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.

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 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

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.

Proclamation for our Green Call Center

As I’ve mentioned many times over this past year, InfoCision is celebrating 30 years of business in 2012 and it truly has been wonderful celebrating with all the communities and employees we have built relationships with over the years. On Tuesday we had a special guest, the honorable Mayor of Green, Richard Norton stop by and give InfoCision the prestigious honor of receiving a proclamation from the city of Green.  We have been in Green since 1987 and it was our first call center location outside the City of Akron. The community has always been extremely supportive in helping us meet our expansion needs.  In 2011 we finished a major 52,000 square foot call center expansion, which added approximately 200 jobs to the call center. We now employ over 500 people in Green!

Call Centers are all about relationships

On the drive back from Green, I began to think about how long we have been in business and all of the relationships we have cultivated over the years. The focus we have put on building relationships isn’t just something we do internally; we do it externally as well. We have things like a dedicated account staff, a well-trained IT team and experienced communicators, all of whom build relationships with our clients and their customers.

At InfoCision we take the time to meet with our clients, understand their overall goals and do whatever it takes to make sure those goals are met. We also understand that when you respect your employees and the community you work in, you are rewarded with hard work and gratitude from all parties involved. That is why I would like to take the time to thank Mayor Norton and the entire community of Green for this proclamation and more importantly, a great partnership that has truly stood the test of time.