Because promoting philanthropy is our life’s work, we felt the need to comment on a series of articles, as well as an editorial that ran in our local newspaper, The Virginian-Pilot, over the past several days on “professional fundraising companies” (i.e., telemarketing firms and professional solicitors, who differ greatly from professional fundraising counsel like The Curtis Group). We applaud The Virginian-Pilot for highlighting the cost associated with these telemarketing companies, as it’s important for people to understand where their money is going when they receive a call from a telemarketer regarding a charitable gift.
While there are some reputable telemarketing firms, many take an extremely high cut (often times as much as 75% or more), leaving the nonprofit with a very small portion of the funds raised. Not only is this a very expensive form of fundraising, but most telemarketing firms are not thoroughly educating donors on the organization. Not to mention, many companies don’t provide their call lists to the nonprofit, leaving staff unable to follow-up and build future relationships with donors. Simply stated, it’s not the way that we believe fundraising should happen.
Should you receive a phone call regarding a gift to a nonprofit organization, before you make any financial commitments we suggest you consider the following:
- Find out who is calling – do they work for the nonprofit or another company?
- Determine where the gift will go and how much of it will actually go to the nonprofit.
- Ask them to send you a copy of their annual report.
- If you are still wary, give online through the website or send a check directly to the organization.
As fundraising counsel, we feel it’s important to emphasize the bigger philanthropic picture beyond what goes on over the phone with telemarketers churning through a list of names. Fundraising is so much more than raising one-time gifts; it’s about increasing the philanthropic support of the community by building long-term relationships with donors that will help to grow and sustain the organization. There are a lot of nonprofit staff and volunteers around the country who are working very hard to raise money the right way, by developing lasting relationships with their supporters. Many of them are not using telemarketing firms and are reaching their fundraising goals every day, evidence of the fact that this bigger picture philanthropy is taking place all around us.