Once a Year is Enough

Lars Poulsen - 2000-10-

I like to believe that I am a good person. I deal honestly with people around me, including family and co-workers; I attend church regularly; I sort recyclables out of my garbage, and I give to selected charities on a regular basis. But I am not sure that this latter item does as much good as it should, because I am being inundated with solicitations that are obviously expensive to produce and mail.

Last year, just before Christmas, I came across a novel collection idea on a financial website: Type your credit card number in this box and select one or more of these charities to receive your donation. It looked and felt like someone at the office taking a collection for a group gift, and I gave forty dollars, split between four charitable groups that all looked worthy. I printed out the screen page with the receipt and filed it with my tax papers and thought "that was simple and low-overhead". I was surprised when each of the four charities send separate thank-you letters in January, but thought "maybe they are required by law to to that". But two of them are now sending me monthly solicitations. One of them sends out a 28-page four-color glossy "gift catalog" quarterly. They have clearly spent more on soliciting me than I donated in the first place. But even those that are less pushy would do well to spend less on promotions: If I really like a charity, I will save an envelope and pledge card until I have money to give to them. If they send me 4 more letters in the meantime, those are wasted.

I would like to see charities send me no more than one letter per year. Maybe one second one if I gave before and did not respond to the first one within six months. Anything more than that, just turns me off.

Maybe you feel the same way?

You might want to print out this page and stuff it in those envelopes with the appropriate phrases checked.

[ ] -I like your work, and I appreciate especially that you are not spending an inappropriate amount on excessive mailings. Thank you, and please keep up the good work.
[ ] -I like your organization, but you are sending me too much mail. Please send me no more than one solicitation per year. If that is not possible, please take me off the mailing list.
[ ] -You have been sending separate solicitations to multiple members of our household. Please remove the duplicates. Both/all addresses are listed below.
[ ] -You are spending way too much of your money on promotions. Please take me off your mailing list.
[ ] -I gave you ten dollars 2 years ago, and now you are sending me appeals several times per year. This has to stop - you are wasting money and I'll never give you another nickel. Please take me off your mailing list.
[ ] -I failed to find in your promotional material a clear indication of how you spend your money. I would appreciate it, if you could (honestly) state clearly that at least 80 percent of all money collected is spent directly on your program (i.e. less than 20% on administration and fundraising.)

This page can be found at http://www.beagle-ears.com/lars/editorial/enough.htm

See also the quick reference guide from the National Charities Information Bureau (www.give.org).

Finally, here is a list of some charities we support .

More pages

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