Further to my recent article about the DMA’s new 5 Principle Code to ensure honest and fair marketing, I watched Channel 4’s Dispatches from a couple of weeks ago over the weekend ‘How to stop nuisance calls’ (I recorded it!)
The programme dealt with charities that out-source their telephone fundraising campaigns to private telemarketing companies.
When telemarketing goes right
UK charities have had their funds boosted by 2 billion pounds since the advent of telephone fundraising. It is an easy way for people to support the charities they are interested in. When done right, donations are sought through a clearly defined and transparent script that ensures the potential benefactor knows exactly what is being asked of them and can opt-out at any time and not be bothered again.
When it goes wrong
The regulatory board, The Fundraising Standards Board have reported a 26% increase in complaints over the past year. The Institute of Fundraising offers clear guidelines on best practice that do not always seem to be adhered to. Alas responsible marketing is something that not everybody takes seriously.
When a call becomes a nuisance
The programme featured a vulnerable man with Alzheimer’s who was seemingly hounded for donations and an old lady who took to hiding her phone in her airing cupboard as she was getting 5 or 6 calls A DAY from charities either asking for money or upping her donations.
It transpires through some undercover reporting that quite often if data is given to one charity it goes into ‘a pot’ so becomes available to any charity these telemarketing companies represent and so recipients begin to receive multiple calls from multiple charities.
If I want to donate to the Red Cross, I do not expect my details to be shared with Guide Dogs for the Blind. Not that they are any less laudable as a cause, but the guilt at saying no must be quite troubling for some people. Transparency and ease of understanding are needed so that the public is aware how their data is being used.
When a yes means no
Calls where a person has declined to make an immediate donation, the caller marks them as ‘soft no’ or ‘hard no’. This is completely fine as a soft ‘no not yet’ means contact at a later time may be more appropriate. However, there seems to be a distinct lack of sensitivity in this area, as evidenced by a woman saying her daughter had cancer and she couldn’t deal with it just then. Apparently, this is classed as a ‘soft no’ and so she remains on the system to be contacted by all the charities ad nausea. Does that constitute responsible marketing, I ask?
Hitting your Target
Financial targets for call centre staff is only an issue if, as was seen, it compels staff to be more aggressive in their approach, to not accept a no for an answer and if they start to steer away from the very clear guidelines and regulations set out.
A charitable gain
It seems clear that charities who out-source their telephone fundraising have to be responsible in tracking how those donations are sought in line with their own strict guidelines.
Telemarketing has proved to be a very effective way to raise funds but the whole industry will be brought into disrepute if some call-centres ride roughshod over the codes of practice that are there to protect the consumer.
Seyi Rhodes remarked in his closing comments that Britain is a very generous nation when it comes to fundraising, so it’s best not to alienate them. Alienating your client base, in whatever industry, is never going to be productive.