Bring up the subject of charity mail, and the language hints of war. I’m bombarded. I’ve been hit by a barrage. But once they recover, millions of Americans sit down and write checks to charities that mail to them. If they did not, thousands of charities could not continue the work they do.
How can I get my name off mailing lists? Try one or more of the following:
Weigh Opt-out Offers
Many charities, but not all, share the names of their donors, compiled on lists, with other organizations. Sharing can mean exchange, rental or, very rarely, sale of the list. Any charity that shares its names should protect donors’ privacy by offering the option of having their names removed from shared lists.
Go Straight to the Source
You needn’t wait to be asked what you want. Contact individual charities, in writing, if you want to restrict the use of your name. Fund raisers tell us that most charities maintain in-house suppression lists of donors who have done so. Enclose the label from the appeal with your request, so the charity knows exactly what addressee to add to its list.
Register with the DMA Mail Preference Service
This service of the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) may help reduce the amount of both non-profit and commercial mail you receive. Once you register, your name goes onto a do-not-mail file that is used by certain direct mail marketing firms to eliminate names from their mailing lists. Since not all mailers use the service, your unwanted mail will be reduced but not eliminated. To register, go to www.dmachoice.org. Online registration requires a credit card number to verify name and address; no charge will be made. The registration form can also be completed online, and then mailed in with a check or money order for $1.00.
Help the Charity Follow Your Wishes
If you write to a charity to request that it not mail to you, be sure to send the return card that came with the appeal, so that the charity can readily identify you. If you write to eliminate duplicate appeals (those with slight variations in your name or address), send all the labels, with their variations. A charity’s appeal envelope on which you’ve written delete my name or return to sender and put in the mailbox will not reach the charity unless you add postage, since the nonprofit mailing rates that charities use won’t pay for returns.
Is Success Guaranteed?
No. In even the best-intentioned charities, employees can make mistakes. Computer programs can’t always handle highly specialized requests. And unless you live in a cocoon, your name is constantly being added to mailing lists. Charities should be responsive to donor requests, however. If you have a complaint about how yours have been handled by a national charity, let the Alliance know, in writing (e-mail or snail mail) and we will relay it to the charity.
Resolve to Investigate
Your donation goes to an organization made up of men and women who may or may not have the commitment to ethics, efficiency and effectiveness you think that cause deserves. So pause and look further before you give. For local charities, contact your local Better Business Bureau. Most states also have charity regulators, usually in the office of the state attorney general, who can help, often with online resources.