We all receive a lot of non-personal mail; everything from catalogs to advertisements to requests for charitable contributions and beyond. The ratio of personal to unsolicited email became crystal clear when I took three month sojourn away from home. (Side note I can’t help but include, is irritation at the United States Postal Service who refused to hold my mail for more than 30 days – not a hard, fast, unbreakable written rule, but a subjective, unchallengeable decision made by a single person at each local post office.)
When I returned I had a stack of mail at least 12-inches tall; which did not include magazines and catalogs. Before undertaking my journey, I had switched most of my bills to online which allowed me to pay them while away; otherwise the stack would have been slightly higher. Of this stack, only about 10% of it was personal mail. (I consider personal mail to be cards and letters from friends and family, bills, statements and merchandise I have ordered.) The ratio of the rest tells an interesting story. Another 10% were solicitations for credit cards (you can avoid many of these but not all). The remaining 80% were requests for donations from charitable organizations!
I donate to probably about two dozen organizations throughout the year, but for each of them, I probably receive at least 10 solicitations to each donation. I could wallpaper 20’ x 20’ room with all the address labels I receive. In addition, I could have a calendar in every one of the six major rooms in my dwelling. Then there’s the notepads, many of them personalized. I re-donate about 10 pounds worth of those to assorted local charities each year (after I black out my name and paste over it with a decorative label). I should also mention that I could have counted some of the credit card solicitations as charitable requests. Yes, even charities are getting into the credit card business.
It obviously costs these organizations money to send you notepads, calendars, mailing labels and other tokens of appreciation. I’m sure these items guilt many folks into making additional donations; but I also suspect that another large percentage are unfazed by these “gifts”. I’m in the latter category. I have my list of organizations that I support and try to hit most of them at least once; some two or three times each year; but certainly nowhere near as often as I receive solicitations.
Times are tough at the moment, and I’m certain that charities are feeling the pinch as well. Therefore, I have a few suggestions that might help them save a lot of time, effort, trees, and postage – all of which translate into money.
The most important of these tips is to track the donation pattern of your donors. This can be accomplished with something as simple as a spreadsheet, though I suspect there are plenty of talented programmers out there who would be willing to undertake a philanthropic venture to develop free or inexpensive software that would perform the same function. If someone donates every time you send them address labels or note pads, by all means, send them as many as they want. However, if people only donate once or twice a year, do not stuff their mail box with a different request or token every two to four weeks. The amount of mail I receive from a charity does not determine how much or how often I donate.
The second tip relates to the tokens of appreciation. Please reduce the volume. Do not assume you are the only organization each donor supports. Even if you were the only charity a person patronized, a single mailing of 100 address labels would be sufficient once per year. People don’t send as much mail as they once did. More and more bills are being paid online. We don’t need that many labels every other month.
Here is one last helpful hint. When you send the acknowledgement for my donation, please do not include a slip and request for yet another donation. I consider that an insult, as if my contribution wasn’t large enough or appreciated enough that you must have another one so quickly.
I make donations to many charitable organizations because I believe in the work they do. I would much rather they spent the money on the cause than enticements for additional donations. Hopefully these suggestions will be a step in that direction as well as a respite for the tree population.