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Nonprofits Face No-Call Fallout Despite Exemption

Though exempt from the national no-call list, nonprofits are treading carefully when making fundraising calls. Still, negative reaction from consumers has been milder than expected.

“Most consumers are so confused by the do-not-call rules, and they think that when they register their numbers that it excludes them from all calls,” said Chip Grizzard, president of direct marketing agency Grizzard, Atlanta. “Then, when they get a call from a charity, a political organization or a company they have done business with, they think it's a violation of the law.”

Grizzard said his nonprofit clients are getting more complaints, particularly in the acquisition area and to a lesser degree in the lapsed-donor category.

“There hasn't really been much of a problem with previous telemarketing contributors,” he said, “but the more detached they are from the organization, the greater the confusion, the greater the number of complaints and the poorer the results.”

Still, Grizzard said his clients had not changed their telemarketing scripts to address the DNC list at the outset. Instead, they provided additional training to the agents so that if the issue arose they either could direct the person to the Web site that gives them the DNC rules or explain the rules to them.

Requests by consumers who ask to be added to the organization's internal do-not-call file are honored, though Grizzard does not advise suggesting it to consumers.

Nick Stavarz, president of Synergy Direct Marketing Solutions LLC, a consulting agency focused on inbound and outbound telemarketing in Akron, OH, favors a different approach by offering to add consumers to the charity's suppress file.

“We would rather be proactive at identifying donors that aren't receptive to phone calls and eliminate them from the list so that in the future you are only calling people who are responsive,” he said. “I've got confidence in people's ability to distinguish between cold calls from firms like long-distance companies and credit card companies and calls from a charity that they support.”

Stavarz said there has been less resistance from consumers than anticipated, though his company is working with nonprofits to contact current and former donors, not on prospecting.

“Initially, I heard a lot of concern from organizations,” he said. “The big question was, 'When the list goes into effect, are nonprofit donors going to be angry because they don't understand the exemptions?' “

Then, the list took effect and the buzz quieted considerably.

“A very small percentage of consumers are surprised to get calls,” he said, “but if it is explained to them that nonprofits are exempt and offer them the chance to be added to the organization's do-not-call list, most of the donors understand and don't ask to be added to the list.”

The DNC list might even help nonprofits doing telemarketing, Stavarz said.

“The people who want to be on the do-not-call list have signed up, and their calls have been cut dramatically,” he said. “If you get a call from a nonprofit in the evening and it's a charity you support, you're going to be a lot more likely to be open to the call and to respond positively if it's not the 10th call you've gotten that day.”

Grizzard said that results are down — especially in acquisition — but that the economy might be playing a role in addition to the DNC list. Even so, he said, organizations have begun to consider shifting marketing dollars into direct mail from telemarketing.

“Within certain segments on the telemarketing side, results are dropping off so much and the feedback is so negative that it doesn't make sense,” Grizzard said.

As a result, there has been a push for some breakthrough direct mail creative to test.

However, he said he did not expect a surge in e-mail acquisition efforts by fundraisers because it's not a viable way to raise money as a prospecting strategy.

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