Charity address labels. Stuck in the past.

December 9, 2008

Charities are run poorly. It’s that simple. If they were run better, you and I would seldom receive multiple pieces of mail from the same organization within the span of a week. We wouldn’t get phone-call solicitations every night during the holidays. And we’d most likely run out of return-address mailing labels in pretty short order.

What prompted today’s column was the appearance in my mailbox of labels from three separate charities. Bear in mind that I’ve only given to one of these charities – EVER – and have been getting their labels pretty regularly for years.

What are they thinking? I can’t believe that paper, ink, or printing services are getting any cheaper as the planet gets gobbled up and forests are decimated? Haven’t they learned the power of the Internet, where the same mailing would be essentially free (although it would be tougher to include self-stick mailing labels in an attachment)?

Perhaps the divide is precisely on the line where old media and marketing (phone, mail) get replaced by new-media communication (email, IM, text message, Twitter). I’m not entirely anxious for people to start annoying me via my cell because I am indentured to Verizon for about 42 years. But I’d be happy to receive all my pitches via email. I’d also be happy to have these charities use the money they spent on labels more responsibly.

The transition is an admitted struggle. Even the local NPR radio station – WBUR Boston – doesn’t have a PayPal address. They urge you to pledge (which I did), but then the reminder they sent me was via snail mail and included a postage paid envelope.

Let me tell you that an email reminder would have been just fine. And they ask for that address in the pledge, so why not use it?

Now I’m bummed out because my $11 donation to WBUR has already dropped to $10 or less. The cost of mailing to me, printing and picking up the cost of my return correspondence has got to be around a buck or more.

Finally, if you were in my shoes (and didn’t know the team at BUR as I do – and love their energy and their dedication), you might think, “why should I bother giving to a group that is pissing away my donation?”

I’ve already talked with them about these issues and WBUR is on the right track. But there are hundreds of charities and non-profits that aren’t.

If you run a charity or if you give to charities on a regular basis, see if there’s a way that you can make sure they get more of your donation. That’s possibly even better than your $11 check.

And once you do that, you won’t need their quarterly gift of sticky goodness to label yourself philanthropic.

–Got any charities you know that are doing things right or wrong? Share them here in the comments!–

Keep reading!