Charity and Telemarketing: Dialing for Dollars, Insider Secrets Exposed

What you really need to know about charity is this: Exactly who is that person on the line calling you, and exactly how much of your money is going to the poor, neglected /abused /starving /mentally handicapped /missing /diabetic /terminally ill child you are giving it to?


The very word gives a huge segment of the population cold chills. Telemarketing as a whole, and telemarketers in particular, are not very popular.

Two words there: professional and fundraiser

Those words are required by law to be used in many states. They let the prospect on the other end of the line know this: that the person who is calling them on behalf of the charity is being paid. These words may or may not be required for your state. 

If in doubt, ASK

It is illegal in all states for the telemarketer to lie if asked directly “Are you being paid to make this call?” Although we will try to wiggle around it if we can…I’ve been known to make jokes about it such as, “Yes, but not that much, hehehe” or “Only once a week” and jump right back into the presentation. Actually, the best telemarketers at the company  New hires do start out at minimum wage, and turnover is extremely high. You don’t really need to know how much the person calling you makes, but you do need to ascertain whether or not they are paid at all.

The next question for you to ask your friendly neighborhood professional fundraiser is this one, and be firm about it too! 

“Exactly how much of my money goes to the organization, and how much goes to the company doing the fundraising?” 

There is a surprising amount of wiggle-room on this question, so be sure to listen to the answers you are receiving and determine if you have truly been answered. We have a list of questions and what we call rebuttal statements to use to answer them. These rebuttals are designed specifically to make you feel comfortable about the answer to your question, when in reality sometimes you haven’t been answered at all! 

For instance: After all overhead expenses are paid, including over ____million telephone calls made on their behalf, _______charity received over $550,000 last year! That was more than enough to fund over half of their program events and allow ____ new members to benefit from the program! Then we are trained to jump right back into our presentation and close the sale.

Here’s one that would make you absolutely ill if you knew it happened: 

When the customer insists on providing a percentage, let them know you would be happy to mail them out a copy of the financial statement for the particular charity and let them look it over for themselves. 

Sounds great until you think about it. 

What the customer never realizes, and what some professional fundraisers may not even realize, is that the financial statement hasn’t got a thing to do with what we are doing.

It’s the overall picture of the charity as a whole, not of what we specifically do for them. Our piece of the pie looks comparatively small when it is put into perspective by the rest of the fundraising and donations the charity receives on its own. 

For example, one charity uses only about 19% of its overall monies on fundraising, leaving 81% for program use. But when you look at our fundraising program specifically, that number is much worse. The charity only actually receives 45% of the money WE raised for it. And honestly, 45% is a good number. Some of the programs only get 13% or 9%. It’s unreal.

The bottom line: some organizations wouldn’t be able to get by without us telemarketers. 

To equip any call center with the kind of systems we have in place costs millions of dollars, and most charities would not have the dedicated staff of volunteers required to fundraise for the programs day in and day out, 5 days a week, rain or shine, like we do for them. Without us, a lot of these programs would wither away into obscurity. That, however, does not change the ugly truth: A lot more of your money goes into other people’s pockets than the friendly caller would like you to believe.

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