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Seven Tips for Reducing Unwanted Mail and Phone Appeals

   May 16, 2012

If you are wondering how to cope with the avalanche of charity mailings and telephone calls, CharityWatch offers the following suggestions.

1.)  Be selective in your giving. Whenever you donate, no matter how small your gift may be, your name will be added to the charity’s donor list. This ensures you will continue to receive appeals from that charity, as well as from other groups to which the charity has rented or exchanged its mailing list. Research the groups you wish to support—the CharityWatch Charity Rating Guide and our online charity ratings are useful resources—and don't feel guilty about withholding funds from the rest, even if they send you address labels! By concentrating your charitable donations, you can increase the amounts your selected charities receive while reducing unwanted mail from other groups.

2.)  When you give money to a charity or nonprofit group, enclose a note requesting that the organization not rent, sell or exchange your name, address and giving history with anyone else. You can make future contributions contingent on the charity respecting your concerns. Click here for a sample note. Keep in mind that you want to balance your interest in privacy with your interest in helping a charity obtain additional revenue by selling or trading donor names.

3.)  Write to individual charities to stop or reduce the frequency of solicitations. If you are interested in supporting a charity, but are concerned about the waste and inconvenience resulting from excessive soliciting, ask the charity to decrease the frequency of its solicitations. Alternately, make future contributions contingent on the charity respecting your concerns. If you do not wish to support a charity, ask the charity to delete your name from its mailing lists. It may take a bit of detective work to be deleted from “the charity’s” mailing lists. Because many nonprofits rent lists from other groups, they do not keep the lists themselves and therefore cannot delete your name. (This is true of most mail solicitations, whether from a charity or not.) Save the mailing label and the “reply device” from these mailings. They are likely to contain codes that indicate the list your name came from. Ask the organization that mailed you the solicitation for the name of the organization from which it rented that list. Then contact that organization and ask that your name not be rented, sold or exchanged. With your note, remember to include the address label from the envelope containing the appeal.

4.)  Contact the Data & Marketing Association (DMA; formerly, Direct Marketing Association) to have your name removed from the mailing lists of some direct mail marketing companies and nonprofit organizations. Click here to do this online. It is also possible to register by sending your name and address (with signature), along with a $3 processing fee (check or money order payable to DMA) to:

Data & Marketing Association
PO Box 643
Carmel, NY 10512

Say that you wish to have your name removed from both commercial and nonprofit organizations’ lists. It may take three months or more before you see a drop in unsolicited mail coming to your home. Unfortunately, this may not reduce your volume of unwanted charity mail because many nonprofit groups do not utilize the DMA service. (Note: Registering by mail requires a longer processing time than online registration. Categorical and specific organization opt-out requests and other preference services are not offered by the DMA via mailed-in requests.)

5.)  Credit bureaus have a toll-free number-1-888-5-OPTOUT (1-888-567-8688) that will prevent having pre-approved credit offers sent to you for two years. You can also notify the three major credit bureaus that you do not want them to disclose personal information about you for promotional purposes. Write to:

Equifax, Inc., Options
PO Box 740123
Atlanta, GA 30374-0123

Experian, Consumer Opt Out
701 Experian Pkwy.
Allen, TX 75013

TransUnion Opt Out Request
PO Box 505
Woodlyn, PA 19094

Include your full name, address, social security number, date of birth, and signature in written requests.

6.)  To reduce unwanted telephone appeals, click here to do this online or write to:

Telephone Preference Service
Data & Marketing Association
PO Box 1559
Carmel, NY 10512

Say that you do not want to receive any advertising or sales calls, provide your phone number, name, address, and signature, and ask to be added to the national “do not call” list. You can also handle unwanted telemarketing calls on an individual basis-just tell the caller to put you on the “do not call” list. Unfortunately, this may not lessen the interruptions from charity telemarketing because many nonprofit groups do not utilize the DMA service. You can use the sample note on this page to reduce the frequency and control the time of telemarketing calls from a specific charity.

National "Do Not Call" List: Unfortunately, nonprofits are not required to use this list. However it may reduce calls from for-profit fundraising companies that nonprofits hire. To get on the list, call 888-382-1222 or log on to http://www.donotcall.gov/.

7.)  Ask your state and local officials. Many states in the U.S. are addressing the issue of unwanted mail and telephone solicitations. Check with the consumer protection agencies in your state and county concerning laws or regulations affecting unsolicited mail. Charities are often exempt from restrictions, but there are increasing efforts at the state level to reduce the burden of unwanted mail. Finally, be understanding of honest errors made by conscientious charities. Charities with the best of intentions may make solicitation errors. Data input mistakes, sometimes caused by poor donor handwriting, that result in duplicate mailings or other inconveniences are bound to happen when a charity is processing many thousands, if not millions, of names. So if you're one of the unlucky victims of a charity solicitation error, be patient and give the charity a chance to correct its mistake.

Click for the Fundraising Reduction Notice