Opinion: Hot issue - Will celebrity telephone calling be the next big thing in fundraising?

A marketing agency, Feel, has come up with a controversial new fundraising technique for charities: an automated phone calling system that will play a pre-recorded message from a celebrity to request a donation from people.

NO - Ken Burnett, chairman, Cascaid Group

Please, no. Not that. Never! Imagine you're relaxing in the bath after a tough day. The phone rings and, reluctantly, dripping all over the carpet, you reach for the wretched thing to find Hillary Clinton or Nelson Mandela or Johnny Vegas spewing forth a pre-recorded spiel about endangered rain forests, or Aids in Africa or the imminent closure of the swimming baths in Birkenhead, as you stand shivering. Or you're engrossed in the latest Corrie or Desperate Housewives, the phone rings and it's Ricky Gervais wittering on about a crisis at the Housemaid's Knee Society, or Kate Winslet mithering about the looming extinction of the marmoset or Camilla Parker Bowles bending your ear about osteoporosis.

Heaven forfend! Seriously, what could be worse (other than them personally coming round to visit)?

Successful fundraising demands credibility. If it is to work long-term, it depends on a foundation of trust and confidence. It presupposes accountability and relevant feedback. It should be personal, one-to-one. Above all, it has to be believable. It's about you, me and an urgent job that needs doing. No, I wouldn't encourage any charity I work with to use celebrities to make phone calls, even if they promised Halle Berry and Jamelia.

NO - Lindsay Boswell, chief executive, Institute of Fundraising

Aside from the fact that it is clearly illegal. Aside from the fact that it flies in the face of anything remotely looking like best practice.

Aside from the fact that those proposing it describe it as a "nuisance medium".

Let's get back to basics. Fundraising is not about any old technique that gives some form of marginal return on investment. The act of fundraising must take into account the incredibly precious and delicate brand of 'charity'.

It's about strengthening the reputation of your cause and making donors feel part of the incredible work your cause carries out. It's about building a relationship. This is not just a cliche. Relationship building and brand protection are more vital now than ever before.

The reason why the institute has and continues to devote so much time to defining and promoting best practice is because only those organisations that put reputation before return on investment will win in the long-term.

The illegal bit is covered in regulation 19 of the EU's Guidance to the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations. Contact the institute if you want a copy.

As an aside, can you imagine the type of celebrity who would put their name to such an idea? Z-list or what?

NO - Judy Beard, director of communications and fundraising, Macmillan Cancer Relief

No, I don't see using celebrities in this way as the next big thing.

It sounds an interesting proposition and another way of galvanising supporters, but I can't see it taking off.

The public are astute at recognising gimmicks. They are also particularly resistant to any practice that they perceive as intrusive. It's not something I would support here at Macmillan. We've always been particularly careful with any kind of telemarketing, and we only contact warm supporters. Even then, this is not always about an ask but often about donor care, research or administration.

I think it's important for any fundraising organisation to build good relationships with all its supporters. The best way of doing this is by tailoring communication and encouraging interaction and long-term support for the cause. The same can be said of celebrity supporters, who show tremendous enthusiasm when immersing themselves in charity campaigns and events. Whether they would gain the same personal satisfaction from being used as cold-callers is highly questionable.

This smacks of a Dead Ringers approach. Even if the person called recognises the voice, they might think it's a joke. And that won't do much for the charity's reputation.

YES - Marcus Warry, strategist, Feel

Campaigning, loyalty, feedback, canvassing and fundraising: think for a moment whether Voice Give could be used in one of those capacities for your charity. Reckon it can't? Then read on.

It was used in the recent US elections (millions got a telephone message from George W Bush). The Miami Dolphins sent a voice message to previous ticket buyers and saw a huge uplift in sales.

Feel and Xpedite (our technology partner) are DMA members - we will also work with the Institute of Fundraising to ensure we follow best practice.

Xpedite has successfully launched its products all over the world, and we are delighted to be working with it to conquer the UK charity market.

This is a highly personal media, so getting it right is crucial. Using our neurolinguistic programming tool and Eneagram profiling, we'll find insights into the target market, meaning we'll press the right buttons to make the communication effective. We are also confident that our creative approach and the power of our ideas will ensure that people enjoy it.

A large children's charity and one of the biggest development charities are already interested in adopting the approach. So who has the nerve to join them?

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