Monday, December 1, 2008

Donor's Plea - Stop Sending Me Mail!

A few months back I wrote a blog entry here called CEO Compensation - Donor Frustration. I noted in the entry that the most common donor feedback we get is that many CEO's are making too much money. Today I will review the second most common bit of feedback we get - charities are sending way too many donor appeals to people. One of our users has been sending us a running tally of the letters he gets.

He writes as follows:

"For one year ending on 11-8-08 I recorded our receipt of mail from charitable organizations. A summary is below. We contribute to most of these. The receipt of mail was not affected by our contribution or the timing of same.

This data shows an incredible waste of material and postage, even by some 4-star charities."

The letter goes on to document a long list of charities, many of whom send mail out at least monthly to this individual.

Some fundraisers have the philosophy that more is better. Research does show that the most typical reason a donor stops giving is "losing touch" with the organization. Clearly in the case above, it is a matter of too much touch! This problem can become even more acute if the charity does not have a donor privacy policy. In other words, charities should commit to you that they will never share your contact information with others. At minimum, they should have an opt-out policy. We provide this information on the rating page for every charity we evaluate. In the near future this information will also be included in our rating system.

Fundraising is as much art as it is science. It takes practical judgment on the part of the staff to know the balance between enough and too much mail. If the mail this individual receives each month is a request for a donation that is excessive. Usually solicitations should occur no more than quarterly. If the mailing is to report on the agency's activities and to let the donor know what their money is being used for, it may be appropriate. However, even then an email is a much more cost effective vehicle unless the donor prefers a hard copy.

At Charity Navigator we have decided that, for now, we will only mail out two donor solicitations per year. We also plan to send out a report to our donors on a monthly basis and will ask people to let us know if they prefer email or a hard copy. There is no hard and fast standard, but if you get feedback from your donors to slow it down or cut it out, they should be listened to carefully and responded to promptly. Thankfully, we do have some good rules for donors to follow to help stop unwanted mail solicitations - click here to read it. Unfortunately, many charities do not follow these rules --at best, their donors remain loyal with a very sour taste in their mouths or, at worst, donors make a hasty retreat for the exit.


Anonymous said...

I totally agree with this. One of your 4-star charities, CARE, sends at least two or three requests PER MONTH; I've even gotten two on the same day! I've written them off my list!

Erich Riesenberg said...

Too many repetitive e-mails, and they never give specific financial information on how the money is to be used. I stopped giving to one when it hired a professional fundraiser and costs shot up. It takes too much effort to figure out what most nonprofits do with the money.

Ken Berger said...


As you will see in my blog entry for next week, we hope that in the future we will be able to help you with figuring out what the charities outcomes are.

Bobs said...

I get so many from Feed The children that I have almost eliminated them. NFB is another. Gifts one doesn't want or ask for-all the time. I get so many a day that it ruins my day.

Anonymous said...

This year I began saving the requests that come in the mail.

I intend not to donate to the ones wich make too many requests.

Some even send a new request for a donation with the "Thank you" for the last one.

I also wonder, what is a fair and reasonable salary for CEOs? How can I learn that?

Anonymous said...

I wrote letters (regular mail, not email) to several 3 and 4 star animal charities that I support asking them not to send me any appeals, and I would promise to continue to support them over the course of the year. It worked pretty well for about 2 years, but now I am starting to get appeals even though in some cases I have increased my donation frequency and amount.

Anonymous said...

Our mail is almost all donation requests. I get upset when I get up to 6 phone calls in an evening for donation requests. If we do donate we are swamped with requests from similar organizations. When my husband says "send something in the mail" they interprete this as a pledge. If there was an do not call list for charities, I would be on it.

Ken Berger said...


Two places to starting you quest for information on CEO salaries:

1. Check out our annual study of CEO compensation. Here is the link -

2. Check out my blog on the topic a while back. Here is the link -

The bottom line is this, you should call the charity and ask them - Do you have a Compensation Committee to set your CEO/ED's salary?

If not, it is a sign that they may not be making an objective decision based on the norm within the industry. They also may be at risk of a future IRS review.

Anonymous said...

My new job pays 20% less than my previous one... but, I still want to donate to a few efficient charities. CARE has been on my list for several years.... However, I am completely turned-off by the staggering amount of mail that I get from them. How much of my hard won money goes into the paper garbage every day? I wish nonprofits would understand the negative effect that massive mail has on most donors.

Gary said...

In one year I received the following number of mailings: Project Hope/23, American Diabetes/22, American Lung/18, CARE/18, UNICEF/18, Mult. Scler./16, NARAL/16, ARC/15. What a waste!!