What's in a word?

Beware of Behalf!


There has been a recent change in the presentations made by professional fundraising telemarketers. Many are now beginning their spiels with, “I am calling on behalf of  xyz charity” . It's a pretty dramatic departure from what has been the usual approach whereby  telemarketers would say, “I am calling from xyz charity.” In the past call centre mangers have even been known to admonish the use of “on behalf” because it may alert the member of the public to the caller's third party status. This is to be avoided because it introduces the thorny issue of how much of the public's money is going to charity and how much is going to a marketing business and whether it's any of the public's business anyway. It's desirable for the industry to leave in place and support the public's ignorance of the process and allow them to think that they are donating most if not all their money to charity.

Why is it that the same people who bent over backwards to conceal their role are now making a small concession to candour? A telemarketing company in NSW was subject to press attention last year (2013) which uncovered some of the practices that typify the industry including the one of false identification. Word gets around and this has likely put the wind up some of the professional fundraising firms which are sometimes affected by interbreeding.

It was predictable  that this half-way change would take place. Half-way? Meaning that “calling on behalf of”  can be seen as seeming to do the right thing, yet the cunning of it is that given the unsophisticated nature of telemarketing consumers coupled with the trusting nature of the public toward charity, “on behalf of” is not likely, for practical purposes, to actually give much away. Calling “on behalf of” to many will just sound like the person is calling from the charity. While being interviewed by a TV reporter the owner of the disgraced NSW professional fundraising company was presented audio evidence of the false representation made by his telemarketer and responded that their "normal practice" was to say “calling from (name of the company) on behalf of (name of charity)”. However a hard copy script later exposed this as not true. The point here is that even the owner of this disgraced professional fundraising outfit admits that the correct procedure is to disclose the role & relationship of the marketing business with the charity. But that is not what the professional fundraisers who have adopted the “on behalf of” approach are doing. The are leaving out the name of the company. Experience of the industry indicates that after the initial “on behalf”  introduction, a telemarketer driven by commission may say anything to manipulate the member of the public into a sale and this can include misappropriating the identity of the charity e.g. "we" are doing this and that to make your world a better place.

Fundraising watchers, well aware of the cunning, deceptive and mercenary methods of the industry were confidently able to predict this development.