Diversity at home and in the workplace

For years, Holocaust survivor Betty Gold has traveled around the country telling her story about the horrific events she witnessed as a child. Typically her audiences are composed of school children, youth groups and other younger members of society, but earlier this week The InfoCision Diversity Council gave our employees the opportunity to hear Betty’s amazing story.

Along with other members of InfoCision’s diversity council and employees throughout the company, I personally heard Betty speak about the importance of diversity tolerance as she told her life-story as a person of Jewish heritage growing up in the Ukraine during the Nazi invasions of the 1940’s. I must say hearing her story was truly amazing. To hear the tragic events she witnessed and what she had to do to survive was not only astonishing, but inspiring as well.

Our diversity council is made up of employees who lead, monitor and advocate the strategic diversity management process within InfoCision. This group and its members help our company encourage proactive diversity initiatives and empower others to inspire change throughout the company by making events like our time with Betty possible.

My personal experience

Hearing Betty speak really made me think about how important diversity tolerance is in our lives. This idea of diversity is one that is personally very near and dear to my heart. For those of you who do not know, my wife and I have two daughters that we adopted from China.

When I think about diversity, I cannot help but think about my own family where we have many races represented through adoption in our sibling families…African American, Asian, Caucasian…all different races blended together! These differences have never mattered to us, rather we celebrate them! The bottom line is that we accept and – above all else – love each other.

I think this concept is extremely important in the workplace as well. Here at InfoCision we are one big family with the same overall goal: to be successful for our clients. For that to happen, we all have to work with and respect each other to the fullest extent. Part of being able to do this is having an understanding of the unique backgrounds and the many different experiences we have all encountered.  We have a very diverse team here at InfoCision, and by working together and embracing the things that make us truly individuals, we have and will continue to achieve great things.

DMA 2012 Conference in Las Vegas: Stop by InfoCision’s booth 425

As the year begins to wind down (I can’t believe how quickly 2012 has gone!) it is time once again for the annual Direct Marketing Association conference DMA 2012.

dma 2012Although I will not be personally attending this year’s conference, InfoCision will have a large presence there with a booth and four staff members. I know they are eager to hit the conference floor to say hi to some old friends, and make new ones.

We have something to offer businesses of all shapes and sizes, and we’re here to help your organization grow and succeed, so stop by booth 425 to meet with one of our experts, or give them a call to set up a meeting.

Curt Cramblett, vice president of new business development

Rob Sine, director of new business development

Dawn Keathley, director of new business development

Tom Hissong, manager of new business development

All four will be available to discuss InfoCision’s products and services, so if you’re going to be at the conference, stop by booth 425 and say hi! PLUS, We’ll also be giving away some special prizes throughout the conference so follow the DMA Conference on Twitter #DMA2012 and InfoCision on Twitter and LinkedIn and look for our Las Vegas trivia questions. You could win a Starbucks gift card in the morning to help you wake up, or a drink on us in the afternoon to help you relax after a long day in sessions.

I know our team is excited for this year’s event and I wish them and everyone attending a great conference and safe traveling!

Volunteer recruitment is a vital part of nonprofits achieving their missions

Volunteer Recruitment programs help to get more people involved with nonprofit organizations; spread the word about important causes and educate people about how they can live healthier.

volunteer recruitment kitYou’ve likely received a letter in the mail from a friend or neighbor that contains educational information such as tips for living healthier or ways to identify risks and prevent disease.  You may not have understood the full impact of these letters and the huge role volunteers have in furthering an organization’s mission.  I’ve been in the fundraising industry going on 30 years and have seen first-hand the importance of volunteer recruitment campaigns and I’d like to take a minute to share with you why they are so vital.

There’s no question this strategy aids in fundraising, because a person is more likely to give when the letter comes from someone they know.  However, the benefits extend far beyond dollars raised.  Volunteer recruitment programs help to get more people involved with nonprofit organizations; spread the word about important causes like fighting diabetes, cancer, autism, lung disease, stroke, etc. and educate people about how they can live healthier.

Here’s a short run down of the role a “family and friends” or “neighbor to neighbor” volunteer recruitment campaign has in advancing an organization’s mission:

1)      Engaging supporters on a deeper level – It’s one thing to give a nonprofit organization a donation, it’s another thing entirely to volunteer your time to send letters on their behalf.  For volunteers, making that commitment creates a deeper level of engagement.  Because there isn’t a financial commitment, nonprofits can involve supporters who can’t afford to write a check – giving everyone an opportunity to support the mission, regardless of financial means.

2)      Reaching people and creating new supporters – Another great benefit of a Friend and Neighbor campaign is enabling nonprofits to connect with many people they otherwise might not reach through traditional phone and mail efforts.  By having existing supporters reach out to neighbors and friends, it increases the likelihood they will receive the message and respond positively.

3)      Educating people about the cause – Fundraising is one small component of the work charities do.  Nonprofit organizations are dedicated to their cause.  Whether it’s finding a cure for a disease or providing better services for people facing challenges, every nonprofit is trying to do something to make the world a better place.  The information provided includes educational information like tips for living healthier or ways to identify risks for diseases.  By distributing this information, volunteers are helping to advance the nonprofit’s core mission.

4)      Spreading the word about the organization – Nonprofits utilize volunteer-based grassroots programs to spread their mission to millions of people that normally wouldn’t get that message.  Even if the individual does not send a donation, they may talk about the organization with a friend, decide to learn more about the cause, or even volunteer themselves to help in the future.

Involving people in volunteerism is a great way for nonprofits to engage more donors, and it creates stronger connections with the mission.  So next time you receive a letter in the mail from your neighbor on behalf of a nonprofit organization I hope you’ll take the time to read it and consider if helping that organization is the right choice for you.

InterAction 2012 at The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing is this Friday!

InterAction 2012, on Friday, September 28, will honor Direct Marketer of the Year Tom Richmond, President of Little Tikes and feature keynote speaker Dr. Andrew Thomas.

InterAction 2012I can’t believe it’s already here, but the time has come for the InterAction 2012 luncheon at The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing! Each year the Taylor Institute Board of Directors – of which I am proud to be part – recognizes an industry leader with The Direct Marketer of the Year Award during the luncheon attended by direct marketing professionals and academics from across the country.

This year’s event, on Friday, September 28, is looking great as we will have keynote speaker and Associate Professor of Marketing and International Business at The University of Akron, Dr. Andrew Thomas speak on The Distribution Trap, which is also the title of his recent book.  The book gives a great description of how current marketing and distribution concepts have convinced thousands of U.S. innovators that the sale and distribution of their products and services is better left in the hands of outside forces. By catering to the mass market, innovators are allowing mega-distributors to dilute the value of their products and services, imposing costs and changes in strategic direction and operational control. Dr. Thomas will discuss this topic and even explain what he feels is the solution to this business epidemic.

Direct Marketer of the Year: Tom Richmond

The highlight of InterAction 2012 will be when we honor our Direct Marketer of the Year: President of Little Tikes Worldwide, Tom Richmond. Tom has many attributes that made him a great candidate for Direct Marketer of the Year. His extensive knowledge of and dedication to finding meaningful ways to interact with clients and customers has enabled Little Tikes to boast steady growth since his arrival in 2008.  Tom has helped establish Little Tikes as the premier source of fun and educational experiential children’s products; enabling the company to flourish through difficult economic times.  He has always understood the importance of utilizing one to one marketing to drive the company’s success and since becoming President of Little Tikes, he has implemented direct marketing strategies that have allowed the company to adjust to the individual preferences and dynamics of today’s ever evolving consumers.

With all of this on the table, it’s easy to understand why I am so excited for InterAction 2012. I look forward to hearing Dr. Thomas speak and recognizing Tom for all of his achievements. I’d also like to thank our many sponsors and The University of Akron for hosting the event.

Keeping American Call Center Jobs in America

We believe in the domestic advantage and despite any recent off-shore trends, all of InfoCision’s call centers for our US clients are located in the United States. This enables the establishment of strong customer relationships that aren’t hindered by cultural differences or language barriers.

 

I want to make you aware of a bill that has been introduced in Congress that would help keep American call center jobs from being outsourced overseas. It is called the federal United States Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection American call center jobsAct of 2012. In Ohio, it is estimated that there are more than 200,000 people employed in the call center industry and that Ohio has lost over 2,300 call center jobs between 2008 and 2011. InfoCision is a large employer in the call center industry, with more than 3,300 employees in Ohio alone. We were recently included in a story on this new bill on WFMJ-TV in Youngstown, Ohio.  http://www.wfmj.com/story/19600773/ohio-senator-wants-to-keep-call-center-jobs-in-the-us  We’ve always been dedicated to growing our business for our US clients right here at home and we continue to keep an eye on this piece of legislation.

Here’s a recap of the United States Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act of 2012:

  • Require companies to disclose to callers when their calls are transferred abroad.
  • Make businesses that move call center jobs overseas ineligible for federal grants or loans.
  • Direct the Department of Labor to make a public list of such companies, and employers would remain on the list for three years after each relocation.
  • Require agencies, including the Department of Defense, to give preference to U.S. employers that do not appear on the list.

The Domestic Call Center Advantage

Our clients are the household names most consumers know and depend on and we’ve committed to not sending their business overseas. We believe in the domestic advantage and despite any recent off-shore trends, all of InfoCision’s call centers for our US clients are located in the United States. This enables the establishment of strong customer relationships that aren’t hindered by cultural differences or language barriers. A call center is the voice of a company, so it’s crucial to have mature, experienced professionals on the phones who can speak the customer’s language and who truly understand the regional and cultural nuances of the customers and donors.

We are certainly in favor of keeping American call center jobs right here in America!

More information helps donors make more educated decisions

I highly suggest everyone read the article by Dan Pallotta, Why Can’t We Sell Charity Like We Sell Perfume? published in The Wall Street Journal, September 15, 2012. It provides a compelling look at nonprofit organizations and why there is a need to change how the public thinks about charity. Here’s a short except from the article: “In short, we are asking nonprofit groups to deal with social problems whose scale is beyond easy comprehension, while denying those groups the tools they need to build any meaningful scale themselves”…The conventional wisdom is that low costs serve the higher good. But this view is killing the ability of nonprofits to make progress against our most pressing problems. Long-term solutions require investment in things that don’t show results in the short term.”

Dan’s thoughts in many ways echo InfoCision’s sentiments and we thank him for the wonderful job he is doing in helping to educate consumers. The important fact is that all nonprofit organizations need to raise money, which is essential to their success and their ability to accomplish their mission. InfoCision is proud to partner with the nation’s most trusted and reputable charities. We provide a much needed service by helping them reach out to people on a much larger scale than they’d be able to do on their own. Without telephone acquisition bringing on new donors and volunteers, their mission could not be accomplished. Nonprofit organizations are managed by professionals and if the calls we make for them were unsuccessful and, if they were unhappy, we would not be able to continue representing them, nor would they want us to.

If you’d like to learn more, Dan is also the author of “Charity Case, How the Nonprofit Community Can Stand Up for Itself and Really Change the World” and he has also been published in many other media outlets including this opinion piece in the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

The media must provide both sides on issues so consumers can make informed decisions. Please feel free to comment…

Here’s the story that wasn’t told

The important fact is that all Nonprofit organizations need to raise money which is essential to their success and all the good works they accomplish.  InfoCision supports their missions by carrying the majority of the costs of fundraising for them.  We do NOT keep the money raised.  Nothing could be further from the truth!  Each charity has an annual budget goal to raise a certain amount, let’s say X million dollars.  On average an organization will budget 25% of the total raised for administrative, fundraising and other marketing costs.  The remaining 75% is always used by the organization for the critical programs and services they provide so well.  InfoCision is paid out of the budget for fundraising, plain and simple.  We bill the client for our costs, then pay all our wonderful 4400 employees, for facilities, phone bill, technology, mailings, etc. and as a business strive for a 10% margin…although in the economic climate of the past few years, we have struggled to reach this target.

For 30 years, InfoCision has partnered with the largest and most reputable Nonprofit organizations in the world.  If the calls we make for charities were unsuccessful for them and, if they were unhappy, we would not be able to continue representing them, nor would they want us to.

The campaigns mentioned in the report were all designed as donor acquisition appeals to breakeven upfront.  Without proactively attempting to acquire new members, any charity will ultimately lose its membership through normal attrition and in time may no longer exist.  Once a new member has been acquired, all their subsequent contributions will provide significant net return to the client over time and more than pay for the initial cost to bring them on.   All our neighbor to neighbor campaigns recruiting volunteers provide a much needed educational and outreach mission where for example, diabetes tests, cancer prevention or the signs of a stroke information kits are distributed out to millions of families to help them be aware of risk factors and improve their overall health.  There is no initial net return anticipated from these types of campaigns because it’s all about engaging new donors and getting educational information into the hands of people who need it.

Think about all the research and all the good being done by the world’s leading health organizations to fight disease…Leukemia, Heart, Diabetes, Cancer…we help all these causes.  Without telephone prospecting bringing on new donors and volunteers, the mission could not be accomplished.  For-profit businesses roll out new customer acquisition types of campaigns all the time, such as free giveaways of sample products.  Consumers don’t question this strategy even though it drives up marketing costs.  Stores use what’s called loss-leaders to get people through their doors.  They’ll take a loss on say a gallon of milk in hopes the consumer will purchase other marked-up items in the same trip and, become a regular customer because of their shopping experience.

Charities do many different types of fundraising campaigns each year.  Isolating just one individual campaign’s report filed with a state attorney-general gives a distorted and confusing view.  To find out how much a nonprofit organization commits to its core mission, review the Nonprofit’s Form 990 filed each year with the IRS, which provides a comprehensive summary of the way an organization’s uses all the funds entrusted to them.

InfoCision’s message is honest and clear. Any deception comes from the reporter’s story.  This type of irresponsible journalism seeks to hurt those valuable national charitable organizations who do so much good…they are our clients and we are proud to be their partner.

If you would like a more detailed explanation of how the fundraising process works, check out the fundraising series, where I go into greater depth and shed some light on the subject of professional fundraising.

 

InfoCision: The Healthy Call Center

Last week, InfoCision’s Chair of the Board, Karen Taylor shared an interesting article with us about the benefits of periodically standing up at work instead of sitting down all day.  It really got me thinking about how important it is to stay focused on healthy activities, especially when working in a role that may require being seated for long periods of time. I found a similar article in the New York Times advocating getting up and moving around throughout the workday in a number of creative capacities.

Here at InfoCision, we try to do everything we can to help our employees live a healthier lifestyle, and when we see articles like this, we feel obligated to pass the information along.  For the same reasons, we have established annual health fairs, which take place at all our call center locations throughout the months of August and September. We believe that a healthier,

Members of our Employee Benefits team working a booth at our Health Fair at our corporate headquarters in Akron, OH

engaged workforce begins with employees that are encouraged and given the tools to make good health a priority. These health fairs provide team members with access to 30 or more vendors who offer free health screenings including blood pressure, body fat, BMI, cholesterol and glucose checks; and information on health issues, health insurance and other valuable employee benefits.  The health fair we just concluded at our Akron headquarters drew more than 500 individuals in one afternoon looking to find ways to improve their health and their lives!

Does the cost pay off?

At times, when I mention the amenities that we offer our employees, I am asked “Isn’t that expensive?” The answer is yes, there is a cost, but it’s well worth it and ultimately we receive a measurable ROI from our overall wellness programs.  By providing employees with convenient and affordable access to health information and resources, we have seen our workforce respond by becoming healthier, which has kept insurance rates from rising for both the company and our employees themselves.

And beyond the business reasons, it’s really just the right thing to do for all our staff. A healthier employee is a happier employee and it is well worth the cost to make sure our employees are taken care of so they can provide the best service possible to our clients. It’s a winning formula for everyone!

Fundraising Part 4: Using information to make an informed choice as a donor

In the first three posts in our series on fundraising, we’ve covered acquisition campaigns, long-term donor value enhancement and regulatory compliance; three highly important functions that professional fundraisers provide for nonprofits.  Each of these plays a part in a nonprofit’s ability to deliver their beneficial programs and services.

Even with all the new communication channels today, tele-fundraising is among the most effective – if not THE most effective – means of fundraising available to nonprofit organizations.

Despite that fact, periodically consumers are presented with reports that will list percentages of funds raised by professional fundraisers that seem alarmingly low.  But are they really?

What reports on professional telephone fundraising campaigns DON’T tell you

Government reports from the various states often fail to provide even a minimal description of the type of campaign that was being conducted. In our first post, we discussed acquisition campaigns where fundraising is the secondary goal to identifying new donors.  A nonprofit’s donor list is its greatest asset.  But it’s an asset the organization is not able to list on their balance sheet, so the general public may not associate a fixed dollar amount to its value.  But that list represents much of the future growth potential for the organization based on the impact of future donations from its valued members.

Similarly, these reports can’t measure the value of an interaction – even one that does not result in a donation – where the person contacted receives an update on all the great things the organization is doing, which further enhances the donor’s connection to the organization.

Where can a donor go for accurate information on an organization’s fundraising spending?

Anyone who is looking to determine the overall allocation of resources which a nonprofit organization commits to its core mission, can simply take a look at the nonprofit’s Form 990 filed each year with the IRS.  This form contains information on how much money the organization spends in total on fundraising and how much goes to programs and services.  This is the report which provides a much better view of the nonprofit organization’s good stewardship of the funds entrusted to them.

I hope this series has helped to give a better understanding of how professional fundraising through direct marketing – and specifically telemarketing – actually works.  As always thank you for joining us.

 

Click here for Fundraising Part 1: How Nonprofits and Professional Fundraisers Partner to make a Difference

Click here for Fundraising Part 2: The Professional Fundraiser and Nonprofit Relationship

Click here for Fundraising Part 3: Compliance and Nonprofit Fundraising

Fundraising Part 3: Compliance and Nonprofit Fundraising

So far in the first two posts in our fundraising series, I’ve covered some different ways professional fundraisers help nonprofits to raise funds, through acquisition campaigns and by enhancing long-term donor value.  These approaches require a great deal of strategy and creativity in getting the right message to the right donor at the right time through the right channel.

However, there is another service professional fundraisers provide for nonprofits, without which all those things I listed above would not matter; I’m talking about regulatory compliance.

Regulatory compliance in the direct marketing industry is complex, but highly important

A successful long-term direct marketing strategy is built on the foundation of adherence to the myriad of laws and regulations put in place by the applicable government entities.  All of us are familiar with Do Not Call laws and the emergency of teleservices guidelines over the last ten years, but it’s much more than that.  The federal government and each individual state has very specific regulations for every kind of direct marketing campaign, including traditional mail, phone calls, email, text messaging, etc.

Nonprofit organizations focus on raising funds with the best intentions to make a tremendously positive difference for our world.  However, the fundraising campaign must be implemented in tune with federal and state regulations.  There is no room for error and regulators are not sympathetic to misunderstandings of statutory requirements.  Given the tremendous scope of regulatory issues that must be managed, staying compliant can be a daunting task for any organization.

As a marketing partner to Nonprofit organizations, InfoCision has invested millions of dollars in technology aimed at preventing compliance failures, and dedicated practitioners whose only job is to stay updated with regulatory issues and keeping our clients protected.

This can be a huge burden off the shoulders of nonprofits, and it’s yet another part of the reason that so many choose to partner with dedicated professionals to contact their donors.

Another aspect of compliance that a professional marketing partner like InfoCision should handle is the filing of information with the government agencies – and this information becomes part of reports that are public record.  In my final post in this series, I will discuss how consumers can read this information to make good decisions with their fundraising dollars and avoid confusion over what the numbers mean.

 

Click here for Fundraising Part 1: How Nonprofits and Professional Fundraisers Partner to make a Difference

Click here for Fundraising Part 2: The Professional Fundraiser and Nonprofit Relationship

Click here for Fundraising Part 4: Using Information to Make an Informed Choice as a Donor