Tufts University have given her an awareness beyond practice in the Jewish community. Sherri has 3 grown sons and lives in Los Angeles, California.