Workplace Wisdom

This Is Why Fundraising Calls Are So Annoying!

It’s normal to be annoyed when you’re solicited at home by an organization you don’t know or don’t care about. But being mishandled by an organization you support is irritating too!

A fundraising call I got at home from a paid rep a few weeks ago reminded me, painfully, just how crucial it is that the people who represent your organization don’t detract from your credibility.

Here’s the set-up: After a long, scripted monologue about current political and social horrors and the organization’s severe need for immediate funding to stave off imminent disaster, and many, many thanks for my past generosity, the rep made her “ask.”

Rep: Will you give $300?

LK: No! But I’ll give you $50.

Rep: $50!?! Absolutely!!!

Obviously, the punctuation is mine. But the emphasis was hers.

Keeping It Too Real

The organization’s scripting was classic (as in, old-fashioned, long-winded monologue) and appeared to be headed for the traditional step-down: after the unrealistic first ask, the rep is supposed to ask for roughly half the amount, which an occasional donor may agree to give. If the prospective donor still declines then the third and guilt-inducing ask drops to “what you gave last year” or a smidgen more.

Sometimes it can be a pleasure to hear a skillful rep work through the donation levels, but not in this case. My pattern of donations, although regular, does not in any way suggest that I would give $300, and I could tell that the full experience was going to be both boring and annoying. So I just skipped to the end of the sequence myself.

Maybe the rep was particularly inexperienced, or maybe she had had a particularly crummy day, but she was so startled to get anything at all out of me that she expressed

  • her pleased surprise and willingness to process my donation instead of
  • professional gratitude, acknowledgment of the good my dollars would do, or even her personal thanks.

Truthfully, she sounded somewhat foolishly off-point, as if she didn’t know what the correct response was supposed to be when someone actually makes a contribution, and as if the script didn’t even include polite thanks along with its enormous buildup and off-putting requests.

Absolutely? Not!

I didn’t mind all that much — I do support the nonprofit. I didn’t really hold it against the rep, either. She sounded like a complete novice, and it’s quite likely that no one had coached her not to sound shocked if she got a yes.

But a more sensitive or self-involved donor could have taken the rep’s response as rude; the absurdity of it could have deterred some potential donors from giving. A reasonably skeptical person could wonder if the rep’s phone manner was indicative of the quality of the organization’s work, or worry whether the organization is more competent at managing its funds than its fundraising interactions.

Mindless responses only serve to remind people just why they can’t stand phone reps or sales or fundraising.

You’ll try to do better, won’t you?

Onward and upward,

LK

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