Sunday, 16 September 2012


This week I was called by a well known wildlife charity (or rather by a company calling on behalf of them). 

I'm an existing supporter of this charity.  Earlier this year, I had a visit from a door to door fundraiser who suggested I might like to sponsor a tiger.  As it happens I have a little girl and when I was a little girl, I supported the same charity.  I thought that sponsoring a tiger might be a good entry point into her learning  more about conservation and environmental matters.

So I said yes.

"I just ate a caller" - image by Keith Roper

In my case the phrase committed giver is a bit of a misnomer. I'm a bit of an armchair supporter.  I'm not active.  I don't read the mailing packs that arrive through the post. I barely glance at the email that appear in my inbox.  I'm happy to know that my money is going to a credible organisation and a good cause.

I don't really want to chat to anyone on the phone.  There really isn't a good time of day to call me. However, I'm a fundraiser, so I understand the importance of upgrading people by phone.  I have sympathy for it.

Until this call.  The start was okay.  The caller thanked me for my support and asked me why I supported the charity.  So I told him the thing about my daughter etc etc.

And that's where it all went wrong.

My friend on the phone had a script.  Of course he had a script.  He was calling the tiger supporters, he just KNEW that what I wanted to hear about was tigers. Except of course I didn't.  It's not that I have anything against tigers.  I LIKE tigers. I don't want them to be extinct.  I am delighted that my hard earned wages are turning back the tide of extinction.  I'm glad this organisation is doing such a great job - I knew they would be, after all that's why I supported them.

I just didn't need to hear chapter and verse about it.

Only a few moments of my time, he promised.


Mr Tiger Encyclopedia wasn't about to let that happen.  Not when he had so much useful tiger-related information to impart.

"CUT TO THE CHASE," I screamed inside my head.  My noodles were congealing.  My lunch hour was slipping away.

He made the ask.  I said "No thank you, I'm giving as much as I can."

Tiger-man wasn't about to let me get away with that.  Not when there was MORE information he could tell me about tigers.  Another deluge of tiger information and he asked again.  A lower amount.  Again, I said no.

Clearly, thought he, I have not told this woman enough about tigers.  An eternity of tiger monologue later and he asked again.   Again, I said no.

In the end I was beaten.  My desperation to escape Mr Tiger surpassed my firm decision not to increase my direct debit.  I agreed to an increase just to escape.  How much did my stripy friend persuade me to give?   A whole £1 more.

Do I feel good about my gift?  No.   Do I feel pleased or impressed by the work of the charity?  No.


Because the person I spoke to didn't listen to a word I said. 

He didn't listen when I told him why I supported the charity.  If he had, he would have realised that tigers, lovely though they are, had nothing whatsoever to do with my motivation to support this particular charity.   He might have asked me some more questions and found out what really made me tick.

Then he might have said, "interesting you should say that... did you know about....{insert relevant programme}?"

If he had, he might have got the increase he wanted.  He might have got an individual cash gift which was significantly more substantial.

I know this, because when I was called by Nottingham University that's exactly what they got - a committed gift AND a substantial (for me) cash donation. It was a discussion NOT a monologue and the caller wanted to know what I cared about. She listened and found a way for me to support something I loved.  And I didn't even like my university that much.

Now, I know this poor fellow had a script.

So did the Nottingham caller.

I know he might have been nervous.

So was she.

The difference was she listened, responded and treated me like a human and he did not.  How valued does that make me feel as a supporter?

Not at all.  

(thumbs up to Nottingham though - nice job!)



1 comment:

  1. Great to get the thumbs up for The University of Nottingham, thanks Margaret! Of course you are right that our telephone fundraisers do have guidelines or script, but we make a big point of encouraging them to listen to our alumni rather than simply throwing them our version of the 'Tiger Encyclopedia' in the hope that we can bore them into making a donation! All our callers are current students who take great pride at working for their university. They tell us that speaking to former students who have now graduated is a valauable learning experience for them in itself. Kind regards, Simon (Head of Regular Giving, University of Nottingham).