I am drowning in labels given me by charities. Even though I do occasionally send cards or notes by snail mail, I will never be able to use all the labels sent to me.
They come from the Canadian Cancer Society, Canadian Red Cross, Crohn’s & Colitis Canada, Heart & Stroke Foundation, MADD Canada, MS Society of Canada, Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation, SPCA, Toronto Zoo. They say Ms. Susan Horner, Sue Horner, Susan Horner/Get It Write, S. Horner, Susan L. Horner, Mrs. S. Horner, Get It Write. They are decorated with flowers, birds, butterflies, nature scenes, animals, holiday greetings, my initial (H or G) and company logos.
William Watson, writing in the Ottawa Citizen last year, calls it “the dying-technology charity pitch.” Like me, he has several hundred labels piled up, and says:
“When sending a letter, I’m always at a loss for a stamp but never for an address label…Do Canadian charities not understand we now have things called email and the Internet?”
So why do charities continue to send them?
A 2010 Slate.com post quotes Jennifer Bielat, VP for Direct Marketing for Easter Seals, as saying, “We do it because it works.” (I wonder if it still does in 2015?)
In 2014, re:charity blogger Brady Josephson explained why he thinks “sending address labels or Christmas cards isn’t as outdated as you might think”:
“The technical term for the tactic of sending a gift (like Christmas cards or address labels) as part of a fundraising appeal is ‘reciprocity’… premised on the idea that when people receive something of benefit, they are more likely to return the favour in the form of a donation.”
Nice thought, but I disagree.
Giving labels I may never use is no way to make me feel I owe something in return. My donation guideline is this: If I believe in the charity, and can spare a donation, I do — once in a year, no matter how many pitches come in. And I look at the money the charity is wasting on labels, cards, multiple mailings and such and wish those dollars were applied to its good work instead.
What do you think — is sending address labels, cards, pens and other “gifts” still a worthwhile attempt to encourage donations? Or are you sick of it, as I am? My new response is “return to sender,” with a note saying I don’t mind the charity reporting on their successful work and requesting my support, but please stop sending stuff I don’t need or want.