DMA Members Answer Call for Disaster Relief

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Marketers wasted no time responding to a call-to-action from the Direct Marketing Association for help with disaster relief efforts after Tuesday's terrorist attacks against the United States.


At the same time, the American Teleservices Association is organizing call center operators to help with an outbound telemarketing effort to raise money and encourage blood donations to the American Red Cross.


A day after the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, the DMA sent e-mails to its member companies urging them to contribute services, goods and money to charities involved in helping the victims in New York City and Washington.


"We think this is a time when our industry needs to pull together and demonstrate that we are part of the vital nonprofit fundraising sector," the e-mail read.


DMA members agreed.


"We've had an outpouring of response in terms of people donating services, goods and supplies or cash. As a result of that e-mail we've probably received well over 100 responses already," DMA president/CEO H. Robert Wientzen said.


Though Wientzen would not name any of the companies, members already have donated "several hundred thousand dollars."


Aside from monetary donations, direct marketing companies have offered to donate telemarketing services, creative services, processing services and database services.


"Virtually every segment of the industry has responded with offers to help," he said.


The DMA is working with the Red Cross, The Salvation Army and United Way, which he said are all planning major direct marketing fundraising efforts.


"We believe that most of the offers of help will go to them to help them conduct those campaigns," Wientzen said. "We're going to continue to try to bring together the volunteers and the charities."


Gary Discount, vice president of business development for Tele-Response Center, Philadelphia, said several members of the Mid-Atlantic chapter of the ATA have already expressed interest in volunteering agents and call center time for the effort. A regional pilot telemarketing campaign was planned for Saturday, and if successful a full national campaign will start next week, Discount said.


"The telemarketing industry gets a black eye every time you turn around," Discount said. "I was thinking that if there was anything we could do as an industry, we should be doing it. No one can get the word out faster than telemarketers."


Discount did not have a confirmed list of companies that were volunteering, but said he expected the effort to be "massive." Discount is inquiring with large database and list providers, including infoUSA, to obtain lists of potential donors.


Telemarketing agents, all of whom will be volunteers themselves, will call consumers asking them to send monetary donations to the Red Cross by calling a toll-free number, visiting a Red Cross Web site or by mailing a check. They will also encourage people to donate blood.


The four call centers operated by Discount's company will participate. The centers, which specialize in nonprofit fundraising, were closed Tuesday in the wake of the disaster but have renewed operations at the request of some clients.


Discount can be reached by e-mail at discountg@teleresponse.com.


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