Thursday, March 3, 2016

When Charities Become Telemarketers

The ones in the middle
are phone spam too.
I know that fundraising is hard. I understand that charities need money with which to pursue their missions. I would ask them not to follow the example of spam and scam telemarketers. But they do.

Looking over my phone records since the beginning of the year, I find that there are two phone numbers, both of which exceeded the number of calls that I received in the same time period on our home phone from my own husband. I actually like talking to him. When he calls me, it’s usually for a reason that I’m interested in. And he almost never calls and hangs up if I don’t answer (sometimes he calls my cell phone, because unlike telemarketers and fundraisers, he knows my cell phone number).

Although I tend to ignore phone numbers with weird names, call enough, even if you don’t leave messages and my curiosity and ire might actually get the better of me, as I entertain the fantasy that the person who keeps calling me every freaking day and doesn’t leave a message on the answering machine might actually listen if I tell them that in my opinion that their calls have crossed the line into misuse of the telephone.

Now I’m naming names. When the caller ID said “GORDEN SCHWEN,” the caller was a fundraiser for Emily’s List. When caller ID said “Aptela, Inc.” the caller was a fundraiser for the Jewish Reconstructionist Communities (though I do believe the caller used the older name, the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation).

Now, let us talk phone etiquette.
Dear telemarketer,
Your job, as you call telephone numbers is to leave a clear and courteous message when you reach an answering machine. I do realize that you are undoubtably using robodialers and so calls that reach answering machines do not actually reach a fundraiser. This is not my fault, nor does it clear you of your obligation.

I would also note, in this day and age, that for those of us who are not telemarketers, yes, it is okay to occasionally call someone, get their answering machine, and simply hang up. If you make a frequent practice of this, you might want to rethink the way you treat your friends.

Instead of asking for your desired caller, it is incumbent on the person who has made the call to introduce themselves. Your first line isn’t “is this Mr. Dumas,” but “this is [your name] calling from [the organization you purport to represent].”

For that last thought, these telemarketers do a poor job of representing the organizations they claim to represent. Honestly, we should all simply make a practice when a caller’s first line is to interrogate you as to your identity to say, “who the hell wants to know?” I do sometimes say, “you should be introducing yourself first.”

In a nine-day period, we received seven calls from “Gordon Schwen.” This is short for Gordon And Schwenkmeyer, a telemarketing firm. According to, in the 2016 election cycle, Emily’s List has paid $204,204 for fundraising. It would be lovely to think that the person calling you is a volunteer dedicated to furthering the mission of Emily’s List, but no, she’s a paid fundraiser. Their January campaign came up as “List E,” and they called twice.

Likewise, it would have been nice if the woman who said she was from the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation had been Jewish. Reconstructionist Judaism is fairly liberal in synagogue membership, in that non-Jewish partners of Jewish members are accorded full membership. Let’s be honest, she wasn’t in that category. And their phone number, oddly enough, is one that according to a Google search, has been used for scams. “Aptela, Inc.” called ten times before I told them to leave me alone. I can’t tell you who does the fundraising for the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation, but man can they nudge.

Both are fine organizations, but both have trouble with how they do their telemarketing. It may be efficient, but it’s also wrong. I call upon both organizations to review their fundraising practices. I am sure that they are not alone in what they are doing, and the telemarketing firms they have hired undoubtably do more of the same for other clients. That does not make it right.

Seventeen phone calls from two telemarketers during the month of February 2016 shows that there’s a real problem with how these charities are doing their business. I am reaching out to both of these organizations for their reactions. But maybe they ought to respond by e-mail, because I just don’t think they can be trusted with a telephone.
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  1. Thanks for this! I have often paid into Emily's List and had already been told that "Gordon Schwen" is the marketer for that group. Because they have made DOZENS of these calls to my house, I will refrain from ever sending funds to them again! I answered once and explained that I had received mail and would possibly respond in that way. The person talked over me and I hung up the phone.

    1. We don't give a hoot to these annoying calls; total waste of time.

  2. Thanks for posting."Gordon Schewn" is but one of many calls I get repeatedly, often on behalf of groups I support. But I don't need incessant, disguised phone calls -- those might make me question where my money goes and change my mind about my support.

  3. I've blocked old Gordon for a couple of years now using a cheap modem and Phone Tray -a free app. Gordon called one day and I "blocked" him. Now when the poor man (machine) calls, my computer answers, plays Gordon the standard "this number is disconnected" message (I can record my own missive if I like) and hangs up on HIM! I get real satisfaction every time the phone rings once; I know I've nuked another telemarketer. There's also the free Nomorobo if you don't want any hardware (this is great for Grandpa who wouldn't know a computer if it bit him in his good ear).

  4. Gordon Schwen calls incessantly for a variety of causes, despite my repeated requests to take me off the list. I strongly urge anyone who is bothered by them to file a complaint with the FTC, as that is the only thing that will get their attention. I have filed three so far.

  5. I tell them that I never give money to organizations that call me on the phone. They generally don't call again after that.


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