Last updated: August 23. 2013 5:33PM - 250 Views

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In my typical week, when it comes to mail service, I receive between 15 and 20 solicitations for money from organizations that are both pretty well-known, such as The American Heart Association, and the not so common, such as the ones I receive from American Indians trying to fund their schools.

And, while I try to select some from time to time and help out with donations, I must admit a lot of the solicitations go in the trash, some without my even opening the envelopes. According to the website Catalog Choice, when it comes to not opening all my solicitations, I‚??m not alone. Approximately 44 percent of such mailings wind up at the landfill unopened. It just seems when it comes to those representing groups and causes approaching with their hands outstretched for some of our hard-earned cash, the line resembles those that used to be seen for ‚??Star Wars‚?Ě premiers.

While this type of mailing has been around for years, it certainly has changed a lot in the last couple of decades. For one thing, what is certainly different is the sheer volume. Estimates are that we all receive about 41 pounds of junk mail, much of it, solicitations, annually.

Besides the amount, the other change I‚??ve noticed in the last several years about solicitations is that so many now come with something in the envelope to, either entice or ‚??guilt‚?Ě the recipient into making a donation, depending on how you look at the trend.

Several years ago, the first enticement I recall was those return address stickers. While these are still frequently sent today, so much so, that none of us should ever have to write our return address in the upper left-hand corner of an envelope again, certainly there‚??s an abundance of other items we didn‚??t ask for being sent.

Soon after all those address labels, there came notepads and greeting cards. Following that, one organization even started sending a blanket, one not nearly big enough or thick enough to be of much use, but a blanket nonetheless. Then, religious groups got in the act, sending medals and even rosaries, the latter from the Clarion Missionaries to solicit funds for the National Shrine of St. Jude.

Then, organizations began sending solicitations with coins affixed to cards, first pennies and then nickels and dimes, and I thought that was about as far as it could go, that is, until organizations began sending checks for $2 a piece, with the idea being that a donor endorse the check back to the organization and, of course, send his or her own donation back with the check.

I have a friend who feels that cashing those $2 checks is a surefire way to stop the solicitations from that organization. However, because organizations routinely sell the names of its potential donors to other groups, I‚??m not sure that‚??ll stem the tide of getting a whole bunch of what you never asked for.

As for any guilt factor when it comes to using those address labels, scratch pads, greeting cards and even the money that is sent, well, I‚??m not sure there is any. I mean, where are these mailings going to go if we choose to not give? Well, if it‚??s my kitchen, it‚??s that receptacle that sits just to the right of the fridge.

As to why this surging trend continues when it comes to the vexing problem of receiving so many unsolicited solicitations, well, according to the Better Business Bureau, the practice of exchanging mailing lists is quite common among organizations that use direct mailing to reach potential donors.

Here‚??s how it works. Each time we donate, our name gets added to an organization‚??s donor list. By doing so, each donor‚??s name becomes more valuable to that organization, but not just for future donations. The donor‚??s name increases in value when an organization decides to sell the name to other organizations, which, in turn, often decide to do the same.

And, according to the website Charity Navigator, the odds of your name being passed along to other organizations grow much longer if you give what is perceived to be a nominal amount, say $25 or less, because those donations barely cover the cost incurred in soliciting the gift. To recoup those costs, groups often then will sell your name to other groups.

As for stopping this practice of selling your name, well, all I can say is good luck because from what I can see, it‚??s a crapshoot as to whether you can stop the practice.

Charity Navigator lists three ways to attempt to stop the practice. First, give larger amounts to fewer groups rather than several smaller donations to more, which seems a bit uncharitable to me.

Second, try to research a given charity to find out which are committed to donor privacy. However, this isn‚??t always easy to discover.

Third, find out what a group‚??s opt-out policy is, that is allowing you to control what organizations do with your name, again often not so easy.

Giving large amounts in a tough economy and trying to find the time to research through writing letters and making phone calls to find out about donor privacy and opting out isn‚??t a real enticing idea.

So, I guess I‚??ll keep giving when I can and what I can, and, with the rest of those solicitations, well, it‚??s just a short walk over to the trash can, that is, after checking to see if I should be tearing the envelopes open to grab some of those goodies I didn‚??t ask for.

John Grindrod
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