23 January 2011

helpful advice for fund-raisers in the arts

Here it is: I am not kidding when I tell you not to call me.

Perhaps some dimwit consultant has told you that calling helps establish human contact, thereby presumably rendering me more likely to donate. Unless the human contact you're looking for includes irritation and harassment, which, I should point out, make me less likely to give, even to groups I generally support, then please consider that bad advice.

I generally solve this problem by not answering my phone (leading to occasional awkwardness when I do pick it up and it's someone I know who was clearly hoping for voicemail). But some of these groups also have my work number, where I am generally expected to pick up the phone when it rings. And no matter what I say, they keep calling.

I tell them I never pledge money over the phone. ("Oh, why not?" one asked. "Because then people keep calling," I explained, before hanging up.)

I tell them I prefer to donate when I renew a subscription. They seem to think that, since they are so worthy, I should donate on their schedule, not my own.

I tell them that they can send me something in the mail or through e-mail. They then call back to follow up on what they sent.

I do actually donate to arts groups, which is why I don't just hang up on such callers the way I hang up on those people who call suggesting I really need to refinance my mortgage. Hence the awkwardness! But it's a simple and obvious matter of customer relations: you don't contact customers (that is, people from whom you want money) in a way that is guaranteed to piss them off. I am using many italics in this entry, because I can't emphasize this enough, and arts groups really don't seem to understand this. I've already stopped giving to one group in part because of my irritation at their fund-raising practices. And the past couple of weeks another group, one which I still support (ironically, one I give to because I appreciate how considerate they are to their donors and subscribers) has been harassing me at work with calls, which is making me reconsider my normal donation to this group. (Here's a hint: both of these groups have "Performances" in their name.)

All businesses need occasional reminders not only that the customer is not there for their convenience, but that it's the other way around. If you are working from a phone list it's easy enough to put "do not call" next to someone's name. Seriously. How many ways can I say this? And how many times do I need to say this?


Lisa Hirsch said...

Do you use the magic phrase "Put me on your no-call list"? That is the wording that by law callers must take note of and follow.

Patrick J. Vaz said...

I generally say something like "do not call me" or "I prefer not to receive these calls" -- something that makes my preference clear. Does the wording really have to be exact, as in a magic formula? I would think that anyone of even average intelligence would realize what I mean and that it's counterproductive to call me. Yet still the calls come.

Lisa Hirsch said...

To be perfectly honest, I'm not sure, but I think that using the imperative and the phrase "do not call list" are not subject to any kind of interpretive wiggle, the way "I prefer not to receive these calls" might be weaseled around.

Patrick J. Vaz said...

I have used the imperative (without much success), but I usually say "please." Part of my resentment here is that they're counting on people being polite, so they continue calling despite a clearly expressed preference. And they'll keep talking, counting on people trying to be polite and not just hanging up on them. Even if the magic words aren't used, there really shouldn't be any weaseling or wiggling going on -- continued harassment is not going to persuade me to give them money.