Updated on 04.24.12

Unsubscribe from Charity Mailings (114/365)

Trent Hamm

Several years ago, we made the decision to donate to a particular local charity. We sent that charity a small one-time donation because we felt like the cause they were working for was a good one.

Four years later, we are still getting mailings from that charity. We have long ago passed the point where we think the mailings have cost more than the value of our original donation to that charity.

These envelopes fill up our mailbox and contribute to filling up our waste bins. Not only that, they cost the charity that’s sending those envelopes. That means less money is being spent on the charitable cause.

The solution, of course, is to unsubscribe.

Unsubscribe from Charity Mailings (114/365)

Most of the time, unsubscribing from a charity mailing is pretty easy. The mailings offer a phone number that you can call to unsubscribe or offer some sort of method of replying by mail. Most charities are pretty careful about their budget, so they’ll unsubscribe you if you feel as though you’re unlikely to donate again for whatever reason.

Sometimes, though, it doesn’t work. I’ve asked the above charity to unsubscribe me several times, and at this point, I don’t even ask. I just toss the envelopes.

One obvious question that people might ask is how unsubscribing saves money. It doesn’t, at least not directly. It does reduce the volume of waste paper that your household creates, which might influence your waste management bill. It also reduces the amount of clutter you have, meaning there’s one less regular envelope for you to deal with.

Perhaps more than anything, it doesn’t leave you with an envelope for charitable giving in your hand, making you emotionally drawn to donate after you’ve made the carefully considered and rational decision to no longer donate to this charity.

For me, though, the big reason why I would want such a change is that the charity mailings are costing that charity money, and if I’m not going to donate, I’d at least want that charity to use their funds elsewhere where the money might be spent more effectively.

Why would a person no longer wish to donate to a charity that they once supported? There are thousands of reasons. A person’s financial position might change. Their beliefs might change. The behavior of the charity might change. Additional aspects of the charity might be made clear to the person who is donating. All of these are completely valid reasons for changing one’s charitable giving – and there are many more.

Stopping an unwanted charity mailing saves you time in dealing with clutter, saves space in your recycling bin (and possibly some money, too), and can also save the charity money. That’s well worth a minute to place a phone call.

This post is part of a yearlong series called “365 Ways to Live Cheap (Revisited),” in which I’m revisiting the entries from my book “365 Ways to Live Cheap,” which is available at Amazon and at bookstores everywhere. Images courtesy of Brittany Lynne Photography, the proprietor of which is my “photography intern” for this project.

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  1. kc says:

    Maybe a close-up of a Delete key. A macro shot of an “opt out” check box on a form. Something, anything… instead of a blank check (why is that there if you’re canceling or unsubscribing?) and a poorly written address. Sigh. Brittany needs help.

  2. How do you get unsubscribed from charity phone calls? The Do Not Call list does not work as charities are exempt from it. I have one charity to which I donated as part of a school fundraiser, and now I get calls from individual volunteers (not from the charity itself) trying to raise money for it. Despite asking nicely to be removed from their lists, I still receive these phone calls. Ack!

  3. Pete says:

    What’s tommorrow’s tip, avoid walking by the homeless, lest you be tempted to give them your spare change? And of course, the less you walk near them, the more you save the city on sidewalk repair.

  4. Donald says:

    Does the Simple Dollar count as a charity mailing? (charity for Trent’s $$$ funds)

  5. Nick says:

    I’m seriously done commenting on this site due to moderation. I write a thoughtful comment with NO reason to be moderated and it never gets seen.

    Leaving. Buhbye.

  6. TOS says:

    I donate to most charities through payroll deduction, which my company matches. A few of the charities immediately began inundating my home mailbox with further solicitations. I sent them each a letter one year, explaining that if they stopped asking for more, I would continue my regular donations, but that if they continued to mail me, I would stop. All but one stopped, and I didn’t renew my donation to the other.

  7. Kevin says:

    Most money collected by charities is spent on salaries, and simply collecting more money.

  8. Andrew says:

    Pete, your comment is perfect.

  9. Johanna says:

    @Kevin: [citation needed]

  10. Kevin says:

    Johanna: LOL! You really think I have any hope of getting a cite through maderation (typo intentional)?

  11. Johanna says:


  12. jim says:

    Moderation ate Kevin’s homework.

  13. Priswell says:

    For charity phone calls: I tell the caller that I have already allocated my charity dollars for the year and that their group is not included.

    If pressed, I will ask the caller if they are calling through a professional telemarketer company. If they are (and they almost always are) I tell them that I do not contribute to charities that use professional telemarketers, because the overhead is too high.

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