“The Reason I’m Calling Is…”

November 10, 2015

 

Last night, right in the middle of a Chicago Bears Monday Night Football game, I got a call that offers a teaching moment.

 

Here’s how the call went:

 

(me): “Hello”

 

(Male voice on the other end of phone): “Uh, hello? Um?”

 

(Me): “Yes, hello. What can I do for you?”

 

(Male voice): “Is Mr. or Mrs. Raskagno available?”

 

(Me): “This is Ron Rescigno.”

 

(Male voice): “This is [unintelligible] calling for [large university nonprofit]. I’m not calling to ask you for money, but to ask you to write about 10-15 letters [he then went on for another minute or so].

 

(Me): “Thanks, but that’s not how we participate in the nonprofits we su…”

 

He hung up on me as soon as he understood that I was saying no. 

 

I took the time during the Bears game to answer the phone. I listened and was interested enough in the organization to start to tell him how I might become engaged and then he hung up…on me!

 

Teaching moment? We trust dozens, maybe even hundreds of people with our philanthropic brand every day. Are you doing all you can to train, engage, and prepare these individuals to be good stewards? Have you put callers on quotas that diminish your value and kill any hope for real discussion? If you’re not addressing these issues, your fundraising may suffer (along with your brand).

 

This guy hanging up on me, made me react. I called the organization back. It’s my guess that management would like to know when their good reputation is being harmed. The 1-800 line provided an opt-out and an option to add my number to the opt-out list. Great, I thought. I won’t be bothered by them like that again. A strange thing then happened. As I entered my phone number for the opt-out, it didn’t register correctly. I tried this a couple of times with the same result.  Finally, the computer figured out the problem.

 

I guess computerized programs fail, but it sure felt like they had the system rigged to make it purposefully difficult to get off of their call list.

 

 

Lesson #2 – You can lose potential donors forever by this kind of error or oversight or worse, pre-meditated strategy. Appearing to be too automated, too computer driven, and too focused on your agenda rather than on your potential donor’s agenda is serious business.

 

This advice isn’t about limiting efforts but your strategy should be in line with your constituency and stay away from gimmicks (and calling on nights when there is a nationally televised Bears game going on).

 

I’m sure you must have stories of similar experiences. Please share yours here.

 

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