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Editor-in-chief

Outrageous Hope

By Margaret Battistelli

About Margaret

Margaret's life in six words: Bountiful blessings, glorious chaos ... glitter included. 

Margaret has been with FundRaising Success since its inception in 2003. Before joining the magazine as its founding editor, she was an editor and writer for America Online; published PhillyFeast, a monthly magazine about food in and around Philadelphia; and held chief editor positions at a variety of newspapers and magazines in the Philadelphia area. She is a graduate of Temple University in Philadelphia. Contact her at mbattistelli@napco.com.

 

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Navigating Off the Napkin

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Outrageous Service—Why It’s a Must in Major Gift Fundraising
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It's Your Turn

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It’s There—Waiting for You
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Digging Deeper

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Are You in Their Head?
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Say My Name

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Over the past two days I've received two similar calls on my landline. They came from different numbers. Here's how they went:

Phone rings, I answer.

Me: Hello.

Silence. Then some clicking.

Me: Hello?

More silence and some background noise, then the caller responds.

First call, a man says, "Oh, hello, Arianna."

Me: I'm sorry, you must have a wrong number.

Caller: Well, wrong name but right number. Who am I speaking to?

Me: Who am I speaking to?

Caller: This is Joe from [name of nonprofit organization] …

Me: I'm sorry, Joe. I don't make donations on the phone. Could you please remove me from your list?

Joe: Could you let me talk to you about …

Me: I don't make donations on the phone. Thank you. (Click)

Second call, there's the same silence, clicking, background noise. I say hello twice, then a woman says, "Hi, is this Enid?"

Me: No, I'm sorry. You have the wrong number.

Caller: Oh, I'm so sorry for the mistaken name. Who am I speaking to?

Me: Who am I speaking to?

Caller: This is Ann from [name of same nonprofit organization] …

Me: I'm sorry, Ann. I don't make donations over the phone. I asked to be removed from your list yesterday.

Ann: I see. Can I talk to you about …

Me: I don't make donations over the phone. Thank you. (Click)

And it's true. I don't ... with apologies to all the legit telefundraisers out there. But I don't normally hang up so abruptly either. Usually I'll listen and engage long enough to find out what the organization or mission or program is, explain that I don't make donations or pledges on the phone, and ask for the organization's URL. More than likely, I'll check out the website, and if it's something that I want to support, I'll make an online donation.

But the "wrong name" tactic seemed just too cheesy to me (obviously, you got my phone number somewhere but my name wasn't attached to it) — and so shady that I was actually surprised to find out that the organization in question seems legitimate and its mission quite worthy and noble.

The first guy was just rude, and his tone smacked distinctly of, "How dare you question me." The second caller was sweet as can be, but I was still turned off.

I'm wondering what our readers think about this telemarketing icebreaker? If it had been one call, I'd think it was a matter of the caller reading the name wrong or reading a name from further down on the list, or maybe it was the name of a person who had had this number five years ago.

But two calls from the same organization within days of each other, claiming to be calling for people named Arianna and Enid? I just felt manipulated, which made me question the ethics of the organization the callers said they represented. Or if not the ethics, then at least the way that organization views its donors and the relationship it has with them. And I'm very close to the fundraising sector and have the utmost respect for the people who have devoted their careers to it. Imagine how someone who already distrusts fundraisers and fundraising might feel — and unfortunately, that's a large part of the public.

Tell me — did I overreact? Is this a standard practice in the telefundraising toolkit that I didn't know about? I kind of don't think so. Or was it just a poor choice of technique on the part of the organization, call center or both? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

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