I want to talk about a phone number that I bet is familiar to a lot of you. A few weeks ago I got a phone call from 703-637-9245. It was hardly the first time I'd received a call from that number. I pay my bills on time, I don't have any fancy financial accounts, and I rarely get calls reminding me of appointments. In fact, most people don't have my home phone number. I knew it was a telemarketing call. I didn't answer, and they didn't leave a message.
Then they called again, and again, and again. Here are the dates and times this number has called me in the past month. (They've actually called a lot more than this. I can't tell you how many more I've deleted from my caller ID in the past couple years.)
- 4:19 p.m., April 6
- 3:33 p.m., April 8
- 2:03 p.m., April 10 (a Sunday afternoon)
- 5:44 p.m., April 10 (the same Sunday afternoon)
- 5:06 p.m., April 11
- 5:07 p.m., April 12
- 4:49 p.m., April 13
- 4:59 p.m., April 14
- 5:14 p.m., April 15
- 1:57 p.m., April 17 (another Sunday afternoon)
- 7:07 p.m., April 20
- 3:32 p.m., April 21
- 1:08 p.m., April 24 (yet another Sunday)
- 4:34 p.m., April 25
- 6:41 p.m., April 26
- 7:42 p.m., April 27
- 5:05 p.m., April 28
- 7:53 p.m., April 28
Finally on the last of these calls, a total of 18 in a 23-day span, my wife picked up. She asked who was calling. They said they were calling on behalf of USF.
The phone number belongs to a company called DirectLine Technologies. They do philanthropy by phone for a lot of organizations, including many colleges and universities. And they are extremely persistent and annoying. Apparently you can opt out of these calls if you call them back and follow some recorded instructions, but they get around Do Not Call lists because you're considered to have an existing business relationship.
I'm pretty sure they're calling on behalf of the USF Alumni Association, not athletics. Also, I understand the need to fundraise because state legislatures across the country are filled with stubborn, selfish old hacks who would rather let public entities like higher education shrivel up and die than dare to raise taxes by even the tiniest amount. But that's immaterial. This brute force approach to fundraising is horrible. What makes anyone think that if they call me 18 times in less than a month, and probably hundreds of times before that, I would suddenly be more interested in donating to USF or renewing my Alumni Association membership?
This isn't the 1980s. I know how to use the Internet. If I wanted to donate or renew, I'm sure I could figure out how. Unfortunately I don't have any spare money to donate right now, what with a new baby in the house. And I don't live in Tampa, so I don't get nearly as much use out of an Alumni Association membership as someone who does.
There are so many more personal ways to reach out to me if you're trying to fundraise. Send me an email, or a postcard, or a letter. Or maybe have someone in Tampa call me once in a while. I'd be much more interested in answering the phone if I see 813-974 on the caller ID than some fundraising boiler room in northern Virginia. I'll be a lot nicer to them, too.
Or how about this: I can write just about anything to do with USF that I want on this website. Send me something worth sharing with our readers. They've proven they're willing to help a good cause. Give them one and see what happens. People want to feel good about donating their money. They don't want to feel like they've been browbeaten into doing it. Eighteen calls in 23 days -- that's browbeating. Call off your dogs, USF.