Labels and Nickels

Every once in a while – when I can afford it – I try to give to a charity or two. It’s my way of making up for not having the time to volunteer for a cause I find worthy.

But that feeling of goodwill is almost always conflicted by the dozens of other organizations who (because they got my name off a mailing list somewhere) ply me with stuffed envelopes, trying to give me hundreds of really good reasons to give to their charities.

I’ve actually mentioned my dislike of almost-obsessive mailing campaigns by charities before. So that’s not new.

But what’s been leaving a bad taste in my mouth are two kinds of recent “trends” in charitable mail-outs:

(1) Address tags. LOTS of them.

A nice piece of stationery now and then, I don’t mind. But along with those generic “Dear Friend” letters, I’m getting entire sheets of tags with my name and address on them.

Um, did someone forget to tell these people about this crazy futuristic mode of communication called … The Internet?

In 1995, address tags would have been great.

But we’re in 2010, where Canada Post is removing mailboxes from neighbourhoods in cities like Halifax, because NO ONE MAILS LETTERS ANYMORE.

(Full disclosure: I still use the traditional mail service to send things like insurance claims, cards on special occasions, and subscriptions to things. I know I could probably do this online. But I feel as if the primary reason I still do this is to help rid myself of my lifetime supply of address tags.)

When it comes to corresponding with friends, family, and associates, I’m not sitting in my office, scribbling with a quill pen on my finest stationery in calligraphic lettering.

I’m clackin’ away on my computer keyboard.

What in the sweet hell am I supposed to do with two lifetimes’ worth of name tags?

I really don’t want to throw them out, because it’s a waste. But I’m not planning to live at my parents’ house until age 47 so I can use them up. And I can’t give them away, since MY NAME and MY ADDRESS is printed on them.

(2) The nickel in the mail. THIS irks me BEYOND BELIEF.

Okay … say you’re a charity. And you want to explain to me that giving to your cause – and the people who will benefit – costs as little as a nickel a day, if I were to truly give it some thought. Oh, and by the way, when I return the form, could I mail you the nickel back?

But here’s the thing: in theory, you’re expecting me to mail you my donation, which is NOT actually 5 cents, but is actually closer to something like $35, $40, $50 (according to the options you’ve printed on your donation form – UNLESS you have a line marked “OTHER”, in which case I can make out my own donation, which is still reasonably larger than 5 cents).

All right. But consider THIS: you just spent FIFTY-SEVEN CENTS to mail ME a form – AND a nickel. And THEN you want me to send you a donation (I don’t pay postage because, again, you’ve paid 57 cents for me to mail it – that’s $1.14 you’ve spent in postage), PLUS the nickel.

But wait. I’m not the only one you’ve sent mail to. You’ve potentially sent mail to hundreds, maybe thousands, of poeple. Think about how many of these letters – and nickels – are mailed out to people. How many letters end up in the trash. And how many still just end up in a pile of junk mail, collecting dust.

Couldn’t you say that – in a way – money that should be going to the people you want to help, has just been MAILED away, potentially never to return?

OR … say someone chooses not to MAIL you back the form, but, rather, to make his or her donation online. That kind of negates the whole act of returning the form and the nickel … and THAT’s kind of WASTED money (and paper), right?

And then there are those special groups out there, who have the audacity to COMBINE both (1) AND (2).


I could continue and burst a blood vessel. But instead, let me make some things clear:

I don’t disagree with the sentiment behind the mail-outs. Nor do I believe that everyone uses the Internet, or even has regular access to a computer. And yes, there still ARE people who use snail-mail to send letters, bills, etc. So this may be perfect for them.

But in an age when we’re being encouraged to reduce waste and find “greener” ways to do things, sending me reams of mail to encourage me to make monetary donations, just doesn’t seem terribly responsible.

Plus, I’m willing to bet this unnecessarily drives up charities’ administrative costs, taking money away from the very causes they’re trying to help.

Just sayin’.