Call Out: A For-Profit For Nonprofits

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The adage that it takes money to raise money rings true for Associated Community Services in Southfield. While revenue for charities was up 20 percent in 2010, the professional fundraising organization must expand its services on the Internet and smart phones due to the declining number of land-based phone lines.

Working in a heavily regulated industry, the company, by law, cannot make calls to cell phones, although allowing a pre-approved texting service is in the works. “That’s our big challenge, to keep raising money on behalf of charities, foundations, and veterans groups,” says Kevin Bopp, director of operations. “We see a lot of marketing opportunities in social media, as well as through e-mails and bilingual services.”

With call centers in Southfield and Dearborn, the company employs 1,200 workers. Bopp says they hope to hire an additional 500 people in the next few years.

Whether a nonprofit operates its own call center or contracts with a company like Associated Community Services, professional fundraising doesn’t come easily.

“Yes, there are groups that have volunteer call-in operations, but there’s a lot of hours that go into planning, running, and paying for those activities,” Bopp says. “We’ve been working in this field for 12 years, and it’s that experience we offer. In order to operate, you must pay people. A charity with its own fundraising staff does the same thing.”

The company has raised funds for dozens of clients, including Motor City Blight Busters in Detroit and Friendship House in Hamtramck. “A donation comes amid a lot of rejections, but there’s no greater feeling than when someone contributes,” Bopp says.

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