I get a lot of charitable solicitations in the mail. In fact, they account for about two-thirds of all the mail I receive. In 2001 I decided to track my communications from charities. That year I received 862 communications from 240 different charitable organizations. Of these, 264 arrived in the first quarter, and 116 in March. Two different Catholic-related charities sent me 22 solicitations each.
This year, I am repeating that exercise. In the first three months of 2008 I received 233 communications from 106 different charities – 186 solicitations, 24 newsletters, and 23 receipts or thank-you letters. One organization has already sent me 8 solicitations. This is about a 3% decrease from 2001.
In determining which organizations to contribute to, my first filter is to drop any organization that sent me more than 12 solicitations in the past year. Actually, any more than 2 a year is excessive and wasteful, as far as I'm concerned. The extra letters not only waste their money on printing and postage, but they waste my time opening, sorting, and recycling them. They actually slow down my charitable giving, since the time that I could spend writing checks must instead be spent sorting excess mail.
My second filter is to check their ratings on Charity Navigator, which evaluates most American charities. It gives every charity it rates two ratings, one for efficiency and one for capacity. Each rating is on a scale of 0 to 4 stars, with sub-components rated on more detailed numerical scales. I find it especially useful when a number of organizations with the same mission want my money. I can determine which of them will use my contribution most efficiently and direct my dollars accordingly.
I'll report back again at the end of the year with the 2008 totals.