New Charity Rules Weigh on Some Telemarketers

Nonprofit telemarketers expressed gratitude at having dodged the national no-call registry announced this week by the Federal Trade Commission but said new rules will make it harder to raise money for charity clients.

New nonprofit solicitation provisions in the Telemarketing Sales Rule affect only for-profit telemarketing agencies conducting interstate calls on behalf of nonprofit clients.

Instead of a requirement to abide by the national do-not-call registry, the new TSR provisions require charities that use telemarketing agencies for interstate calls to honor individual consumer no-call requests and maintain their own organization-specific DNC lists, requirements familiar to most telemarketers under the old TSR.

Most nonprofits, even those exempt from the rule, already honor consumer no-call requests, nonprofit telemarketers said.

“We've always maintained an internal DNC list,” said David Lang, president of the Professional Fire Fighters of New Hampshire, whose nonprofit group conducts intrastate calling only. “We don't want to bother somebody who doesn't want to be bothered.”

Nevertheless, that the FTC applied the new rules only to nonprofits that outsource their telemarketing left some outbound calling agencies that specialize in fundraising feeling singled out.

“What's the justification?” said Stuart Discount, president of Tele-Response Center Inc., whose company specializes in charity solicitations. “They're penalizing charities that don't have the resources to do it in-house.”

Though the charity DNC provisions were acceptable to most nonprofit telemarketers, many expressed concern about other rule changes that affect the telemarketing industry as a whole. The rules will trim calling hours from clients, lead to job losses and make it tougher for telemarketers to return substantial percentages of the funds they solicit to charities, telemarketers said.

Ironically, the changes come as government pressures telemarketers to return more of the funds they solicit to the charities for which they work, said Errol Copilevitz, an attorney specializing in fundraising with the Kansas City law firm Copilevitz & Canter. If anything, the new rules increase telemarketer expenses and make that goal harder to reach.

Particularly, the TSR's new call abandonment provisions that limit the use of predictive dialers will hamper charity-telemarketer efficiency, Copilevitz said.

“It's going to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Copilevitz said of a client's reaction to the predictive-dialer rules. “He's going to have to go to manual calls during times when he's not likely to make connections.”

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