Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Fundraising Basics

Today there are more non-profit and charity groups than ever. On the one hand, this is a great development (I hope) - it means that as a society we are becoming more aware of a need to give to others. We even see that people are taking the necessary steps to ensure that we help others. On the other hand, though, the presence of so many non-profits creates a unique problem - "donors burnout."
In short, did you realised that there are more donation drive running across your neighbourhoods, TVs and newspapers?
The increased competitiveness of fundraising has created a whole new business: The Fundraising Business. There are consulting firms that will help you fundraise more effectively - for a price, of course. There are also many companies that claim that their fundraising efforts or products will make money for your non-profit in exchange for a share in the profits.
Many people assume that fundraising is as simple as holding garage sales or some other activities until enough money is raised. If you only want to raise a small amount of money for a specific purpose (eg. student's fund for college), this may be fine, but for many groups using this approach is too uncertain and too limited to be very effective.
If your group will be around for a while because your organisation runs on donar's support, then you will want to raise money consistently in order to keep your group going. You will need to learn many things in order to keep enough money coming consistently: Fundraising is not an easy activity and it does requires skills to achieve the best results.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Nearly 3 Hours A Day

A recent survey by Salary.com shows employee productivity may not be all that employers would like. According to the survey, "the average worker in the US admits to frittering away 2.09 hours per eight hour workday". This figure does not include lunch breaks or other scheduled break-time.
In Wisconsin, for every eight hours work an employer pays for, the employee is likely to deliver less than six. Respondents admit to wasting 2.8 hours on activities such as:
o Surfing the Internet for personal use
o Socializing with co-workers
o Conducting personal business
Take out employer sanctioned time off such as lunch breaks, vacation time and sick leave and the productivity picture looks even worse.
"Never has the argument for outsourcing been stronger" says Yvonne McCoy owner of Swift Office Services LLC, a Virtual Assistant firm based in Eagle, Wisconsin. Virtual Assistants (VAs) are fast becoming the small business owner's preferred choice for administrative and marketing support. VAs can substantially reduce the costs traditionally associated with hiring talent; they bill only for time on task and work remotely from their own fully equipped office. "This makes administrative support more affordable for the business owner who no longer needs to furnish his assistant with a desk, computer, telephone and all the other paraphernalia that goes with a direct hire."
"Nor does he need to worry how to keep the assistant fully occupied during slack periods" says McCoy. According to the survey, the number one time-wasting excuse is "Don't have enough work to do," reason enough for many to consider outsourcing over hiring. Since a whopping 33.2% of respondents cited this as their biggest reason for wasting time, small business owners need to seriously consider whether they can keep a new hire gainfully employed before committing to that kind of expenditure.
Swift Office Services LLC is one of a growing number of virtual assistant practices, operated by seasoned administrators who left the corporate world to become entrepreneurs. As McCoy states, "with innovations in communications and technology, many administrative and marketing functions can be undertaken from just about any location, and the resulting work easily transmitted by email, internet, fax or more traditional methods."
Just for the record, Wisconsin is not the biggest time wasting state. It ranks number four behind Missouri, Indiana and Kentucky.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

4 Types of Debtors

Most people pay their debts on a timely basis. Some do not. There are basically 4 types of debtors that do not pay on a regular payment schedule.
Magician's Assistant
This is the hardest type to collect from. In their mind if they do not hear from you about the debt, then the debt does not exists. Thus, they do everything that they can to avoid contact. And if you do make contact they will try everything to get you off track. They will get you to try and focus on less important instances of the account, for example...it is your fault that you sent the letter to the wrong address, your company was not suppose to cash a check until a certain day, they never got your messages because you were leaving them at the wrong number, and on and on. This is where being the professional collector comes into play. You must remain focused, regardless of the smoke screen thrown at you. Get control of the conversation and keep it.
Worker Ant
This debtor is a hard worker. They are by nature, proud and do not easily ask for help. They go to work everyday, most of the time even when they are sick. They honestly believe that if they work just a little harder they will make the money necessary to pay off the debt. The problem is there is ALWAYS something that comes up and takes their money. The professional collector will show respect to this debtor and gentle nudge with ideas on how to better budget. If necessary let the debtor think it was their idea.
Cloud Walker
This debtor is not exactly grounded in reality. They believe that somehow tomorrow it will all work out. They believe that the payment date at the end of the month is fine because the money will just appear from somewhere. If they do not have the money today, it will be here tomorrow. The professional collector directs the debtor in the best direction to go. First, by asking questions that gets the debtor to understand that they as the debtor must make a plan, AND STICK TO IT.
The Frustrated Student
This debtor will probably fuss, yell, cry and vent in some other way within your conversation. It is important to note that the magician's assistant will possible act the same way. But, their reasoning is completely different. The magician's assistant will act out for the purpose of a smoke screen. The frustrated student is doing so because they are mad at themselves, their situation and their financial abilities. They want to take care of the debt but have no idea how. The professional collector will determine the difference. Then, will explain to the debtor that the frustration is normal, but both of you working together will find a successful answer.
It is important to determine the type of debtor that you are dealing with. Once you have determined the debtor's style you will have a better opportunity to overcome any objections that the debtor has in trying to repay their debt.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Godiva Chocolate

Has this every happened to you? You have an account that owes your company a considerable amount of money. Everything goes well for awhile. The payments are made on time, the debtor calls you just because he wants to know how he can make your day better (hey, this is my dream!).
Then one day no more calls and worse yet, no more payments. You, being the good employee that you are, attempt to call them and you discover that they have disappeared off of the face of the planet. So, you go back through your previous issues of Collection Advisory to look in the Skip Trace column to ensure your best possibility of finding your debtor. You begin your search process and you can not find any thing, WHAT NOW?
The question is, are you looking for the right information? Confirming the information that you begin with is essential. Are you certain that the name, address social security number and phone number were TOTALLY correct from the start? I know the debtor gave you every bit of information that you asked for, but if you did not get the complete information you may have to spend considerable time, money and effort to get it corrected. Let me explain:
Have you spelled the name correctly? Is it John, Jon, Jonn? Is he Jr., Sr., II or III? Is Smith her maiden or married name? Too many times we begin a search and later determine that the person we are looking for is actual the son or father of the person that we have found.
Is the address an apartment or mobile home park or a duplex? If so, the address is not 123 Main St. Instead it may be 123 Main St. Lot 1, or 123 Main St, Apt 14...you get the picture. Additionally, what if the residence is on family land, therefore you may have one driveway and multiple addresses. Go  to determine the truest possible address that is listed.
Social Security Number
This can be a tricky one. Is the social security number that you have for the debtor the actual number issued by the Social Security Administration? It is not difficult to have multiple credit bureaus in one's name. However, due to the identity thieves out there I will not discuss how that can happen here. Go to determine what state a SSN was issued.
The first three digits of a social security number dictate in which state that number was issued. If you have the legal ability to pull the credit bureau, look in the header section for the age or date of birth. This is a little trick to see if it is the correct credit bureau. If you do not see either the age or date of birth, most of the time it is not the number issued to them by the SSA.
There are several free websites that you can go to and determine what state and what year a social security number was issued. If a number was issued ten years before the debtor was born chances are that is not the correct SSN.
Phone Number
When the information was originally gathered the debtor told you that this is their home phone number, is it really? Is it a land line, the wire that runs from the pole to the jack on the wall? Or, is it a cell phone? There a few free websites that you can go to and determine if a phone number is a cell phone or a land line. Go to  input the area code and the prefix, the first three numbers of the phone number. You will discover if it is a cell or land line, what city and state it was issued and the telephone company that assigned that number. Also remember, there are internet companies now that will issue you a phone number with the area code of your choosing.
Godiva Chocolate is one of the most expensive chocolates in the world. The reason, they claim, is that that start with the best ingredients. We need to be the same. We need to start with totally correct information. Just like the saying goes, garbage in, garbage out. No deposit no return. A bird in the hand... OK, OK enough with clich├ęs. Confirm the information that you start with and you WILL save time, money and effort.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Debt Collection Tips

Are you new to the collections industry? Are you not exactly sure what to say or to do? The collection industry can be both exciting and frightening. There is a lot to learn. From the laws that pertain to the debt collection industry, to using the proper technique and the whole abiding by company policy thing. Don't Worry. Below we have listed some of thoughts, the ideas and the memories of experiences' past. Hope you find the useful.
Confirm the debtor's information
Document everything in your notes
Sound like a friend not a collector
Always ask with confidence
Make the debtor aware the responsibility is on them
Keep the debtor honest
Always be professional
Always control the conversation
Sound assertive
Help with budgeting
Ask for the money
Keep it immediate
Encourage timely payments
Develop multiple ways to contact debtor
Be confident
Create convenience
Keep disconnected telephone numbers
Keep references up to date
Handle the objection during the call
What are the nick names
Never under estimate silence
Loosing control - put them on hold
Establish and maintain good debtor relationship
Feel where the debtor is coming from
Be consistent
Be patient
Keep it simple
Be ready to write notes
Now you have got the foundation. The seed has been planted. The baton has been passed. You are now in charge. It is up to you to make it grow. Make it happen.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Great Debate

There is a debate that has surfaced in the skip trace world in the past few years.
No, we are not talking about the battle over paper or plastic or even the cola wars. Should you use real skip tracers or just databases? This has crossed the mind of more than one collection manager. There are pros and cons to each side.
Let's take a look at just using databases first. It starts with subscribing to a database which offers name, address, phone number and so on. You input the information you have onto the request screen and request new information. The updated information is then returned to you. Usually it is not very (a relative term) expensive. You then use the information recently obtained to collect funds, property or whatever you are after. When it is described like that it sounds perfect doesn't it?
Unfortunately now for the down side. The database companies work very hard at keeping their information up to date and some of them are very reputable companies. That being said, here is how it works. The database companies mainly get their information the same ways. Everything from magazine subscriptions to public records are mixed together to get information on everyone. However, even with their best attempts, it does not take long to become outdated. The database companies claim that they are kept up to date most of the time. But, that is the same thing as saying, we have just skip traced every person in the country and we have their information. That doesn't seem to be possible.
Now the other side of the debate. A skip tracer is a living being that uses different resources, skills and experiences to obtain the needed information to find a person or property's whereabouts. Using every legal means they obtain the information that they are after. Once they find, they verify the information to ensure that it is correct. A skip tracer has the ability to read between the lines and put two and two together above and beyond just getting the requested information. Again, this sounds like the perfect solution.
Yes, there is a down side to only having skip tracers. Usually they are more expensive than databases. Sometimes they are moody or miss work due to sickness, vacation and other human tragedies. Even worse, sometimes they quit. Where does that leave your company?
Both sides can make an argument here. Both have really good points to validate their use. However, both have short comings that can reduce YOUR productivity. Oh what is a good manager to do? One costs less, but you don't really know if the information is correct. The other will take in all of the variables, read between the lines and verify the information gathered but can run the risk of being out of work due to human reasons.
So what is the answer? Put simply, a combination of the two is the answer. How much of each will be determined by the needs and abilities of your company.
Money is going to be the key. Does your company have the funds to hire and properly train a skip tracer? A skip tracer (just like any other tool) needs to be kept in proper working order to be as efficient as possible. This is done by providing constant educational opportunities to be kept abreast of changes in the laws, techniques, contacts and resources available to the skip trace industry.
Have your resources be as beneficial as possible. Stay in close contact with the database companies and the outsource companies that you use so that you get the most out of your resource dollar. Develop a tier system for your skip trace efforts. Let the value of the account determine exactly how much is done. You don't want to spend a thousand dollars to collect a ten dollar account. An easy way to do this is to separate your skip accounts into three levels: high balance, medium balance and low balance. Then assign exactly what steps will be done for each level. Work smarter not harder. Finally, if you determine that you can't hire someone full time but you can add the skip trace responsibility to the schedule of a current employee. Let there be a separation of duties. You have to think in a different mindset sometimes when you are skip tracing so determine a time that they will only do skip tracing.
These are the basics. As always if you have any questions ask a trusted and reputable person or company to help you work out the fine points.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Tools of a Skip Tracer

Would you go to a dentist if the only tools she used are a chainsaw and a stick? Would you take your car to be serviced by a mechanic whose only tools were a chocolate bar and hairspray? Would you want to your child to go to an elementary school that only taught from a set of 1964 encyclopedias?
Do you see the connection?
It is simple- really. Every industry has tools that can be specific to that industry. The dentist would never use a chainsaw (even though it may feel like it). They use tools that are designed and that are necessary for the successful completion of their task- to assist with proper dental hygiene. The same holds true for ever other profession and industry. At the same time, to take tools that may not be useful to an industry can slow down the process.
So here comes the question. Why is it that those that skip trace do not utilize the tools that are available to our profession or we try to use the tools of other professions to do our job?
What are the tools available to the skip trace industry? You've heard me talk about some of them. Databases, each other and our minds. But, what are some other tools available to us? Below is a list. I'm not calling it a complete list, because we think out side of the box and have incredible imaginations, so the list will never be completed. Not all of these will apply to your needs, but maybe it will spark some ideas and you can add to the list.
Have caller ID setup on ALL incoming calls. When you ask for a debtor for their number, is it matching up with the number they are calling from? If possible, through you phone provider have a report available to you per day of all received calls (just incase you miss it and they don't leave a message). Any numbers that you do not recognize reverse that number and see what you get.
Most of us already use these. They can be very useful for obtaining additional information on your debtor or those around them.  There are several more available, do some research and see which best suites your needs.
These websites have gathered tons of links to public record sites. Most of them
separate the information by state.
On these websites you enter various information of the debtor, public records and
other websites are searched and the results are provided in a quick easy to
understand format. . These really speed up the investigation process.
This is where I daydream about a database that you can enter the information for two different people at the same time. Then with the same process of the other databases information is researched on both subjects then is compared for anything that is the same and that information is returned to the user. This way you can determine if there is a spouse or roommate or significant other. The reason that I daydream is because to my knowledge no such database exist at this time. However, if it does PLEASE let me know.
Whatever you call it. A worksheet, a checklist or a form. This is what the investigator uses to make sure that every stone has been turned, every nook and cranny (what's a cranny?) has been checked for information to help locate the debtor.
This provides another option to reach out a touch the debtor. By sending a letter with PLEASE DO NOT FORWARD ADDRESS CORRECTION REQUESTED printed on the envelope is an easy way to get determine if the debtor has moved and left a forwarding address. The downside to sending a letter is the turn around time.
There are two different approaches direct and indirect. Direct is determining the information that you need contact the people that have that information and ask them for it. Indirect is also called pretext or social engineering. Determine what information that you need then develop a story, contact the people that have that information and present your story so that they will give you the information that you need. Sometimes pretexting is illegal; please make sure you know both the federal and your state laws that apply.
This is a service provide by various telephone companies. When someone calls a trap line the number is captured. It does not matter if it is non published or published you will get a report of all numbers. You can setup a standard toll free number to do this but it takes up to 30 days to get results.
This is a phone line that is simple answered as "hello". It is not answered with the company name or with the professionalism of the company. It is answered in the same way that you would you home phone.
There are companies that can be used or phone systems that can be purchased allowing the user to change their outgoing Caller ID information.
Collections and skip tracing need to be physically separated. It helps with the mindset of the skip tracer as well as not allowing the other party to hear a demand for payment in the background.
A spider web works because there are many strands connected. If your debtor is running from you they are probably running from someone else. We need to work together.
Here is where the rubber meets the road. Skip tracing is a game of hide and seek. The debtor is hiding you are seeking, it's that simple.
A skip tracer MUST stay up to date with laws, procedures and resources to be the best that they can. About a once a year seminar that includes laws, processes, skill sets and resources with the ability to network should do the trick.
We have the skills. We have the resources. We have the tools. Lets show the rest of the world how the professionals do it!
Oh, if you come up with some more to add to the list-please send a copy my way.