Donate a little without being pestered for more?
November 14, 2007 10:50 AM   Subscribe

Dear Mr. Rumpole: Thank you for your campaign contribution of $25. Please enjoy our $50 worth of mailings regarding why you should give us more money.

I want to send a very modest donation to one or more political candidates, but I'm afraid they will end up spending my money asking me for more of it (and I doubt they'll believe or notice my assertions to the contrary; I still get mailings from being an ACLU member 15 years ago). I gather from this thread that I can't make an anonymous contribution (and I understand why), but is there anything I can do to persuade the recipient that I'm a lost cause when it comes to further cash?

Also, is my phone number a mandatory part of the information disclosure? I have only a cell phone and there's no way in hell I'm giving that out. What will they do if I give them 867-5309?
posted by Horace Rumpole to Law & Government (25 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Soliciting past contributors is a cost-effective strategy, regardless of how individual recipients might feel. The incremental cost of including one person in a mailing is more than compensated for by the return on the mailing as a whole.

This is a little like complaining that the weather forecaster is spending too much time on the outlook for tomorrow -- you're not even planning on going outside tomorrow!
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 10:59 AM on November 14, 2007

Economies of scale. Or, what flanders said.
posted by randomstriker at 11:16 AM on November 14, 2007

One envelope with the money in it.
Another envelope with a letter requesting you be removed from their mailing list.
Mail them at least one week apart.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:18 AM on November 14, 2007

Does that really work? I had to move three times to get Greenpeace off my tail after I gave them 20 bucks.
posted by bink at 11:21 AM on November 14, 2007 [1 favorite]

In some situations, writing "NOT FOR SOLICITATION - DO NOT FOLLOW UP" has worked for me. I've not tried it with political campaigns, but it's worked for a business or non-profit or two.

Also, Kos on Daily Kos just wrote about this a few weeks ago. I'll see if I can dig up the link, as he came up with some interesting statements from the campaigns.
posted by WCityMike at 11:31 AM on November 14, 2007

Here we go.
posted by WCityMike at 11:31 AM on November 14, 2007

Best answer: Actually, that's a follow-up; this is the one I meant.
posted by WCityMike at 11:32 AM on November 14, 2007

Having worked in a campaign office next to someone who dealt with calls and letters from angry people, I'll say that if we could find the person in our database (you'd be surprised how many people call and ask to be removed from out list without telling us who they are), we always made sure they didn't get any more solicitations.
posted by awesomebrad at 11:34 AM on November 14, 2007

thank you for the question mr. rumpole, i'm in the same boat, after the 2004 election i rejoined the aclu and they sold my name to every left-wing, liberal group under the sun, all of which promptly barraged me with solicitations. worst of all were the "wall of tolerance" people who wanted me to pay money to have my name memorialized on their wall, and included whole sheets of printed return address stickers in the laughably vain hope that i would feel obligated to remunerate them. i felt like i had inadvertently discovered how to bankrupt the left, which wasn't my design, and wondered when karl rove would engineer $25 donations from a million sockpuppet accounts. somebody made a business decision not to offer us an opt-out option on the solicitation cards, so as not to forgo the revenue stream from selling our names to other solicitors, so i opted out the only other way i could.
posted by bruce at 12:18 PM on November 14, 2007 [1 favorite]

This concern keeps me from donating, too. I've considered sneaking over to the local NPR station and stashing an envelope filled with cash, then calling them (from a phone not my own) and telling them where to find it. I do not want to get reminder mailings, solicitations, anything like that. Argh.

Maybe you could give a cashier's check to a PAC, instead of an individual candidate?
posted by amtho at 12:40 PM on November 14, 2007

As someone who has worked for a national party and a state campaign (as well as someone who has studied campaigning at school) I can say that mass-mailings are hands down the single most cost-effective way for both increasing awareness and soliciting donations.

It's cheap too. You think you've received $50.00 in solicitations? Try $5.00.
posted by wfrgms at 12:41 PM on November 14, 2007

This is why I dropped my NRA membership - all I ever got from them was spam asking for more, more, more money.
posted by mrbill at 12:46 PM on November 14, 2007

Yes amthro, that's my problem with my NPR station. And, I have given them cash at a local event where they had a booth so as to not keep getting all the repeat-begs. I only give to them once a year, really, yes, really....

I made the "mistake" of giving to Doctors without Borders" last year. I know they have a good reputation for not badgering you with repeat solicitations, but, I have received 6 mailings this year - and a couple from similar organizations that previously didn't know I exist. I will give to DWB again this year because they are such a good group, but it makes me think twice.
posted by mightshould at 12:53 PM on November 14, 2007

I put a check in an envelope, Sharpie out my address and other personal information besides my name and write them a nice letter saying thanks for all they do and mail it with no useful return address. I have been besieged historically by the EFF, ACLU, Z Magazine and some group I donated to by request of friends who were getting married.

In short: don't donate online. Do a little extra work up front and you can keep your mailbox relatively solicitation free.
posted by jessamyn at 12:58 PM on November 14, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Jessamyn: Unfortunately I don't think I can use that tactic for a political candidate donation because the information is required by law for the FEC disclosures.

wfrgms: That may be true, but I think there's also plenty of evidence in this thread that it dissuades giving as well. In any event, my question is not why do they do this, but what can I do to stop/minimize it.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 1:15 PM on November 14, 2007

I feel your pain. I donated to UNICEF many years ago and was really disheartened by how many follow up mailings I received. I felt like my donation did not get to the people who really needed it. Now I just make very local donations to the animal shelter or local food drives where I know the money stays in the community. I would have continued contributing to UNICEF if they didn't send me so much garbage. I thought that organization was "better" than that, but I guess not.
posted by 45moore45 at 1:39 PM on November 14, 2007

Fundraising professional here. Direct mail campaigns for small gifts ($100 or less) are an extremely effective way of identifying donors to cultivate for future, larger gifts. I generally consider a direct mail campaign of this nature successful if it breaks even, as long as I'm able to identify individuals to target for future more narrow-cast campaigns (via clues like gift size, frequency, timing, answers to the little surveys they sometimes include, etc.) Mind you, I'm in nfp mid-size arts, so I'm working with waaaaaay smaller numbers than a national political campaign. Successful fundraising hits the right people with the right message via the right medium at the right time. With larger gifts, you've usually researched the target so you know what all those variables are. With smaller gifts off "cold" lists, you just ask and ask and ask until the donor establishes a pattern that you can exploit.

Go ahead and give. At worst, you are helping your candidate raise money to find the REAL money people. At best, you're adding to the horse-race statistics that pass for political nuance these days.

If you really want to make a difference, keep your money, go down to the local campaign office, and volunteer.
posted by nax at 1:55 PM on November 14, 2007

Just read WCityMike's link. Fundraisers are required by law to provide an opt-out on all solicitations. At least in my industry we are very sensitive to this-- no sense pissing off the mark. Try the candidate's website, or call the national campaign headquarters (I wouldn't go to the local, because I'm not sure how linked up they'd be.)
posted by nax at 1:58 PM on November 14, 2007

Counterpoint to awesomebrad. Having been a database developer for a real estate company, the higher-ups hate the idea of permanently tagging anybody as "do not send" and will routinely purge that information. Also, they regularly merge information from other databases, also resetting the "do not send" information (or adding back records that were removed on request).
posted by krisjohn at 2:56 PM on November 14, 2007

I donated to Ron Paul and got a thanks and my name appeared in the Flash Donation on his site. No mailings, nothing. But then again, it's Ron Paul.
posted by evilelvis at 3:13 PM on November 14, 2007

I donated to the Sierra Club once and was immediately deluged with junk mail, which pissed me off because the waste of paper was exactly opposite to what they're supposed to be about. I won't donate to them again, and based on some of what I've learned from this thread I'm less likely to donate to anyone else.
posted by kirkaracha at 3:47 PM on November 14, 2007

I've had the same experience as kirkaracha. It might be cost-effective, but nothing is more discouraging than donating to 'well-respected' environmental conservation groups, only to receive unsolicited calendars... and gift wrap... and address labels... etc, etc... etc! It certainly doesn't give you a good impression of these groups, and, at least, it doesn't encourage me to make follow-up donations.

Once again, might be cost-effective for the candidates, but I'm really dreading the imminent daily bombardment of political flyers in my mail box. By the very wasteful end of the last presidential election, I determined that, in the future, I would vote for the candidate that a) sends the least junk mail and b) makes my phone ring the least.
posted by Mael Oui at 9:16 PM on November 14, 2007

I think your experience with the ACLU isn't what you should expect from political campaigns. For one thing, a political campaign doesn't typically bug you beyond campaign season. But also, the ACLU has little respect for privacy. They not only request repeated contributions from you, but also trade your name and address with other organizations, which do the same. I learned this when I started getting all sorts of non-profit solicitations at a temporary address and realized the only organization that had my name at that address was the ACLU.

When I asked about it, I actually ended up in an email exchange with Anthony Romero, who basically said sorry, but the ACLU had no intention of changing their policy of distributing contributor contact information and no way to opt-out of all future distributions. So if I gave to the ACLU again, the same thing would likely happen again. I never gave to the ACLU again, and stopped receiving those solicitations.
posted by scottreynen at 9:38 PM on November 14, 2007 [1 favorite]

FYI- You can opt out of the ACLU sharing of data here:
posted by hokie409 at 6:02 PM on November 15, 2007

Let's try that manually. The link button did not work:
ACLU opt out
posted by hokie409 at 6:04 PM on November 15, 2007

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