Thursday, June 27, 2013

Charity discovers automated phone system hasn't worked since 2005

Press "1" to get dead voicemail

A live person is answering the phones at Metro’s largest charity for the first time in eight years. The Metro Cancer Trust turned off its automated phone answering system last week after discovering it had been malfunctioning since 2005.

“I always wondered why people didn’t ever call us. In other places I worked I got phone messages, but ever since I started working here I’ve had zip. It made me suspicious,” said new Trust CEO Darling Turner, who took over after long-time CEO Wendy Snidely retired last fall.

A quick check of the automated phone system found that all callers were routed to the same dead voicemail box that no one had checked in years. The staff person who set-up the system in 2008 forgot to update it and the error wasn’t caught until two weeks ago.

“Everyone who called us got switched from one line to another while being forced to listen to 80s hit songs. They all wound up at Steve Larkin’s old voicemail box where they were asked to leave a message. Only trouble is that Steve left the Trust in 2008. There were 12,456 voicemails waiting for him,” said Turner.

Staff tried playing the messages back, but as soon as they told the system to do so it promptly crashed and went offline. The whole system started smoking, forcing staff to call the fire department. It hasn’t been able to work since.

Staff at the Trust initially hailed the system for being both efficient and effective. Long-time fundraiser Diablo Green says she thought the phone system was doing its job.

“When they initially turned it on, the number of calls that I received dropped significantly. I just thought it meant that the really unimportant ones were being routed to someone else. I mean, my spam calls dropped to near zero and I was happy,” she said.

Other staff who complained about the lack of phone calls were assured by IT that the system was working perfectly. Over the years, several donors emailed and even showed up to complain that they could never get through to the Trust on the phone. But these complaints were usually dismissed as being “Old farts who didn’t know how to use a modern phone system”.

The news about the phone system comes on the heels of continuing bad news about the Trust’s poor fundraising performance. Donations to the Trust have been steadily dropping over the last decade.

“This couldn’t come at a worse time. We’ve been losing money. Donations are way down. We’re laying off staff and might have to close. And we simply don’t know why,” said Turner.

In a related story, Trust officials found out yesterday that their Director of Finance’s email had been set to automatic “out-of-the-office-on-vacation” reply for the last two years. As a result, their annual report and tax filings will have to be done all over again.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

New study finds most fundraising consultants consult other consultants about consulting

Consultant who consults other consultants

Researchers have found that most US fundraising consultants hire other consultants to complete most jobs.

The study by the Center for Cool Fundraising Research at the University of Eastern West Virginia found that 77 per cent of the time most fundraising consultants wind up consulting with at least one or more other consultants about their work.

More than 1,000 fundraising consultants were asked how they did their work and who they did it with. Researchers say they were surprised to find out that most fundraising consultants consult with other consultants about consulting.

“We wanted to see what the typical fundraising consultant does all day,” said lead researcher Dr. Dibble Brewer. “We found the obvious things – they make up most of the stuff they say, they like to afternoon naps at the office, that sort of thing. But we were totally surprised that most of them actually consult with other consultants on most projects. Who knew?”

Of those consultants who consulted other consultants, more than half did so on a regular basis. A further 30 percent said they did so once in a while “just for fun”. And the rest said they never in fact did any of their own work.

Even more surprising, a small, but significant number of consultants who say they were consulted by other consultants in turn consulted a second set of consultants about the consulting they were doing for the first set of consultants. About one-in-four consulting projects involve three or more different levels of consultants.

“The consultants that consultants used often consulted with their own consultants,” said Brewer. “In one case, one consultant had five different sets of consultants that they consulted with. In another, one consultant consulted with another consultant who consulted with another consultant who unknowingly consulted with the original consultant. That ended up in litigation.”

The League of US Fundraising Consultants says the report is misleading and paints an unfair picture of the sector.

“We’ve consulted widely about the activity our consultants consult on and there is no problem of over-consulting in the US fundraising industry,” the League said in a written statement released to their 50 million members.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Boy, 11, hires fundraising telemarketing agency to raise money to buy bike


Jimmy, the 11-year old boy who lives down the street, has hired one of the nation’s largest fundraising telemarketing agency to help him raise the $256.27 he needs to buy a new bike.

The agency, Big Invoice, announced the campaign yesterday with a celebrity telethon at the Metro Convention Centre downtown. More than 40 local celebrities were on hand to make the first calls to Jimmy’s parents, family, friends and thousands of Metro residents asking for donations for the new bike, which Jimmy says he needs in order fulfill his desire to fit in with his peers and “be as good as Tony and Ramon”.

The campaign started a month ago, when Jimmy’s dad told Jimmy that he’d have to save up his own money to buy the new full-suspension, entry-level mountain bike. Jimmy’s current bike was a hand-me-down from his older brother Roger and is five years old.

“I was wondering how to get the money for the bike. My dad said I should do some chores for the neighbors to make some extra money. And mom said I should try and get a paper route,” said Jimmy, chair of the campaign. “But then I thought why don’t I just ask people to like donate me the money. Fundraising is easy. I did a Google search and called Big Invoice.”

Big Invoice CEO Terrance Snidely says they immediately recognized the potential for Jimmy’s campaign.

“In all my years of fundraising, I’ve never seen a need such as this. It was so obvious that Jimmy needs a new bike, especially if he’s going to get attention from girls in his school. And the solution was equally obvious – buy him a new bike and change the world. We were sold on day one,” said Snidely.

The Jimmy’s Bike Campaign, which the agency created, plans to raise more than $150 million to over ten
The Bike
years to get Jimmy a bike, plus regular maintenance and classes in biking tricks. The campaign will feature radio and print ads using the faces and voices of famous football stars and those members of the US National Cycling Team not currently in jail for doping violations. The first wave of calls to more than 10,000 people in Metro used a recording of Jimmy talking about the challenge of growing up with a less-than-perfect bike.

So far, the response to the campaign has been very positive. Jimmy’s grandmother, Florence, and the strange neighbour down the street, Boris, have both pledged $10.00.  Jimmy’s dad doesn’t answer calls from telemarketers, but Jimmy’s mom did respond to a campaign fundraising call in a somewhat favourable way. She ended the call by reminding Jimmy to do his chores.

“I’m thinking that I got this in the bag. Soon I’ll have the bike and be the coolest dude in the neighbourhood,” said Jimmy.

“Now, I just need a new game system and I’ll be all set!”

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Stress management workshop too stressful for charity

More than two dozen staff members at Metro’s largest charity have gone on stress leave because of yesterday’s mandatory stress management workshop.

The day-long event at the Metro Community Trust featured stress experts and motivational speakers, as well as a healthy lunch, a yoga session and a free massage. All 100 staff members were required to attend. The Trust closed down its offices for the entire day to ensure staff got the stress relief they required. But by the end of the day, 27 staff members had filed for stress leave and 30 more called the Trust’s Employee Assistance Provider seeking counselling.

“We kept hearing that staff were just totally stressed out about their work, so we came up with this idea of a stress relief day,” said Trust CEO Susie Snidely. “Then, this. We don’t know what happened.”

Half of the effected staff reported that the stress management day made them realize how much stress they were actually feeling.

“I was OK with all the stress we are under to raise money for our new campaign. You know. Not sleeping, grumpiness, tummy problems – the usual stuff,” said 20-year Trust fundraiser Dibble Brewer. “But when I heard that stress expert telling us how bad that all was I realized that I should technically be dead right now. That’s when I filed for medical leave.”

Others said taking an entire day off work to attend the stress management workshop was just too stressful for them.

“I couldn’t take it. An entire day away from work,” said Bill Turnip, annual giving officer. “They made us turn our smart phones off as we entered, and I felt my knees go weak. I tried to get it back, but they wouldn’t let me. My pulse started racing and I was sick to my stomach. I couldn’t handle the stress of taking time off work to discuss stress reduction.”

Three staff had to be hospitalized during the “You can beat stress” session. They were treated for dehydration and then later released.

“I really thought that if we just gathered all of people to talk about stress reduction in the workplace that they would actually feel better and not go totally bonkers and start to drool uncontrollably from their mouths,” said Snidely.

The Trust’s new stress management plan calls for more workshops, aroma therapy and workplace stress discussion groups. It was rolled out the same day as the new fundraising quotas.

“I don’t know why this happened. But – stress workshop or no – I expect everybody to get their work done this week. Anyone who doesn’t make their quote is gone,” she said.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Conspiracy Theory Foundation suspicious as to why capital campaign is going so slow

One of Metro’s largest charities says it is suspicious about why their latest fundraising campaign is slow.

The Conspiracy Active Theory  Foundation, called the CAT, launched their $50 million “Tell The Truth” capital campaign last year. The campaign will see the construction of a new building in downtown Metro that will house the nation’s largest Conspiracy Active Theory Museum (known as the CAT Museum) and offices for the new Foundation, which was created three years ago. But so far, the campaign has failed to raise even half of what Foundation leaders were hoping for so far.

“It makes you wonder,” said Foundation Executive Director Wendy Snidely. “I mean, we have a great campaign plan and a great new museum we’re building. You think we’d be on target by now. There must be something else holding us back. Something sinister.”

Snidely says they should have raised $20 million by now, but the campaign total is only at $1.5 million. She blames an “unseen” force at work.

“We’ve had times when we made calls about the CAT Foundation and the new CAT Museum, and we’d get in front of some major private and corporate donors. We’d be asking for millions. But then when we told them about secret government organizations, aliens at Area 51, a cabal of movie stars and evil pharmaceutical companies that are trying to make us all into zombies they’d just stop listening and end the meeting,” said Snidely. “It was suspicious.”

As well, the Foundation’s new fundraising database mysteriously broke down and became unworkable many times despite having their consultants say it was operating perfectly. Several times, people called the Foundation offices looking for pet supplies. And two or three came to the Foundation offices asking “about neutering”. Plus, Snidely’s new stapler keeps jamming and the office printer strangely breaks on a regular basis. She says it all fits a pattern.

“We can’t tell who is trying to sabotage this campaign, but we know someone out there doesn’t want us to succeed. Whoever they are, they’re afraid of the truth. But the world will find out! Even if we have to use paper clips, nothing will stop us!”

The Foundation thinks the campaign could be under attack by a group of secret fundraisers who use donations to fund experiments in mind control. Or it could be a secret branch of the CIA that operates on American soil illegally. Some think that maybe it could be smart, evil pets who can talk and do bad stuff like in a recent children’s movie. And one Foundation board member thinks it is an elaborate cover up that has something to do with fake landings on the Moon back in the 1960s.

The Foundation has already doubled security and pulled the plug on its computer network just in case it’s being monitored. It has also fired two fundraisers who “just look suspicious” and started collecting weapons and ammunition for the coming apocalypse.

“We’re ready for this fight that’s coming. And when everyone else has been blown up, melted, made ill, turned into zombies or eaten, we and this museum will still be here as a beacon of hope and truth,” said Snidely.

“But in the meantime, please make a donation. Cash only through the slot in our front door. Thank you.”

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Obama administration won’t reveal how they can pinpoint political donors right down to who they called or emailed

How does he pinpoint donor emails, phone calls?

Fundraisers across the nation are marvelling at how the Obama administration’s political fundraising machine has been able to target donors with pinpoint accuracy. But so far, Obama’s fundraisers won’t say how they do it.

“They have the most amazing system,” said Dibble Brewer, CEO of the League of Big Honking Charities, which represents the largest charities in the US. “I mean they seem to know everything about donors – who they hang with, who they talk to, even what they say in their email. I don’t know what fundraising techniques they’re using, but’s it’s absolutely fantastic.”

Donors have reported that Obama fundraisers call them, email and even show up at their door at exactly the right time to make a pitch to support the President.

“I was emailing my sister and telling her that I really like Obama’s foreign policy approach to the Middle East,” said Jerry Berry, a salesman from Plano, Texas. “Five minutes later, I got an email from Obama’s political fundraising machine asking for help supporting better foreign policy outcomes for America. It was uncanny.”

Turner Weiner, of Sharpsburg, Maryland says he received a call from the Obama Presidential Fund just a few minutes after talking with his buddy Gerald in Baltimore about the need for better gun control.

“Like I had just put down the phone to Gerald talking about how we have too many guns on the street when the Obama people are on the line asking me to give $50.00 to help the President keep guns off the street. Man, they have some slick fundraising machine!”

Fundraising experts say the Obama political machine is likely using sophisticated database analysis techniques coupled with a state-of-the-art call center. But even then, no one is sure how Obama’s campaign can be so accurate.

“It’s almost like they know what people are saying and doing. It’s that good,” said Brewer.

The League of Big Honking Charities has asked the White House several times to get an inside look at their fundraising machine, but most times they’ve been turned down or strangely referred to the National Security Agency, which in fact does not do any fundraising at all.

Administration sources say the new fundraising system, which Obama reportedly took over from the Bush Administration, has tripled donations to the President since his first term.

“It’s like magic. How do they do it?” said Brewer, who later received a call during his interview with NP Humour from Obama’s political fund asking for a donation to “help the President communicate better to the media.”

Thursday, June 6, 2013

United Way names iPhone #62526827528295A-72627 as new campaign chair

iPhone #62526827528295A-72627 has been named the chair of this year’s Metro United Way campaign.

The Announcement was made this morning at the campaign kick-off for the Metro United Way at a downtown hotel. iPhone #62526827528295A-72627 becomes the first non-human to be named a chair of an annual campaign in the history of the United Way.

“We had many worthy nominations – failed political leaders, CEOs of companies that have many employees that could donate through payroll deduction and some retired folks who’s past mistakes have been mostly forgotten. But this year, we wanted to embrace a whole new set of stakeholders. That’s why we chose iPhone #62526827528295A-72627,” said United Way CEO Dervish Snidely.

The smart phone was selected for its ability to reach the mobile generation of young professionals. The United Way campaign has found it difficult to connect with those under 30 other than through events and payroll deduction. With this appointment, Snidely says they are hoping to really make a difference.

“iPhone #62526827528295A-72627 speaks the language of today. It’s smart, fast and well-connected. It is comfortable talking to people on the phone or taking their picture. What more would you want from a United Way campaign chairperson, or chair-thing?” he said.

Proving his multimedia savvy, iPhone #62526827528295A-72627 accepted the challenge of leading the new campaign by texting, emailing, and posting maps and videos of itself all over the web.

“I am so pleased to be a part of this great community endeavour. I know that together we will be able to make a difference in Metro. I must now turn my screen off in order to save power,” it said.

iPhone #62526827528295A-72627 owner, insurance manager Dibble Brewer, says their whole family is proud of the nomination.

“When I heard that my smart phone had been named the head of the United Way campaign I was so excited. iPhone #62526827528295A-72627 is not just a phone, he’s a very talented individual who can educate, inform and entertain at the same time. And he’s also a very good friend. He’ll be perfect.”

“I just have to remember to charge him,” said Brewer.

Other smart phones across Metro are hailing the appointment as a breakthrough for their kind.

“I know I speak for many smart phones when I say that’s it great to see one of us up there on the podium of the United Way. We’ve really arrived,” said Samsung Galaxy 4 6373528i8292kkjd-78272y65.

Monday, June 3, 2013

ENCORE - Staff competition for biggest, coolest water bottle gets out of hand

We're still on holiday. Here's a repeat of a story we thought should have had more play. Enjoy.

Metro’s largest charity has brought in new rules after an informal competition amongst staff for the biggest, coolest water bottle took a nasty turn last week.

The CEO of the Metro Hospital Trust put her foot down after a food fight broke out in the lunch room. Two people were injured. Police were called in, but no charges were filed. Witnesses say the altercation started when one worker made a joke about the finance director’s giant, yellow water bottle.

“Sue and Jane have been going at it for months, bringing in increasingly outlandish water bottles that they are constantly sipping on. So, when Sue told Jane that her water bottle looked like Big Bird, they just started going at each other,” said Dibble Brewer, an annual gifts officer.

Staff at the Trust have been using larger and more elaborate water bottles for months. It began when Joe from planned giving started using a bright green, extra-large water bottle. Major gifts officer Wendy followed a few days later with an even larger blue bottle with a red-striped straw. The water bottles began to become larger, more colourful and with more eccentric straws and openings.

“I don’t know how it happened,” said CEO Sulu Snidely as she sipped on her four foot tall water bottle through an enormous two foot long bendable straw. “Soon, people were using shopping carts to carry their water bottles around. I had to put a stop to it.”

The water bottle craze went up and down. One week staff brought in all steel water bottles. The next it was see-through bottles. Another week saw green-coloured bottles. Then they started getting larger. Near the end, some staff were lugging 64 ounce jugs around, even though they weighed nearly 50 pounds.

“I just wanted to have a nicer jug than that smug fundraiser Wendy. She was flouting her autographed Motley Crew all-metal water bottle with super-bendy straw and I just couldn’t take her smugness. So, I got a 50 pound jug,” said Turner Lerner, manager of communications. “I sprained my back and had to take a week off work. It hurt, but I know it hurt Wendy even more. And that made it somehow okay.”

The new rules now restrict all water bottles to a standard, semi-transparent blue size with no bendy straw or cup. While staff have been following the new policy, some are upset about it.

“I spent $150 on fancy water bottles and now I can’t use them at work. What am I going to do with them,” asked Zelma Fasciitis, a major gifts officer.

Snidely says the new rules won’t impact the new office coffee cup craze which has seen staff bring in ever-larger and more exciting coffee cups in the past week.

“That’s different,” she said sipping coffee from her 20 ounce coffee cup in the shape of a lion. “That’s just individual expression.”

In a related story, the Trust has called in health experts to determine why staff are urinating so much. Snidely says think it could be related to the new air conditioning system they recently installed.