I hate caller-id. Sure, it allows me to screen calls from my mother, but it also allows foundations to screen my calls.
I run a charity. If my name pops up in your call id, chances are I'm about to ask you for something--money, free ad space, your first born. So it is probably no surprise that people often don't take my calls.
This phenomena isn't unique to the not for profit sector. Venture capitalists don't seem to be hunched over their phones either.
I can be creative. A guy at Nike didn't return my calls for 6 months. So I sent a singing (and I think dancing?) gorilla-clad dude to his office. He called me that day. The producer of the Teen Choice Awards was tough to reach, so I flew down to Charlotte, North Carolina and took him to lunch. (We ended up striking a deal to have the first non-celebrity category ever on Teen Choice last year.) And, I've had my cell number printed on the face of M&Ms that I've sent to people, reminding them to return my call. (Hello? Judy McGrath at MTV? I'm still here...)
So there are ways around the "I'm too important to return your call thing." But what really gets me is the principle. Some of these folks really are busy and important (ie Judy McGrath). But some of them are only busy and important by association. Working at The Gates Foundation doesn't actually make you as powerful as Bill Gates. It means that you have the privilege of giving away his money. But it doesn't actually make you as smart or as powerful as the man himself. So that junior person at the big fat foundation--maybe its her first job after getting a masters degree in something obscure--you should probably lower yourself enough to return some calls. Or that junior associate at some Sand Hill Road venture firm, you could return some of those cold calls, right? I mean, didn't these people have mothers who taught them manners?
Truly, it doesn't take long to return calls. If you don't want to talk to me, you can call me at 8pm--when you know you'll get my voicemail. Or just send a curt email.
Frankly, its more than rude, its just bad business. I might be onto something amazing. And if you don't like what I'm doing now, chances are good that someday you might want in on something else I do. If I was able to find your number and had the balls to cold call you, chances are good that I've got something of value to you, someday.
And you never know. You might lose that job. You might come up with a great start-up or charitable idea. Or, I might win the lottery and become superbly loaded. Or, I might have gone to nursery school with someone you really need.
Think about that the next time I send a tap-dancing Gorilla.