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How To Stop Solicitations By Mail


A day doesn't go by without a donor contacting us expressing their frustration at the number of solicitations they receive from charities. Here's an example:

It is very disturbing to me to donate, say, $25 and then for the rest of the year receive frequent mailed requests for more donations. I feel that my $25 is being spent on the cost of sending printed mailings that ask me for money. What is more, at the same time, the charities to which I donate obviously give or sell my information to other charities so that a geometric explosion of requests has resulted in several such envelopes stuffing my home mailbox nearly every day. For the past six months, I have been just throwing ALL requests for money into my wastebasket, unopened. It is a terrible waste for the charities — all that paper, all that postage, all those return labels, cards, tote bags, and other gifts. Is there any way to change this way of fundraising? ~ Charity Navigator user

If that sounds familiar to you, then we recommend you follow these two steps:

  1. Only donate to charities with a demonstrated commitment to donor privacy (look for the blue check in our A&T ratings). 
    To make sure you don't end up on another group's mailing list, make sure that the charity you are donating to has made a promise not to share, sell or trade your personal information with any other entity. Charity Navigator's Accountability & Transparency evaluations include an assessment of each charity's donor privacy policy. To meet our criteria, a charity must have a written donor privacy policy that states it will not to sell or trade the personal information of its donors. In addition, we require that the policy be prominently displayed on the charity's website or in its marketing and solicitation materials.

    As a Charity Navigator registered user, you can use our advanced search feature to find a list of charities that are financially efficient, match your charitable interests and have a confirmed donor privacy policy.
  2. Give anonymously. 
    Take advantage of Charity Navigator's Giving Basket which lets you, the donor, decide how much personal information you want to share with the charity - from your full contact information to none of it. Giving anonymously kills two birds with one stone - the charity itself can't pester you with endless appeals nor can it sell your contact information to others.

Some additional steps that will help you reduce the mailings you receive from the charities you support and from those you've never heard of before:

  • When you make a donation, make sure you 'opt-out.'
    Of the charities we've reviewed, many have 'opt-out' policies. We notify you when this is the case so that you, as a donor, know that you must tell the charity that you wish not to have your personal information distributed to any other entity. Depending on the charity, you can 'opt-out' either by calling, writing or clicking a button when making an online donation.
  • Refrain from giving small donations to many charities. The quickest and most surefire way to wind up on mailing lists is to make lots of small charitable donations. Small donations, such as $25, barely cover the costs the charity incurred in soliciting the gift. To recoup those costs, many charities will simply sell the donor's name to another charity doing similar work.
    Charities obviously tend to be much more protective of donors that give large gifts. The charitable marketplace is crowded with many charities pursuing similar missions. Since the majority of donations come from individuals and not foundations, corporations or the government, charities are in competition with each other for your donation. A charity would never divulge a mid- to high-level donor's personal information to another charity. The revenue it could generate by selling the donor's information simply doesn't outweigh the risk of losing that donor to the other charity. If you've taken the time to find an efficient and effective charity whose work in which you believe, then it shouldn't be too difficult for you to decide to concentrate your giving on that charity instead of spreading your money around to many charities with whom you are less familiar.
  • Call or write the charity directly. 
    Contact the charity that sent you the solicitation and ask to be removed from their mailing list. Additionally, ask for the contact information of the organization that sold them your name- the source of your troubles. Then contact that organization to request that it too refrain from selling or trading your personal information. Be sure you have the appeal letter on hand in case the charity needs specific information from it in order to locate your name in its records. 

    Even if you plan to support a charity that sends you too frequent mailings, we recommend that you contact the charity and let its staff know of your giving plans. Will you donate once a month, once a quarter, or once a year? Responsible and well-run charities will welcome your call. They prefer to have donors that they can depend on to give without having to be reminded. This helps the charity improve its fundraising efficiency and ultimately dedicate more time and resources towards the programs you wanted to support in the first place.
  • Register with services that aim to stop junk mail. 
    Although there is no regulation that mandates that charities (and corporations) honor your requests to opt-out of their mailing lists, these services may still be of help.
    • Through the Mail Preference Service program, the DMA maintains a list of individuals that do not wish to receive unsolicited mail. Be sure to specify that you do not wish to receive solicitations from both commercial and charitable organizations. If you fail to do so, then the DMA will automatically place your name on the list provided to for-profit entities only.
    • Take a photo of the junk mail you wish to stop and send it to PaperKarma. They’ll contact the mailer for you and ask that they remove you from their distribution list.
    • You can report unwanted mail to Catalog Choice and they’ll process your request for you.

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