State reports on fundraising are easily misinterpreted

fundraisingRecent reports have called into question the relationship between professional fundraisers such as InfoCision and the nonprofit organizations they represent; asserting that, based on information from state mandated fundraising disclosures provided to state Attorneys General, professional fundraisers are keeping a  percentage of the funds raised. In InfoCision’s case, nothing could be further from the truth. Please see our website for our full statement on this issue.

A similar report recently made headlines in Vermont, and I want to draw to your attention to this story in the Burlington Free Press because it is a great example of how Attorney General (AG) reports can be misinterpreted; and paint good organizations in a negative light. According to the AG report, “Professional Fire Fighters of Vermont (PFFV) raised $1.4 million through FireCo., LLC of Franklin, Tenn., of which $314,256, or 22 percent, went to the charity, and 78 percent, or about $1.1 million, went to FireCo.”  Rightly so, both the PFFV and FireCo. have called the report misleading. “We’re in dispute with the attorney general,” said Matt Vinci, president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Vermont. “The way he’s put percentages out, they do not depict our operation.”  But when later asked to expand on the report, Vermont AG William Sorrell stated, “They’ve got employee and overhead costs, we’re not trying to suggest the paid fundraiser pockets 68 cents or 84 cents of every dollar,” Sorrell said.

An issue with the state mandated disclosures is that they fail to take into account the type of campaign that was run, overhead and other factors, and that makes them nearly impossible to accurately interpret. Many, many nonprofit organizations utilize professional fundraisers to raise funds on their behalf because it is the most cost effective way to raise funds on a larger scale. As Vinci says in the article, “We couldn’t have a bunch of firefighters doing this level of work (as volunteers).”

So please, when you see these reports, make sure you know the whole story before drawing your own conclusions. As I’ve said before, the true measure of whether any charitable organization is a good steward of the funds with which it is entrusted is the Nonprofit’s Form 990 filed each year with the IRS. Form 990 provides a comprehensive summary of what percentage of money a charitable organization spends towards its goals and mission, typically 75%, and the percentage used for administrative costs, which includes fundraising, and is typically the remaining 25%.

I encourage you to read a recent article in CUSTOMER magazine that details the role professional fundraising plays in helping charitable organizations accomplish their goals and mission.

Please feel free to leave a comment or question you may have on professional fundraising. One way for the truth to come out is to have an educated dialogue and I welcome your thoughts.

Celebrating the Holidays at InfoCision Company Christmas Parties

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been on the road going to InfoCision’s company Christmas parties at each of our locations throughout Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ontario, Canada, along with other members of the senior leadership team.  I can’t even begin to tell you what a good time we’ve been having, and how great it has been to see all of our wonderful employees getting together to have some fun and celebrate the holidays.  You can see some of the great pictures of our teams below.

Christmas collage2


In case there is anyone I did not get a chance to greet on my travels, I wish each and every one of InfoCision’s outstanding employees – and anyone reading this blog – a very merry and blessed Christmas and a happy New Year!

Opt-out confirmation text messages deemed legal by the FCC

text messagesLast week, the FCC issued a ruling stating that it is legal to send a one-time text message to confirm that someone has opted out of receiving future text messages from a specific organization.  This had been an issue of great interest within the direct marketing industry, as mobile marketing is becoming more and more popular as a meaningful way of contacting customers.

The issue stemmed from a case last year where a consumer sued a direct marketing organization that had sent a follow-up text to confirm his opt-out, and they settled out of court rather than fighting it, setting a bad precedent for the industry.

I applaud the FCC for a very reasonable and responsible decision in allowing follow-up messages to be utilized to confirm opt-out requests for consumers.  When considering that the consumers being contacted had expressly opted in to receiving the messages at some point in the recent past, and were receiving text messages from the organization in a completely legal way, it was a bit frightening that the direct marketer could face disciplinary measures for confirming opt-outs.  Frankly, opt-out confirmation messages are a valuable service that the direct marketing organization is providing to the consumer so that they can be 100% sure that their opt-out request has been received.  To penalize a direct marketer for providing this service would – simply put – be senseless.

To read more on this, there is a good article in AdWeek.

In addition, you can get more information on the ruling by visiting the blog of Michele Shuster of MacMurray, Peterson and Shuster, industry legal experts.

Rapid Response Routing – Customer Service for the NOW Generation

In the evolving world of direct interactive marketing, we are faced with great challenges and opportunities brought on by innovative digital communication technologies.  The combination of the internet and mobile devices has created a world where we have all become accustomed to having every bit of information we need right at the tip of our fingers.  And when – for some reason – we are unable to find the information we need right away, it is actually a bit unsettling.

So why is it that when making a request for information online, consumers wait on average 48-72 hours for a response?  This may have been appropriate ten, or even five years ago.  But today, we are committing a marketing sin if we allow a customer or potential customer to wait any length of time for information about our products and services.  The technology is out there that allows us to be able to reach out to those customers immediately – drastically improving customer service and maximizing our potential to make a sale, because we have contacted the consumer when their interest in the product or service is at its peak.

Technological innovation enables us to satisfy the NOW generation

At InfoCision, we have invested Rapid Response Routingin a proprietary service for our clients called Rapid Response Routing (R3), which increases response time by creating a continuous flow for the request, eliminating the time-consuming process of manually pulling customer information. So when a consumer on your website clicks to request more information, their contact information is sent directly to InfoCision’s system, which pings the self-reported  data  against our national consumer database to append additional demographic, psychographic and transactional information. If it’s part of the campaign strategy, the data can be scored to produce a customized offer. The information is sent to the most qualified InfoCision Communicator who calls them – and all within a minute or two of the consumer making the online request. The results have been tremendous – but don’t just take my word for it…

A recent case study on R3 shows how impressive the results have been for one of our valued clients.  Prior to InfoCision handling the program, the client’s average callback time for internet requests was several hours or longer. After Rapid Response Routing (R3) was implemented, 90 percent of online requests were responded to in less than 3 minutes – with an average callback time of 2.75 minutes. This surpassed the client’s goal of having 80 percent of their customers called back in 3-5 minutes. In addition to the remarkably fast average response time, R3 also increased efficiencies and sales by creating a positive customer experience that allowed for upsell and cross sell opportunities. These additional sales helped to reduce the cost per unit by 26 percent.

Click here to view a webinar on Rapid Response Routing (R3).

This is just one example of a service we’ve created to satisfy today’s NOW generation across vertical segments, including education, financial and other commercial markets. Companies that want to thrive into the future must find ways to reach their customers and potential customers in a fast and meaningful way.  I’d be interested to hear from any readers how you are finding ways to get people the information they need NOW.

Data and its impact on customer experiences

In business, there are few things as important as a customer’s experience. The customer service you provide has a huge impact on the overall perception people have when dealing with your organization. Often times, companies and organizations have collected plenty of data on their customers and donors, but are unsure what exactly to do with it.  Here at InfoCision, we have access to more information than ever, with a database that includes 205 million records, 132 million households and 40 million distinct phone numbers. We are able to take that data, and that of our client’s to create a great customer experience. Advances in technology are bringing companies and their customers closer together but how to go about doing that can seem overwhelming, so that’s why I recently sat down with InfoCision Vice President of IT Client Services Mike Herston to get a better understanding of this “big data” and how it can be used to positively impact the customer experience.

Using data to add a personal touch – Mike Herston

Wouldn’t you love to learn more about the customers you’re calling or those who are calling you? Determine the best time to call? Map their purchasing behavior and patterns? With today’s technology, it is entirely possible. Tests have proven that predictive modeling can have a positive impact on acquisition calls by improving file performance and driving down costs.

InfoCision Vice President of IT Client Services Mike Herston

On one 95,000 call test we conducted, the response rate increased by over 21 percent and the revenue per call increased by over 17 percent (compared to the control). These results were well above the goals for the program, and allowed further penetration into lower-performing records.

Every call is a reflection on your company and an opportunity to build a lasting relationship with your customer. Pre-built statistical models can be used to tailor our Communicator’s scripts using real-time inscription technology that help them focus on the call and building that relationship. We can actually tailor a script based on the fact that we know someone is male or female, or if we know their age range. We can tailor a script to a household that has a presence of children. The whole idea is that it allows us to deliver a script that resonates with the person we’re calling.

When it comes to making things personal, organizing your data can make all the difference. I know from my own experience, I’d much rather have somebody sell me something that’s within my economic means as opposed to something that’s not. It’s also beneficial to know what I’ve purchased in the past so I can be made aware of any offers that are aligned to those types of products or services. Business Intelligence not only allows us to provide a great experience for new customers, but it also helps us rekindle relationships with customers or donors that may be at risk for churn. On a recent campaign for a wireless client where we utilized both Business Intelligence and multichannel strategies, we saw the cost to save a customer drop from $127.04 in the control group to just $14.65 per customer in the test group. While at the same time an additional 138,400 customers were saved.

Companies need to strategically align themselves with partners that can help them leverage the growing amount of data available. We make a lot of calls, and that gives us a lot of past behaviors to model depending on what the client’s goal is. Let me put it this way, we don’t operate on the one-size-fits-all model.

For more information on the Business Intelligence Group or other InfoCision IT services contact Mike Herston at (330) 668-1400 or

Work and Life: A True Balancing Act

It’s important to help employees find a proper work-life balance; a healthy combination of what they do at work and what they do at home with their families

Last week, InfoCision held its annual Fall Festival, where employees bring their children, dressed in costumes, into work to collect candy at 22 stations we have set up around our corporate campus.  This is something we have been doing for several years now and the response from our employees has been great.  As I watched the children and their parents walking from station to station, collecting plenty of sweets along the way, I began to think about how proud I am to be part of a company that encourages work-life balance and what it means to our employees.

work-life-balanceHere at InfoCision, we have always tried to make sure that our employees have a proper work-life balance; a healthy combination of what they do at work and what they do at home with their families.  There’s no question, career is important and requires prioritizing all aspects of life so the family doesn’t suffer.  That’s why we implemented a robust work-life balance initiative here at InfoCision.  The bottom line is, when our employees have family or health concerns, it can be difficult coming to work every day and being productive.  We realize this, and that is why InfoCision provides innovative amenities like on-site doctors’ offices and fitness centers.

Having amenities like these available to our employees helps relieve some of the stress that life often brings, and promotes greater “presenteeism.”  Think about how much time is wasted when an employee has to visit an off-site doctor.  Depending on the travel time, it could take an entire half-day to just get a standard check-up.  Our InfoWellness clinics are a convenient alternative to visiting a doctor, plus if the employee is a member of InfoCision’s insurance plans, it’s free!  During flu season, helping to keep everyone healthy is a priority.  Especially when you have over 4,400 employees, many of whom work in very close proximity to one another.  Each year our on-site clinics provide low-cost flu shots for our employees.  This past flu season we administered close to 1,000 flu shots to help ensure that our people stayed healthy.  Our InfoFitness center helps promote a healthy lifestyle for our employees and we even hold an annual “Weight Loss War,” which is our version of “The Biggest Loser.”  This year employees lost over 2,950 pounds – one and a half TONS!  Our InfoKids Early Learning Center has helped make the decision between working and staying home easier for our employees, and has helped us retain many of our best female employees.  Our working parents can feel a sense of comfort, knowing that their child is in the care of a certified professional at our corporate campus.

When you look at the big picture of things, yes, our amenities are great for our employees and we love being able to provide them.  With that in mind, it also allows our company to be proactive instead of reactive.  Our innovative programs have helped our company lower the cost of insurance premiums, emergency room visits and productivity issues.  When employees are happy and healthy, they’re going to be willing to work harder.  And our clients benefit from the great results our dedicated employees are able to produce.  That is a situation where everybody wins!

InfoCision CFO Dave Hamrick wins CFO of the Year Award

On October 23, InfoCision CFO Dave Hamrick was honored as CFO of the Year in the large private company category, presented by Crain’s Cleveland Business.

Dave Hamrick CFO of the YearLast Tuesday, October 23,  InfoCision CFO Dave Hamrick was honored as CFO of the Year in the large private company category,  presented by Crain’s Cleveland Business. For Dave to have won in a field that included several other talented CFO’s from large local companies is quite an honor, and speaks to the high quality of his work.

I have had the opportunity to work with Dave since he joined our Executive Team here at InfoCision in 2007, and I can’t begin to tell you how much he has made a positive impact, and significantly enhanced our accounting department by fine-tuning accounting methods, expanding financial reporting and improving the budgeting process. The quantity and quality of the work done by Dave and his staff in our accounting department has greatly improved our business overall and his contributions have helped InfoCision maximize profits and reduce expense. He has helped our company to grow over the last few years despite difficult economic conditions.

In the highly complex environment of corporate finance, where more stringent regulations are continuously being enacted, it is essential to have a highly competent CFO like Dave to maintain InfoCision’s compliance leadership in the industry.  I’ve spoken often of the important role compliance plays in teleservices, and the same applies to every corporation’s financial practices.  No matter what your company does, a lack of sound financial leadership would lead to disastrous results.

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Dave for being named CFO of the Year, as it is very well deserved!