Saturday, October 23, 2010

Charity Mailings

This blog post last week from US News and World Report about expensive charity mailings reminded me of the disconnect that the public sometimes feels with charities.  I think most of us have at some point received an unsolicited 'goody' from a charity seeking a donation. And I'm sure it annoys me as much as most people, maybe even more.  To be honest, I don't really mind getting address labels (click here for fun ways to use them.), but one charity often sends me worthless faux-gold coins about the size of quarter. What on earth do you do with one of those?  What is it's point?  For the life of me, I can't figure out what to do with a worthless gold coin.  Why on earth would a charity bother to mail me something like that?

Well, the truth is that it is a calculated risk on the part of the organization.  What that charity wants, more than anything, is for me to get a mailing from them and open it up.  If a letter addressed to me is unusually heavy, or somehow different than the other junk-mail pieces I habitually toss into the recycling bin, they know I will probably open it up.  And if I open it up, I'll read it.  And if I read it, I may just send them some money because how could I not read about the horrible plight of gorillas in Africa, hungry seniors in Kansas City, or contaminated rivers in Colorado and not feel compelled to open my checkbook and send them, say $20?  Well, I can because I'm cold and heartless. Aactually, no, I'm just a smart donor with a plan for my charitable giving.  One that does not include giving to charities who send me worthless gold coins. 

The most expensive donor for a charity to acquire is a first-time donor.  Studies show that people who give to a charity once are much more likely to give again. And if your first gift was $20, your second gift may be $50, and before you know it, you may be writing the charity into your will.  It is a calculated risk on the part of some organizations to spend lots of money to send expensive mailings to thousands for potential donors, but charities wouldn't do it if it didn't pay off in the long run. 

In the meantime, if you would like to get off a charity's mailing list, the best way to do it is to call them and request that they remove your address from their records.  You can also tell charities that you regularly fund to not share your name and contact information with outside organizations.

If you have questions about charity mailings, leave a comment and I'll respond.

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