015 DGM – Who Else Wants to Stop Commercial Charity Telemarketing?

Who Else Wants to Stop Commercial Charity Telemarketing?

Welcome back. This is the podcast that helps you and other donors and volunteers do good even better — regardless of which charities or causes you support. 

This is Ed Long. Each week on this podcast I talk about charities and provide actionable tips to help donors and volunteers to take their philanthropy to the next level and do good even better.

Give smart from your heart, because doing good matters.


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Main topic

  • Who Else Wants to Stop Commercial Charity Telemarketing?Charity Telemarketing
    • We’re talking again today about the smart part of Give Smart from Your Heart.
    • In our current community survey, people tell us repeatedly that they hate charity telemarketing calls.
    • The beef is with commercial telemarketers. I think most folks would distinguish commercial telemarketing from that done by charity volunteers.
    • The Orange County Register reported this week that in 2012 in California 37% of money raised by commercial telemarketers went to the charities. That means that biggest beneficiary of commercial charity telemarketing is the commercial fundraisers.
      • “Sucker!” is what the Orange County Register calls generous people who donate through commercial charity telemarketers.
    • Read the SGO post on this topic.
    • 37% is an average, of course. There are some charities that get more, and other charities that get less from their relationships with commercial telemarketers.
    • Last June, we did a review of Shiloh International Ministries. It’s a nonprofit and a charity.
      • Shiloh’s stated mission focuses on helping needy children, the homeless and hungry, veterans, children’s hospitals and Christians. Its spending suggests a different focus: For every $1 it spent on programs, Shiloh spent more than $20 on fundraising and more than $4 on administration.
      • About 94% of reported revenue that came via outside fundraising organizations (six are named) hired by Shiloh to conduct telephone campaigns. The six named organizations collected $535,655 in the name of Shiloh, and turned over $80,489. That means 85 cents of every dollar raised stayed in the fundraisers’ pockets.
      • Read our report on Shiloh.
    • The National Do Not Call Registry does not apply to charity telemarketing.
    • I think about commercial charity telemarketing like this: When I give $1 through the commercial charity telemarketer, the charity will get 37 cents and the telemarketer will use the remaining 63 cents so it can call me back and ask for another $1.
    • My bottom line, simple approach is
      • First, I never give through charity telemarketers (whether they tell me they’re commercial or volunteer).
      • Second, if I have checked out the charity and still find it worthy of support (even though it uses commercial telemarketers) , I’ll give directly to the charity.
    • Your smart and easy assignment for today
      • Prepare a script for when you get a charity telemarketing call that quickly tells the telemarketer that you don’t give to charity telemarketers and that neither the charity nor the telemarketing company should call you again
      • Even easier, pre-screen your calls and don’t pick up if you don’t recognize the name or phone number that shows up.
    • A big part of giving smart from your heart is spending your time and energy on charities that are well-managed and do strong work. Commercial charity telemarketing not only annoys most of us, it’s a very costly way for a charity to raise money.
  • Had experiences? Have feedback? Share your thoughts  in the Reply / Comment section at the bottom of the page. Or email me at ed[@]seriousgivers.org

Episode sponsor

  • Today’s sponsor is the number 37. 
    • Earlier this week, the Orange County Register (that’s Orange County, CA) reported that commercial fundraisers – the for-profit companies behind the vast majority of those telemarketing appeals for charity donations – raised almost $300 million on behalf of nonprofits in California in 2012, according to figures collected by the state Attorney General.
    • The nonprofits got just a fraction of the money raised– an average of only 37 percent, or $108 million – and the commercial fundraisers kept the rest for themselves.
    • The reported 37% is an average. There are some charities that get more, and other charities that get less from their relationships with commercial telemarketers.
    • But the Orange County Register went so far as calling us Suckers if we give to charity through commercial telemarketers.
    • Read the Orange County Register article.
    • Quick link: You can find information on every nonprofit registered with the IRS at CharityCheck101.org — including its EIN, identity and tax status. All the IRS data, without the kerfuffle.

Your questions answered

  • Question: How did Jane’s $45 donation to Front Range Equine Rescue at CharityNavigator.org end up costing her $52.13?
  • My answer
    • I did some digging and found that CharityNavigator.org provides a donation portal through Network for Good.
    • The extra costs were $2.13 in processing charges and a $5 donation to Network for Good.
    • Jane was surprised and I think the advance disclosure on the CharityNavigator.org site could have been a lot more prominent.
    • It also turns out that if Jane had gone directly to the Front Range Equine Rescue site, her $45 donation would have cost her $45.
  • Lessons learned
    • If you’re going to use the convenience of a donation portal, make sure you check the charges before you complete the donation.
    • Look to the charity’s own site for a less expensive way to make a donation.

Share your questions and feedback

I’d love to hear from you. I read every comment and email.

  • Send a voicemail using the black tab on the right side of any page.
  • Use the reply / comment box below.
  • Send me an email at ed[@]seriousgivers.org.

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About Ed Long, the podcaster

Podcaster Ed Long has been preparing more than 40 years to do this podcast. He knows charities and the rules that apply to them. He’s analyzed charity finances and operations.  He’s founded and run charities, and volunteered for them. He’s helped the public and law enforcement fight fake charities, and has served as a philanthropy educator and coach. Before all that he worked as a partner with a major Wall Street law firm. Ed is the founder and CEO of SeriousGivers, which itself is a charity. Ed knows the great work that strong charities can do with the resources entrusted to them, and is passionate about helping others find and support strong charities.