01 February 2020

What Were They Thinking?

It's time for another round of charitable crankiness. You may recall that in 2012 I kept every charitable solicitation that arrived by postal mail. At the beginning January, I thought I might do that again, but instead of waiting to do a round up at year end, I think I'll do it monthly.

There were ten solicitations that arrived in January - however, two of them were from the same organization so nine places tried to get me to donate.

Of the ten envelopes, four came with plain return envelopes, to which I would have to supply my own stamp:

Five came with business reply envelopes - where the sender gets to mail something and the recipient pays the postage. (I've heard this compared to making a collect call.):

With business reply mail, the post office charges the recipient for each envelope that comes back - plus a premium for handling, and an annual permit fee.

Note that two of those envelopes ask you to put your own stamp on anyway: "your stamp on this envelope is an additional contribution" and "your first-class stamp on this envelope adds to your gift". It's a little disingenuous to call it an additional contribution - but it would arguably reduce the expenses to the organization because they wouldn't have to pay the postage on that particular envelope and would therefore save a dollar or so. However, in my experience as a career non-profit person, who has worked at organizations that have tested using business reply mail, if someone puts a stamp on a BRE, the post office charges ANYWAY. So both the donor and the recipient have now paid postage, and that's ridiculous.

What really chapped my hide, though, was a return envelope from Human Rights Watch - which was a BRE with stamps. Five cents worth of stamps:

I just don't know what they were thinking - so I looked it up. Apparently it's a thing:

Here’s a relatively inexpensive trick that can increase the prominence of the BRE (and make it look like an SRE). Try adding a few low-denomination stamps, such as one-cent, two-cent, or even a five-cent stamp, ideally aligned with an element of your mission. (For nature accounts, we’ve had success using Bobcat or other animal stamps.)

Not only does Human Rights Watch have to pay for postage plus the handling charge for any envelopes that come back, they have also spent money on postage for EVERY ENVELOPE THAT THEY SENT. That seems like a crazy waste of money.

The USPS probably likes it though, all those stamps bought and never used.


lemming said...

I received a donation request in the mail yesterday that I really did not understand. My address had been handwritten with the kind of penmanship I would describe as "Old Lady with Moxie." Inside were:

A stamped envelope
a brochure, telling me all about a young man's many accomplishments
a card, telling me the various levels at which I could sponsor him for... something? The right donation would get me a teddy bear, I figured that much out.

Beyond that, I'm bewitched, bothered, and bewildered.

Kaye said...

In the very olden days, when the Nixon campaign would send me a postpaid return envelop, I'd stuff in as much McGovern propaganda as I could and return it to them.

MARY G said...

You can't win. If I send a donation, I then get more mail back asking for even more donation, or monthly donation or ............!!!
I have taken to writing a note on the donation form saying that if I get more than one solicitation a year I will remove the offending charity from my list. So far this has not worked, but it gives me some satisfaction.
For the last few years we have made all our donations as close to local as we can manage. There is a lot of need right in our community.