How to Fight the Charity Mail Flood

Charities send me too much mail

Charity Mail“Charities send me too much mail” is the #1 feeling shared so far in our 2014 community survey. It’s even beating “I hate charity telemarketing calls” on the negative side and “I know and support a strong charity doing solid work” on the positive side.

Mail from charities you’ve given to

Yes, donors get upset about the amount and content of mail they receive from charities they’ve already donated to. Do one or more of these comments apply to you?

  • “I’m upset at what I consider a waste of money by the charity doing the mailing — money that was likely donated to the charity.”
  • “I don’t like it when a donation ‘thank you’ letter includes another donation request or envelope.”
  • “I don’t want to be asked repeatedly and/or frequently.”

Mail from charities you’ve never given to

Charities doing substantial “donor acquisition” solicitations often use commercial mailing lists obtained from a list broker or managerIf you want to learn more about the charity mailing list business, do an online search for “nonprofit direct mail” or for “charity mailing list” or take a look at the site of a group called National Fundraising Lists. It bills itself as “The leader in direct-mail list brokerage and list management.”

How did your name and address get on a commercial mailing list? The list providers get information directly or indirectly from charities you’ve already given to. How much you give and the types of charities you give to are important factors in which lists you get on.

Reducing charity mail starts with charities you already give to

Want to fight the charity mail flood? Send a letter to each charity you already donate to, spelling out your wishes about privacy and being contacted.

I’ve provided a sample letter below. You can modify it for use with charities that use email to seek donations.

You can send the letter the next time you make a donation. Or you can go ahead and send your letter(s) now.

I believe that a well-managed charity will

  • Welcome donor feedback on how and when to best contact them.
  • Want a positive relationship with existing donors.
  • Not want to waste money it spends on connecting with donors.
  • Respect the privacy of its donors.

In the letter, ask the charity to write you and confirm that it will comply with your requests. If the charity fails to comply — drop them.

Here’s my sample letter — feel free to copy it and change it to suit your wishes and situation.

[Your Name and Address]


[Charity Name and Address]

Ladies and Gentlemen:

I have donated to you because I care about your work and mission.

I am writing to let you know my preferences concerning privacy and contact from you.

Please honor my privacy. Do not sell, exchange or otherwise provide information about me or my donation history to any other organization.

Concerning contact,

  1. A mailed response to this letter is requested.
  2. Mailed donation solicitations are fine, but just once a year [option: during the months of October, November or December].
  3. Mailed program updates, newsletters, financial updates, volunteer opportunities, donation thank yous and similar mailings are fine (but not if they include a solicitation).
  4. Telephone calls and email messages for any purpose (other than in prompt response to a direct inquiry from me) are not wanted.
  5. If and when you have an online way for me to manage my privacy and/or contact preferences, please notify me by mail.
  6. If and when you have a way for me access program updates, newsletters, etc. online (instead of through the mail) please notify me by mail.

Please confirm in writing that you will honor the above requests.

If you fail to honor the above requests, I will stop donating to you.


Note: There may already be a mailing in process when you send the letter — don’t hold a mailing you receive in the first 60 days against the charity.

Giving to fewer charities could also help

In Doing Good Matters podcast episode #10 I urged you to focus on fewer charities. One of the benefits I hadn’t thought of at the time, if you give to fewer charities you should get less charity mail.