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Doing Good Matters

How to fight the flood of charity mail and email

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.”
Charity Mail Pile

Mail from charities you’ve never given to

Charities doing substantial “donor acquisition” solicitations often use mailing lists and databases obtained from professional list sellersIf 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 website of a group like AudienceFirst Media.

How did your name and address get on a mailing list? The list providers might be getting the 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.

Donor Data Mining

Reducing charity mail starts with charities you already give to

Want to fight the charity mail flood? Send a letter or email to each charity you already donate to, spelling out your wishes about privacy and being contacted.
I’ve provided a sample message 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 your donor feedback on how and when to best contact you.
  • Want a positive relationship with you as an existing donor.
  • Not want to waste money it spends on connecting with donors.
  • Respect the privacy of its donors.

A sample message to send to your charities

In the message, ask the charity to write you and confirm that it will comply with your requests. 

If the charity fails to comply with your wishes — drop them.

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.

Here’s my sample message — 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 or emailed 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 or email.
  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 or email.

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.


[Your Name]

[Your signature or initials]

Giving to fewer charities could also help

I urge Savvy Donors to focus on giving to fewer charities. One of the benefits, if you give to fewer charities you should get less charity mail.

Savvy Donors save time and focus by reducing the mail they receive from charities.