Why some smart donors never give through charity telemarketers

Don’t be a Sucker for charity telemarketers

“Sucker!” is what the Orange County Register calls generous people who donate through commercial charity telemarketers. In its report today, the Register tells us

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 booty – an average of only 37 percent, or $108 million — and the commercial fundraisers kept the rest for themselves.

The presumption approach to charity telemarketers

Charity TelemarketersBased on the all-too-common connection between paid telemarketers and sleazy charities, back in 2009 I adopted the rebuttable presumption that a charity that uses paid charity telemarketers is unworthy of my confidence or support (that is, they don’t get a penny), unless and until the charity rebuts the presumption by providing solid evidence (through its Form 990 and otherwise) that it is worthy, that its use of paid telemarketers is cost-effective and suitable in its overall operations, and that it appropriately uses the moneys entrusted to it. My May 2009 post. Well-managed charities can and do make cost-effective use of their board members and other volunteers in calling donors — that’s quite different from using commercial charity telemarketers.

Do Not Call Registry is no help, plus pre-screening calls

The National Do Not Call Registry does not limit calls by political organizations, charities, or telephone surveyors. Read more about the Registry. At home, we pre-screen our telephone calls using a caller ID display on the phone. If we don’t recognize the caller by phone number or name, we likely won’t pick up.

  • Once in a while, however, a telemarketer gets through at home.
  • And I do get telemarketing calls on my mobile phone.

Today, my approach is simple

There’s no way I want any part of my donated support to pass through the hands of a commercial charity telemarketer. And, I don’t trust charity telemarketers to tell me whether they’re commercial or not. So, if a charity telemarketer gets through,

  • 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.

What do you think?

Does the simple approach work for you? Had different experiences? Have other approaches? Comment or reply below.