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Fundraisers and Advertisers: Please Help the Environment and Stop Sending Me Paper

An unsolicited paper-filled plea from an environmental group

Published in ChicagoNow, March 13, 2019

How many return address stickers will it take for me to donate? How about those unneeded calendars, magnets, or slick newsletters with envelopes tucked inside? Or my personal favorite, the huge envelope pictured above filled with piles of papers soliciting money for an environmental group.

I imagine some folks give to these causes that fill my mail box or fundraising wouldn’t be done this way. As someone who founded and directed a not-for-profit preschool that depended on donations to survive, I get it. But really, don’t spend a good part of the money from your donors on slick solicitations that go straight to recycling if you are lucky. I suspect most of the paper you mail to folks ends up in landfills. Not so great for the environment.

The solicitation from the environmental group was especially galling. There must have been ten pieces of paper in it, and I didn’t even get the return address stickers. Seriously, just on principle there is no way I would donate, even though I support environmental causes. Perhaps a postcard or, even better, an email would have resulted in a contribution.

Then there’s the large envelope I just received from Easterseals, with “Do Not Bend” and “Enclosed are your free gifts” printed on the outside. Inside on the cover letter, there was a “personalized” post-it promising me a beautiful fleece blanket if I gave $15 or more. In addition to the return envelope for my gift, I received return address stickers, a notepad, a 2019 calendar, another reminder about my free blanket featuring a slick color photo of it, and two pages of foil commemorative seals. I guess the latter are to add to my letters.

I’m not sure why Easterseals is reaching out to me. While I believe the organization does good work, all this mailing did was make me feel badly that I was not going to donate. I guess I can use the notepad for shopping lists (yes, I’m too old to put them on my phone), the calendar “somewhere,” and add the return address stickers to the hundreds in my drawer, but the rest goes straight to recycling.

When we organized our annual appeal mailing for Cherry Preschool, we put a lot of thought into how to make it as inexpensive to produce as possible. After all, the objective was two-fold. One was to raise much-needed money. The other was to make the appeal interesting enough to keep folks from throwing it out without reading it. I receive similar appeals all of the time, and my bias is to recycle the ones that are too slick. I do read and respond to the simple ones on the assumption that my donation goes to the cause itself rather than to advertising and promotion.

Another wonderful organization that buries me in paper is Road Scholars. We took an amazing trip to Cuba with this company back in January of 2017. We found the trip online, as we already knew about this organization through word of mouth. Since then, I receive a mailer every week. The small ones are fifty-plus page booklets (6 by 10.5), often with the same content but different covers. Every so often, probably once a month, I receive a huge magazine from them detailing all of the trips mentioned in the smaller booklets. That one is so big I have no place to put it. So, it goes straight to recycling. All of this information is available online as well. Road Scholar trips are great and informative but not inexpensive. Perhaps fewer mailings could lower the cost a bit?

Especially this winter, as mail carriers struggled to deliver mail over ice- and snow-covered sidewalks in brutally cold temperatures, I felt angry about unsolicited mail with excessive amounts of paper that kept showing up at my door. If an organization wants my support, this is not the way to get me to write a check. All of this paper and the resources used to produce it is not very good for our environment.

I have tried enrolling in programs to reduce junk mail, only to have it return after a brief time. If any of the causes or organizations that send me these massive dumps of paper are listening, I don’t need any more calendars, address stickers, notepads, slick newsletters, magnets, or brochures. I know you think my guilt over accepting these free gifts will lead to a donation. Or you hope that repeated mailings will result in my deciding to give you money or sign up for a trip. Maybe that works for some folks, but I just become angry that you have wasted so much paper and so many resources to reach out to me.

For the sake of our environment, please stop.


by Laurie Levy
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