Telemarketing Kills Charity

Do not call.  This means you.Unless I am expecting a call, I try to avoid answering the home phone.  9 times out of 10, it’s a solicitor – telemarketer seeking funds for a charitable organization usually, but sometimes a company conducting a poll.  If I have the energy, I ask to be taken off the organization’s call list (a strategy that does not always work).  If I don’t, then I hang up in the 2-second silence preceding the telemarketer’s voice.

I wish charitable organizations would not punish their supporters with these phone calls.  As a “thank you,” I’d much prefer to be contacted via mail or email.  Wouldn’t you?  In response to such rudeness, I’ve stopped giving to organizations that phone me at home. (I maintain a list by the phone.)  This isn’t an entirely effective strategy.  First, some organizations refuse to stop calling you even after repeated requests. The most egregious is the Sioux Nation Relief Fund / Council of Indian Nations (according to the American Institute of Philanthropy, these two groups are affiliated). While I support the rights of First Nations peoples, I will never give to these charities ever again.  We’ve been asking them to take us off their list for years.

The second reason that this approach isn’t entirely effective is that I end up withholding support for truly outstanding organizations.  It truly pains me that Doctors Without Borders phoned me last September.  To provide medical care to those in need, this group goes into countries that the Red Cross deems too dangerous. For their work, Doctors Without Borders won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1999.  I’d been a regular donor for years, and then after this call… I stopped.  To their credit, the group has honored my request not to be phoned at home – I’ve received no further calls.

So.  What to do?  Before you suggest the national “Do Not Call List,” I’m already on the list.  Read the fine print: Charitable organizations to which you have given are exempt.

I think I need to institute some sort of review period.  Egregious offenders will remain off my giving list indefinitely, but those organizations who honor my request not to be contacted at home should have a second chance.  If, say, a couple years pass without a call from the offending organization, then I could put it on probation – that is, I resume giving, but let them know that further phone calls will result in the termination of my support.

Finally, I realize that it may strike readers as a bit churlish (or just downright mean!) to withhold support in order to discourage unwanted phone calls.  I’m sure that some – indeed, probably most – of you have more patience and charity than I do.  Beyond the rudeness, the issue for me is time.  I get at least one of these calls (and usually more) every single day.  And I’m very, very busy.  I don’t have time for all of the important things in my life, much less the unimportant ones.

Final note: I wrote this post about six weeks ago, but debated whether or not I should post it.  (I do not upload every blog post I write.)  I didn’t want to discourage charitable giving.  Nor, for that matter, did I want to encourage selfishness.  But, just now, I received two telemarketing calls at the same time – I had to put one on hold to answer the other.  And, so, I thought… you know, perhaps this method of solicitation has gone too far.  Thus, I’ve posted.

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  1. Teya Rosenberg


    You are not alone. I got caller ID because I was so weary of such calls. Giving to charities is important, but I’ve got no patience with the rhetoric of, or time taken by, those fundraising calls.

  2. Reply


    Totally agree. Dane and I have stopped giving to several deserving organizations who insist on calling us after we’ve asked them not to do so (one called at 8:30 am when I had family in town). It seems charities are behind the technology times by still using the phone. Like you I’d prefer an email. I’ve responded to several with donations this way.

    Thanks for posting what I have been feeling!


  3. Sara Austin


    We refuse to give to the police benevolence fund for this reason. We were receiving 2 or 3 calls a dy for several weeks after repeatedly asking them and to call and stating future calls would result in a termination of support.

  4. Reply

    Thanks Sara, Jen, and Teya. I still admit to mixed feelings about this post (such a First World Problem — complaining about being harassed by charities!). But the relentlessness (to say nothing of the heedlessness) of these calls has taught me to be less charitable. And, though it may ultimately reduce the telephone harassment, less charitable giving is not a good thing.

    And Sara: We had exactly the same experience upon moving to Manhattan, KS! They called, we gave, and then got on the calling list for several related charities… and it took us years to be taken off those lists. But never again will I give to them! Which, again, is sad… because law enforcement is a really tough job. I suppose we should follow Teya’s example, and get caller ID. Sigh.

  5. Maria Nikolajeva


    Phil, the problem is not irritating phone calls, but the fact that 90% of your donations go to admin and never reach the target.

  6. Justin Stiles


    One of the ones that bugs me the most often (via phone, email and post) is the KSU Foundation. I’m just as proud as any other alumnus from K-State, and I bleed purple, but I just don’t have the money to donate. Right now I’m working as a substitute teacher while I search for a full time teaching position, and my wife is getting paid less than half of a competitive wage for her job.

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  8. Sibyl Smirl


    Sioux Nation Relief Fund: Maybe it’s just the one telemarketer who called me, but I don’t give by credit card over the phone. First I laughed at her when she asked me for 100 dollars, more than I had. I said clearly that it wouldn’t be that much, but I might give something. Kept arguing when I said I wasn’t going to pledge anyway, I don’t make promises that I might not be able to keep, insisted I get their “packet” in the mail for this particular cause, instead of sending it in one of their other mailers that were on my kitchen table, and then, when that particular packet came (with the picture of the telephone on the outside for the illiterate, it said that I’d _pledged_ $100. Did they think that I’d forget what I’d said?

  9. john jackson


    Why do I feel uneasy getting an unsolicited “Made in China” Christmas stocking from the Sioux Nation Relief Fund??

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