Free calendars and address labels by Joseph Connelly
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, December 1996:
I last bought a calendar in 1990.
The 20th anniversary celebration of
Earth Day was big that year, temporarily making
everyone an activist.
Like millions of other Americans, I
responded to a television ad showing how dolphins
were netted with tuna. Almost overnight
my mailbox filled. Uninformed, I wrote
checks. More solicitations came. I now know
that most of the groups who got my money are
among the largest, best financed, and least
needy. They simply had the bucks to buy my
name––many times over.
Shortly thereafter I started reading
ANIMAL PEOPLE editor Merritt Clifton’s
“Who gets the money?” reports, then published
by The Animals’ Agenda. In the summer
of 1991, a year after Earth Day 1990, I
moved, and left no forwarding address.
I began an ongoing experiment,
now over five years old. I came up with my
own litmus test to determine which charities I
felt comfortable enough to support. I encourage
everyone to do the same, using all data
available. Certainly you will have different
parameters than I do. That’s fine. The important
thing is to inform yourself as to where
your donation dollars end up. They will be
stretched farther and do more good if you support
smaller charities that you can monitor.
My experiment was simple: if I still
wished to support a charity, I sent it my new
address. I also asked these charities not to sell,
trade, or in any way exchange my information.
Charities I chose to cease supporting didn’t
hear from me. I rented a post office box that I
used solely for this purpose, keeping the data
separate from my personal mail.
For five years I have saved every
piece of mail received at that post office box.
While I haven’t seen my desk in a while, and
my spouse no longer enters my office, I was
on a mission. I wanted to see just how many
solicitations I would receive from charities
that, as far as they knew, had never received
a dime from me.
The first of the two accompanying
charts shows which charities I formerly supported
perceived me as vulnerable, and how
often. Many of their solicitations stated boldly,
“We want you back,” or asked, “Please
renew your membership.”
While it is easy to condemn them, it
should be noted that each received my name
and address from the few groups that I chose
to continue supporting––which had been asked
to withhold this information.
The second chart shows how often I
have heard from charities that “discovered” me
for the first time after my move.
Omitted are charities I still support.
The positive side to my experiment
is that since relocating I have not had to order
return address labels or purchase a calendar.
Charities I formerly supported
First column: appeals 4/90-12/91.
Second column: appeals since 7/91.
African Wildlife 1 7
American Humane Assn. n/a 15
American SPCA 20 25
ALDF n/a 28
Animal Protection Inst. 3 25
Center for Marine Cons. 1 9
Cousteau Society (1) 6 1
Defenders of Wildlife 5 17
Doris Day Animal Lg. 0 13
Envir. Defense Fund 19 25
Friends of Animals n/a 8
Greenpeace (2) 24 46
Humane Society of U.S. 30 32
IFAW n/a 6
Marine Mammal Center n/a 6
Nat. Audubon Society 5 6
Nat. Humane Ed. Soc. n/a 6
Nat. Parks & Cons. Assn. 16 7
Nat. Wildlife Fed. 27 15
NRDC n/a 6
Nature Conservancy 17 25
PETA (3) 16 48
Sierra Club 9 8
Union of Concerned Sci. 0 16
Wilderness Society 16 8
Wildlife Cons. Int’l 11 28
World SPA 0 4
World Wildlife Fund 18 21
Worldwatch Institute 0 4
n/a = possible contact prior to the experiment.
Charities that found me
Alley Cat Allies 3
Amercian AV Society 1
American Vegan Society 2
Best Friends 8
DELTA Rescue 1
Def. of Animal Rights 1
The Fur-Bearer Defenders 5
The Gorilla Foundation 4
Humane Farming Assn. 20
Intl. Fndtn for Eth. Res. 1
Intl. Primate Protect. Lg. 7
Last Chance for Animals 12
League of Cons. Voters 1
Northeast Animal Shelter 7
Orca Adoption Program 1
Perf. Anml. Welf. Soc. 2
Public Citizen 3
Sea Shepherd Cons. Soc. 2
Tree House Animal Fndtn. 2
Wildlife Waystation 1
Women’s Humane Society 3
Zoological Soc. of Fla. 1
(1) After I requested and received from the
Cousteau Society their fiscal year 1992 IRS
filing, I never heard from them again.
( 2 ) Sent change of address. Asked to be
removed from mailing list in September 1992.
(3) Sent change of address; made last donation
in March 1992.
Editor’s note: Joseph Connelly’s
list may tell more about how organizations use
“donor profiles” to target mailings than about
who is actually mailing what, how often. The
patterns suggest he is pegged as an “older,”
“environmental,” and “vegetarian” donor,
most interested in marine mammals, who
apparently was included in virtually every
prospect mailing in recent years by both the
American Humane Association and the
Humane Farming Association, neither of
which actually does much direct mail relative
to other charities which appear much less
often on Connelly’s list. Some other charities
mailing to him often may have their eye more
on inclusion in an eventual estate or in a
planned giving arrangement than on getting
an immediate donation. True or not, it is
widely believed by professional fundraisers
that donors tend to leave assets to the charities
they hear from the most, whether or not they
support those charities otherwise.