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

The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing: Molding the future of the industry

Every college student has that “ah-ha” moment.  That instance where they finally understand everything their professors have been trying to teach them over the course of a semester.  In many cases it’s that moment when the student is able to look at the information they were given and think about how it could be applied in a real-world scenario.  That moment is what InfoCision founders, Gary and Karen Taylor had in mind when they helped to create The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron in 2004.

I recently made a stop at The University of Akron to meet with staff about our annual InterAction event where The Taylor Institute awards the prestigious Direct Marketer of the Year.  Classes started at the university on Monday and it was a pleasure to see all of the students buzzing around the campus, getting ready to start the semester.  Every time I visit, it seems more and more students are taking an interest in The Taylor Institute and, as a board member, I can’t express how thrilled that makes me!

The Taylor Institute focuses on e-marketing, direct response advertising, direct marketing management, multi-channel marketing, integrated marketing communications, direct mail applications and call center services using the latest in technology with a fully functional call center, video lab studio and much more.  The University of Akron College Of Business offers undergraduate and graduate degrees with concentrations in direct interactive marketing and integrated marketing communications to prepare students for the ever-changing world of marketing.

Where Theory Meets Practice

My personal favorite part of The Taylor Institute is the fact that the students get to see how they will utilize the skills they are learning after they graduate.  The professors include in the curriculum partnerships with practitioners who have current, first-hand experience in the world of interactive marketing.  Students are provided the opportunity to take what they learn in the classroom and implement it into working on real projects for real companies.

If you would like to see The Taylor Institute first hand please join us at InterAction 2012 taking place at The University of Akron on September 28 at Noon.  This year we will be honoring Mr. Thomas M. Richmond, the dynamic President of Little Tikes Worldwide with our Direct Marketer of the Year Award.  Tickets are $35 for individuals or a corporate sponsorship of $250, for a table for eight.  For more information please call Brenda Papoi at (330) 972-8228.

I’ll see you there…

Fundraising Part 2: The Professional Fundraiser and Nonprofit Relationship

Last week I shared how certain teleservices campaigns are designed as new donor acquisition campaigns where the primary purpose is to identify and engage as many new donors as possible; and raising funds is a secondary goal.  This is why some campaigns may appear to be less successful in terms of the funds generated, but are actually very successful and vital to nonprofits, allowing them to build and supplement their donor base.  This week, I’d like to talk more about why it’s important to build relationships with donors, and how professional fundraisers help to cultivate those relationships.

Professional fundraisers help build and create long-term donor value; the lifeblood of nonprofit organizations

Donors are the lifeblood for Nonprofit organizations.  They provide the necessary funding for the organization to be able to further its mission.  But the goal when reaching out to donors should not be just to ask for funds, but also to create a real connection between the donor and the organization.  A donor who becomes engaged with the organization will likely give again and again because they not only believe in the organization, but become personally involved in its mission.

Once a new donor is brought on, the real work to build that relationship begins.  In fundraising it has been proven that donors who give a second gift within 90 days of their initial gift are more likely to become sustainers to the organization.  Involving them initially in a multifaceted communication and engagement cycle is key.  Typically, new donor conversion strategies include a thank you call, welcome kit, or email to convey the organization’s appreciation for their generosity and to show how their dollars will be put to work.  Even after the receipt of a second gift donation, the Nonprofit should continue fostering the relationship through retention campaigns which keep donors informed and active by providing opportunities for involvement, such as volunteering.

What is truly most important to successful retention campaigns is the value of the customer experience.  High quality call centers are uniquely positioned to provide a wide array of services to help better manage donor relationships.  Business Intelligence, real-time analytics and reporting, variable script-on-screen, targeted call routing, online fundraising services all work together to increase the level of personalization and thus provide an exceptional donor experience.  When a donor walks away, after making a donation, feeling good about their gift and recognizing they are a critical component of the organization’s mission, they are more likely to give again the next time the organization calls, sends a letter or email request.

As with a business customer, it’s more cost effective to maintain a current donor than it is to find a new one.  However donor attrition requires constant vigilance toward replenishing your active donor base as an ongoing part of raising funds.  But you can positively impact your attrition rate by building solid relationships with donors by making every interaction with the organization a positive experience.  This is why it is so vitally important to work with a fundraising partner that is a true extension of your organization and has fundraising experts on the phones who work hard to make each and every phone call count.

The one thing I didn’t mention is how the professional fundraiser also manages the myriad of state and federal fundraising regulations.  I’ll discuss this in my next post as well as shed some light on the government reports professional fundraisers are required to submit, and how consumers can make good decisions on spending their fundraising dollars.  Be sure check back next week to read more.

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

Click here for Fundraising Part 3: Compliance and Nonprofit Fundraising

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

Offshoring: is it really worth it?

As Chief of Staff at InfoCision, I am constantly looking at newsfeeds and industry updates, trying to keep up on the different trends, rules and regulations that are going to impact our call centers. Recently I stumbled upon an article that caught my eye because it involves one of the most well-known American companies bringing jobs back to the U.S. that they had been outsourcing overseas.

The article – published in the online version of Nearshore Americas, a leading source for IT outsourcing news – was about American automotive industry giant, General Motors, deciding to cut back the outsourcing of its IT services to other countries by over 80 percent! General Motors currently outsources 90 percent of its IT services, but the plan is to cut that to 10 percent over the next three years. This article really got me thinking about how views on offshoring have changed across the business landscape over the last decade.

It’s about more than cost

In the teleservices industry, I have always believed that domestic call centers are better positioned than offshore call centers because more and more companies are beginning to realize that in a market where new customers are hard to come by, they must put a premium on customer service and care to drive optimal levels of customer retention.  In order to do this, they need to have people on the phone representing their company who speak the language of their customers, and can relate to them and empathize with them. But these issues can extend beyond the teleservices industry into other outsourced functions such as accounting, HR, and in GM’s case, IT.

In any industry, when a company makes the decision to send jobs offshore, we all know there is one major driving force for that decision: cost. However, while saving money on the front end can seem appealing, especially in tough financial times, there is much more a business has to consider before making that decision. Language barriers and lower quality of service – between members of your team and the offshore company – can actually create more costs than the company saves up front because they have a negative effect on efficiency. I can’t help but wonder if those factors finally hit home with GM’s leadership team.

I applaud GM for this decision, and for bringing jobs back to the United States where we desperately need them.

How nonprofits and professional fundraisers partner to make a difference

I’ve been working in the call center industry for nearly 30 years.  Oftentimes when I meet someone – either socially or professionally – and tell them that what I do involves fundraising for nonprofits, I inevitably get asked questions about how it all works.  Several questions come up routinely, and after having one such conversation last week, I decided that I should use The Right Call as a forum to provide much needed information on how professional fundraising works.  Fundraising is multifaceted and over the next few weeks I hope to impart additional knowledge and answer some common questions.

Do professional fundraisers keep a percentage of the money that is raised?

One of the most common questions I get is people wondering if professional fundraisers keep a percentage of money they raise before it goes to the nonprofit organization.  The answer is generally no.  Reputable teleservices  companies like InfoCision are not actually paid in terms of the percentage of funds they raise.  InfoCision is paid per completed call based on a set rate as detailed in our contract with the nonprofit client.  The client pays InfoCision according to their fundraising budget.

Many times, folks will say they’ve read about a nonprofit organization generating just a small net gain from a specific tele-fundraising program.  Some campaigns are designed as “acquisition campaigns.”  In these campaigns, finding and engaging new donors is the primary goal.  It is common and expected for an acquisition campaign – when looked at in a nutshell – to breakeven or be only slightly profitable.  But when you look at the big picture, these acquisition campaigns identify new donors who are likely to begin a strong, life-long relationship with the nonprofit. The long-term opportunities these new relationships provide the organization are incredibly valuable.

Here’s a similar example: A national health-based nonprofit, through direct mail acquisition programs, recently was able to increase its donor base by more than ten times over a five year period.  It’s likely that when you consider the cost of creating, printing and mailing the direct mail piece, the campaign may not have generated enough funds to cover those initial costs.  But what it did do was bring in many new donors to the organization, who will give again and again over a period of time. This is what is called Long-term Donor Value. It works the same way with tele-fundraising.

Check back next week for when I will break down the importance of long-term donors for nonprofits, and how tele-fundraisers help to build and cultivate these long-lasting relationships.  I hope you have found this information helpful.

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

Click here for Fundraising Part 3: Compliance and Nonprofit Fundraising

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

The Importance of Call Center Compliance

As every business leader knows, there are always going to be times when an organization must take risks.  However, when it comes to regulatory compliance in the call center industry, taking risks should never be an option.  Capital One Financial Corp, which has been working exclusively with low-cost offshore call center vendors, was recently fined $210 million dollars by the Consumer Protection Bureau for deceptive marketing tactics undertaken by their offshore call center partner.  Unfortunately, because the call center was short cutting training and quality processes, the client has become responsible for significant fines resulting from the fraudulent practices by their offshore call center agents.

Capital One released a statement in response, “Capital One’s third-party vendors did not always adhere to company sales scripts and sales policies for payment protection and credit-monitoring products, and the bank did not adequately monitor their activities.”

Compliance at InfoCision
No company should ever have to issue a statement like this because of the unethical practices of their marketing partner.  Here at InfoCision, our policy is that WE, not our clients, are primarily responsible for meeting the state and federal requirements for every program that takes place in one of our call centers.  We provide our clients with a dedicated team of regulatory compliance experts to give them peace of mind in all aspects of the management of their campaign.  As a company, your reputation is too important to leave to chance.