Tuesday, March 21, 2006

How to help non-profits more and get less junkmail!

The non-profit industry in the U.S. is big business, and not just for the non-profits but for the US Postal Service, printers, list brokers, mailhouses, graphic designers and other related businesses. Fundraising represents at least 10% of the total pie for a healthy organization and can easily break 20% for many. That's means before a single person is helped, at least a dime of every dollar is being spent on getting the money. That's actually before any non-fundraising expenses are met. It's not uncommon for about 50 cents of every dollar to actually go to the programs. That's why it's good to look at charities on Guidestar or using Charity Navigator. You might want a utopian charity that flows 90% of all funds directly to the cause. You won't find that but you can use these tools to see how similar groups stack-up.

So, you like so many groups that you want to help them all. What should you do? Deeper, not broader. Find a few key charities that are really important to you and give as much as you can to those groups. Many costs are fixed so the total costs of receiving a $20 dollar donation is very similar to receiving a $100 donation. Give 5 $100 donations instead of 25 $20 donations(more is better but you get the picture!). This isn't the stock market so don't diversify.

How can $20 or less be donated most effectively? In cash, annonymously to a low-overhead organization. Cash is the least expensive to process. If they don't know who you are, they won't spend money thanking you or asking you for more. If it's low-overhead, no money is lost processing your donation. Look for a local organization in your community. Although Conscious Consuming would certainly appreciate donations, there are dozens of worthwhile charities that would be equally suitable. If you aren't sure about finding one, feel free to ask!

What about reducing mail? Well you took a step in that direction with a larger donation. Most organizations do not sell, trade or rent the names of donors who gave $100 or more because they don't want to share the more valuable donors. Regardless of what amount you give, make two clear requests 1) only one soliciation per year and 2) do not rent or exchange my name. That request should be honored by any organization that you donate to.

Some people say that if you receive unsolicited mail from an organization, you can use the postage paid envelope and return a note asking them to remove your name and to not exchange or sell it. I would discourage you from doing that since you are adding expense to the charity and asking them to do something they can't The explanation is a bit long and involves listbrokers, mail fees, etc. If you want the explanation ask me but I won't tie-up this post any longer.

Happy Donating!

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