Purpose – This article aims to describe an evaluation of a national pilot programme of telephone support services for older people in England and Scotland and is focussed on organisational outcomes. Design/methodology/approach – The “Call in Time Programme” was funded by the national charity Help the Aged and comprised eight telephone support projects in different locations, managed by different voluntary or charitable organisations. Researchers used semi-structured interviews and a Delphi questionnaire to obtain the views of project coordinators. Findings – Although the projects were found to provide a much needed service for socially isolated and lonely older people, the study identified four key areas of concern: operational structure; promotion and publicity; recruitment of volunteers; referral processes. Project coordinators wanted more autonomy and the flexibility to respond to older people's needs. Projects were limited by restrictions imposed by funding bodies or services themselves. Practical implications – Project coordinators recommended more local control over project finances, clear referral pathways linking voluntary and statutory bodies, long-term funding involving project coordinators and older people in planning and delivery, more training for project coordinators, clear record keeping and a coordinated approach to promotion and publicity. Originality/value – While other studies have highlighted the importance of user involvement, this study provides valuable evidence demonstrating that those responsible for managing and delivering telephone support services, and service users, are instrumental in decision making and planning processes. As organisations are streamlined in efforts to increase efficiency and effectiveness, there is a need for a wider cultural change in the way supportive programmes are viewed and funded.