Last year, I made a contributions to the March of Dimes Foundation (MoDF) in December. I mailed, with my donation, a short note stating that:
- I wished my donation to be anonymous,
- I did not wish to receive additional solicitations from the MoDF,
- I did not wish to receive solicitations from charities that MoDF believes "might be of interest to me", and
- all unsolicited mail from MoDF or any of its charitable "partners" would be immediately thrown away.
Imagine my surprise when I began receiving mailings from MoDF at the frequency of one about every thirty days. After a few months of this (in March or April of this year), I sent MoDF a letter asking them to remove my name and address from their mailing list. I have since sent essentially the same letter (with minor alterations) four (FOUR!) times, with no success. It seems there is no reasonable course of action.
Because of this, I'm now of the opinion that some charities have become too aggressive, because there doesn't seem to be much value to a modest contribution after the cost of additional solicitations for contributions is accounted for. The MoDF envelopes I received were stuffed with self-adhesive address labels, two or three page letters (double-sided), and self-addressed envelopes. It probably only cost twenty-five cents to mail the envelope, but printing the address labels was an additional expense, toner costs money, and by all accounts the cost of paper is increasing, so the total cost was substantial (I estimate ~$1.50 - $2.00).
I'm wondering if this is the way of things to come, or if a little feedback now might prevent charitable organizations from adopting the philosophy of corporate America, which of late seems to greatly desire the opportunity to confront me with "targeted" and "relevant" advertising1 at any and all times of the day and on every horizontal or vertical surface on which it is possible to place advertising on the theory that it is necessary to maintain a competitive advantage. In my experience, the "competitive advantage" afforded by extensive advertising has not resulted in lower prices or increased savings on the part of the manufacturer, which are passed on to the consumer in the form of lower prices. In fact, I believe the cost of the additional advertising more than offsets the additional revenue gained, and that any "savings" are not real and on paper only.
Because of its overly aggressive attitude, I will not be making a donation to MoDF this year, or likely for many years to come. I feel they wasted the donation I made asking for additional donations, and that an additional donation will only serve to reinforce the notion that the overly aggressive marketing of the MoDF "brand" is necessary for the organization to survive, and that is a philosophy I would rather not see non-profits in America embrace.
Do not mistake me. I am not saying that I think the mission of the MoDF is not worthy. I simply don't feel that my contribution made a difference. The money I donate is being spent to solicit more donations from me, so the net gain by the organization is zero. In other words, the money I donate is being used to purchase more advertising, of which I am the sole target. I prefer to donate money to an organization that has a more immediate need of it for other priorities.
If I had donated, say, five or ten dollars to MoDF and they had sent me twelve envelopes (one year's worth) with a total value in excess of that, I would effectively be draining money from the organization. It wouldn't be significant in itself, however the combined effect of hundreds of thousands of such donations would be significant indeed, if every one were pursued so aggressively.
Some of the posters to the thread above referred to this as "reverse donating", and it's the first I'd ever heard of it. To my mind, the fact that it is popular enough to be known by multiple posters, and have its own phrase to describe it, is an acknowledgement that my characterization is accurate, and that some non-profits have gotten completely out of hand. I am forced to consider that a greater percentage of all donations flows out of a non-profit than is necessary because those organizations do not have clear priorities.
I would like to present an alternate model of solicitation by non-profits, in contrast to the first, above. I also made donations to National Public Radio (NPR) last year, once at each pledge drive.
I listened to NPR for a year before that to determine if it was worth supporting, and decided that it was well worth supporting, because I now listen to NPR almost exclusively. During their spring pledge drive I called and made my pledge. The woman I spoke to asked me if I wanted my name to be released over the air. I told her, "no thank you", and then told her that I did not want my name to be shared with any other entity, and she assured me that would not happen. To my knowledge, it hasn't happened. I receive a quarterly newsletter from NPR, but that's it.
Admittedly, NPR's website states that NPR does not directly solicit contributions, and that this is a long-standing board policy. It states that direct mail and telephone solicitations are at member stations' prerogative, and our local NPR station has not attempted to contact me, in obeyance of my stated wishes. In my opinion, this is an enlightened policy that other charities would do well to consider adopting.
Because of their stance on direct solicitations, and the fact that they have not (to my knowledge) shared my name or address, I will be donating to my local NPR member station in the future. As stated before, I will not be donating money to MoDF for a few years, at least, or until they publicly announce that they will cease aggressively soliciting contributions, and, in my view, foolishly wasting money donated for other purposes.
1. I maintain that the use of the words "targeted" and "relevant" with respect to advertising is an oxymoron.