The memory came flooding back last week as I read Tom’s post on telemarketing

… I had just made what I felt was a mighty effective case for a major gift from the CEO of a major American company and was absolutely startled when he said “No, I won’t give!”

Shocked, I asked him, “Why?” His response: “I won’t give because of minced pie.” Dumbfounded, I just looked at him, then found my tongue. “What in the world does minced pie have to do with giving to our alma mater?” I wondered out loud.

“Absolutely nothing,” he said. “But when you don’t want to give, one excuse is as good as another.”

And so it goes with telemarketing, Face2Face, long letters, bold messaging … you name it. For the pathetic reason that all too many fundraisers lack the knowledge, energy, skill, discipline and guts to effectively employ proven techniques, the techniques themselves are now savaged and dismissed.

Minced pie rationalization takes over. Funds are lost. Missions fall short. Shame on us.

I’m not arguing with the points Lisa Sargent, whose work I admire, made in last week’s post. Poorly prepared and executed telemarketing harms, not helps. But as Mary Cahalane pointed out in her comment to that post, it can also “do a lot of good for an organization”.

What worries me is not the dismissal of telemarketing per se, but the fact that many techniques — effective and proven when applied with the appropriate training, monitoring and evaluation — are dismissed out of hand because they make some fundraisers, CEOs or boards uncomfortable. Or worse yet, because fundraisers themselves “personally don’t like” the technique.

Is it because our ranks are filled with the faint of heart? Have we given in to the bottom line plague of artificial good taste and self-important dignity? In short, have we abandoned ‘active’ channels in favor of the safe and passive?

Or is it because we haven’t invested nearly enough in briefing, training and monitoring. When’s the last time you or your CEO gave an inspiring briefing at the call center, or stood on a street corner cheering on a Face2Face canvasser? My guess is that the answer is ‘never’ or ‘seldom’. Too many fundraisers and their consultants order up telemarketing and Face2Face donors just like they buy printing or envelopes, and then wonder why the techniques fall short.

Properly executed ‘active’ channels like Face2Face and Telemarketing are mighty powerful and, in fact, reinforce the urgency and importance of many causes. As my friend and Canadian fundraiser David Love points out, “No one has ever made a wet dash out of the bathtub to open a letter, but they have to answer a ringing telephone.”

Heaven help our sector if the timid and slothful prevail. By failing to properly employ proven techniques simply because they might be criticized, or by failing to invest the time and energy in the proper training and monitoring that holds vendors accountable, fundraisers will have earned the poor performance we all bemoan.


P.S. Tomato vs. Tomatoe. Mince Pie vs. Minced Pie. For our UK readers this holiday treat is  ‘Mince’.  For the editors, ‘Minced’. Either way, delicious.

P.P.S. To further hone your pro and con arguments for or against telemarketing you might want to revisit a few of our past telemarketing posts, here and here and here (especially the postscript sources), proof positive of the evergreen nature of this debate.


This article was posted in: Nonprofit management, Telemarketing.
You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.