12 September 2012

Telemarketers Exploit Charitable Giving

An investigative piece by David Evans for Bloomberg uncovers how the telemarketer InfoCision Management Corp. is raising millions of dollars for charities by lying. The long piece looks heavily into the practices of the firm such as the tactics employed to trick people into giving. What stands out is that when people were explained what was happening, their anger was directed at the charities for using firms that employ deceptive tactics.
The vast majority of funds Patterson, her neighbors and people like them throughout the country would raise -- almost 80 percent -- would never be made available to the Diabetes Association. Instead, that money collected from letters sent to neighbors would go to the company that employed Robin and an army of other paid telephone solicitors: InfoCision Management Corp
Just 22 percent of the funds the association raised in 2011 from the nationwide neighbor-to-neighbor program went to the charity, according to a report on its national fundraising that InfoCision filed with North Carolina regulators.
 Major charities have used InfoCision's services to raise money.
The American Cancer Society, the largest health charity in the U.S., enlisted InfoCision from 1999 to 2011 to raise money. 
In fiscal 2010, InfoCision gathered $5.3 million for the society. Hundreds of thousands of volunteers took part, but none of that money -- not one penny -- went to fund cancer research or help patients, according to the society’s filing with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service and the state of Maine.
The story highlights the problem with charity fundraising and connects to communications. People are trusting of charitable organizations and InfoCision takes advantage of that trust.
Telemarketing companies representing charities know that people more often give with their hearts than with their heads. On its website, InfoCision says: “Telephone purchases and donations are made on impulse. These are dictated not by reason or logic but by feelings of emotion. We are very familiar with the emotions of fundraising: sympathy, fear, anger, guilt, etc.” 
There’s one tactic the InfoCision website doesn’t cover: deception. The ruse begins with the name that flashes on your caller ID when a telemarketer is phoning on behalf of a charity. It’s the charity’s name that often shows up, not that of the telemarketing firm.
Watch Evans talk more about his report:

And listen to him on NPR.