Maybe you've never made a donation in your life. But maybe you made a donation to a charity a while back . . . and now you're on their mailing list, and somehow a bunch of other mailing lists as well. Then there are phone calls, and emails, and people standing on the street with clipboards.
Sorry, I can't help you about the people with clipboards. But I used to work at a large nonprofit, and I do have some advice about the other things.
First, what's good for a charity is not always good for you. From a charity's perspective, it does make sense to email, mail, and phone their donors (or people they think might become donors). Even if it seems all that junk mail couldn't be cost-effective, it is. And if it helps them raise money to save lives, I understand why they do it. So don't think it must be a terrible organization just because they have annoying marketing practices.
What to do:
- Any charity you've ever given to is probably renting your name and address out, unless you've told them not to. Contact charities you've given to and ask them not to share your information.
- Most charities can limit the number of mailings and emails you get. If you want to get the monthly news email and one mailing a year, they can probably do that. But you probably can't choose when in the year they send it.
- The Direct Mail Association has a service that will (supposedly) get you off commercial and charity mailing lists. It's worth a try.
- If someone calls you, ask to be taken off their phone list. Telemarketers seem to screw this up a lot, so if you keep getting calls, contact the charity directly.
- If you keep getting calls from a charity's number and you never pick up the phone, they will keep calling. Pick up and tell them you want no more calls.
- The "Do not call" registry does not apply to nonprofits. It will not help you here.
- If you're getting multiple pieces of mail addressed to different people at your house, or different versions of your name, let the charity know so they can merge the accounts.
- I've heard people advocate using all kinds of threats - "I'm recording this call, and if I get another piece of mail I'll report you to the attorney general", etc. Understand that charities do not have some kind of nefarious plot to thwart your wishes. If you've asked before and it didn't work, it was probably simple incompetence. The person you spoke to may well not even work for the charity, but a fundraising company or an answering service. Call or email again and you'll probably get a different person who can be more helpful.
- Understand that it takes about two months for most mailing lists to update. If you're still getting mail, understand that, just like at a restaurant, the person you're talking to probably isn't the one who screwed up. Let them know about the mistake, but don't be mean to the person on the phone.