An Open Letter to Charities Regarding Over-Soliciting and Telephone Solicitation

September 16, 2004 by · 4 Comments
Filed under: Life, Shoot Yourself in the Foot 

Dear Charity Fundraising Personnel,

My wife and I make a good living. We have also made the decision not to have children, so our expenses are comparatively lower than people with children. That means that we have a little extra money. We believe in donating to charities that help people. We also believe in spreading our money widely rather than concentrating on one or two causes.

Unfortunately, it seems that you regard a donor as another name to be sold to other charities. This causes LOTS of mail at my house. Additionally, some of you feel that if I gave once, I’ll give again – right away. That ADDS to the pile of mail. The end result of this is that we now receive 3 or 4 letters per day from charities wanting our money.

What effect does that have on you? There are a few:
1. Most solicitations from charities that we have never donated to are recycled unopened.
2. All solicitations from charities who mail to us too often (once a week in some cases) are recycled unopened.
3. Many solicitations from charities that we do donate to are caught up in the above, and recycled unopened.

There’s just too much mail coming in wanting my money. This Presidential Election year has made it worse. My wife and I are registered in opposite parties, and BOTH parties seem to feel that we’ll donate to them – even to Senate candidates from other states! It’s gotten to the point where I want to consider stopping donations just to cut down on the amount of mail.

When it comes to telephone solicitations, things are even worse. Our telephone numbers are on the national and state Do Not Call lists. Now I know that charities are exempt from those rules, but what makes you think that I want to have my dinner interrupted by a rude person demanding my charity money anymore than I want the interruption from someone selling a timeshare? We are sufficiently upset by this that we have made a rule – we will NOT donate to someone who solicits money via telephone AT ALL. No phone pledges, and no mailed donations either. You call us, you’re cut off!

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1. Be a cause or charity that we believe in. It’s a very good sign if we’ve given you money in the past – you’re likely to get more. It also helps if you have a good reputation for putting most of your donations to work, rather than using them to raise more.
2. Send us a letter requesting funds once or twice a YEAR. I make my donations based on the amount that I want you to get for the whole year. Asking me more often isn’t going to make me give more – it’s going to annoy me and you’ll get less.
3. For Pete’s Sake – don’t send me a letter with suggested donation amounts where the lowest amount is MORE than I gave last year. That’s just pushy. Maybe I can give you more that last year, and maybe I will. Maybe I have reasons that I don’t want to give as much as last year – because I’ve chosen to allocate my charity money differently or because my finances are tighter. When I give you $100 one year, and your letter lists options of $150, $300, and $500 you’re telling me that you see me like a big piggy bank. Try $100, $150, and $200. Or better yet, $75, $100, and $150. I use Quicken and keep track – when I put your name into the electronic checkbook it tells me exactly what I gave you last time.
4. Don’t EVER, EVER CALL ME. That will get you a polite request to put me on your Do Not Call list, and a complete stoppage of donations. Repeated calls will get you an FTC or state complaint. It’s perfectly fine to call me to ask if I’ll participate in your activity (work on houses, serve at the soup kitchen, walk in a fundraiser, donate blood), but DON’T CALL ASKING FOR MONEY.
5. Sometimes, I only want to donate once. Maybe my deceased aunt or her family requested a donation to the “whatever disease she had” fund. I want to honor her memory in a more permanent way than flowers, so I donate to your charity. That doesn’t mean that I’m now a convert to the cause and want to donate again.

Follow those rules, and you’ll stop wasting money on mailed solicitations and phone calls, and start putting my money where it should be – to serve the end goals of the organization.


Mark Smith

(I’ve submitted this to the Outside the Beltway Traffic Jam)