Do you get tons of charity solicitations — along with more mailing labels than you’ll ever use in your lifetime? Surprisingly, it is possible to be generous without having an overwhelmed mailbox filled with letters from charities asking for money.
Decide which charities you’re going to support
I know animal lovers who are flooded with solicitations from groups working to help dogs, cats, horses, and more. Some of the organizations are probably more effective than others. Doing some research and deciding which ones to support are worthwhile steps. Charity Navigator and GuideStar are two places you can look for information.
Create a list of the charities you’ve selected
Many organizations have similar names, so you’ll want to be sure you’re giving to the ones you intended to give to. It’s also good to list the names of those groups whose solicitations you’ve decided to decline — so if you get more mail from that group, you can quickly confirm it’s one you’ve already investigated. And, having a list of all charities sending you mail will come in handy as you go to remove yourself from their mailing lists.
Decide if you want to get mail from charities
You probably won’t want to get mail from charities you’ve decided not to support, but you may not want mail from those you are supporting, either.
Personally, I don’t want mail from any of them. I give to my charities at about the same time every year, and I do it online. I can read about all the good work they do online, too. But other people I know are more paper-focused, and do indeed want mail from the groups they are supporting.
If you do want mailings, how often would you prefer to receive them? It might be possible to get less mail without eliminating it entirely.
Begin the mail opt-out process
You can choose to:
- Use the DMAchoice mail preference service. The Direct Marketing Association will inform national businesses and charities that you prefer to be removed from their mailing lists. However, as the DMA notes:
You will continue to receive mail from those organizations with which you already do business. Please note that not all organizations use DMAchoice; therefore, you may continue to receive some mailings, including from local organizations and political organizations.
- Sign up for a junk mail elimination service. Here’s what 41pounds.org says: “Our service stops most common junk mail such as credit card offers, coupon mailers, sweepstakes entries, magazine offers, and insurance promotions, as well as any catalogs and charities you specify.”
Another service that says it can do the same is stopthejunkmail.com, and you could also consider Paper Karma, a free app. I haven’t used any of these myself, so I can’t personally vouch for their effectiveness.
- Contact the charities directly. Charities often rent lists to use for their mailings (more on that in a minute) but if you’ve given to a group in the past, you’re probably on its own list, and can ask to be removed. You might also ask if it’s possible to get a limited number of mailings.
Charities don’t usually include a phone number in the solicitations they send to you, but it’s often easy to find a phone number online. I just called two charities I’ve donated to in the past and asked to be removed from their lists; it was surprisingly easy.
I did find myself explaining that while I loved the work these charities did, I just didn’t need the mail. In one case I spoke to the founder of the organization, and she was very understanding. She said she’s working to reduce her incoming mail, too!
Ask charities not to sell or rent your name.
Charities sometimes provide the names and addresses of their smaller donors to other related organizations; it’s another fundraising mechanism. If you don’t want to get mail from even more charities, ask for your donor information be kept private.
Some groups do this automatically. For example, one of my local public radio stations says on its online donation form: “KALW will never sell or loan your personal information to any other organization. We respect your right to privacy.”
Others provide an opt-out option. Another one of my local public radio stations, KQED, has this option on its online form: “Do not exchange my name with other non-profits.”