Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Charity Junk Mail

If you receive a check from the National Cancer Research Center as I did this week, do some research before you send a donation. You might change your mind. 
My $2.50 check arrived inside a fundraising appeal letter. My first thought was to toss it in recycling. (Always trust your first instincts, I learned. I'll tell you why.)

Sometimes, unsolicited checks can be used as vehicles for scams. Your endorsement can commit you to further obligations in fine print. That was not the case; the accompanying letter stated:

"The $2.50 check is real.  You could put this letter aside, cash the check, and forget all about our important laboratory research and national cancer education programs.  But what I really hope you will do is return the $2.50 check along with your own gift of $10.00 or more to help in our fight against cancer."

Several friends and family members have been or are undergoing cancer treatments, so my second thought was to send a minimum donation with the request NOT to solicit further. Of course, that hardly ever never seems to work. What was I thinking?

Deciding to trust my first instinct (tossing it), I checked on the National Cancer Research Center online and learned from blog postings that others had received similar checks as far back as 2-3 years ago with the same M.O. One blogger suggested going to the Charity Navigator site and I've bookmarked it for reference.

The National Cancer Research Institute is a project of the Walker Cancer Research Institute (WCRI) headed by Helen Marie Walker, president. Evan Harris Walker, an American physicist, who died in 2006, founded WCRI in 1981.

Charity Navigator gave it 1 star (out of a possible 4) for accountability and transparency, and 0 for financial. Most of the funds raised (over 90%) are used for more fundraising.  So with a $10 donation, most goes to send mailings to more people (and so on and so on). See the pattern here.

Comments left at Charity Navigator indicate that some folks cash the check donating the money to "real" charities. Of course, you could cash the check and keep the money, but your name and address are on the check with a series of bar codes. Cashing it could lead to even more problems, and would you really need the $2.50 that much?

WHY more problems?
The WCRI could then sell your info to other "charities"  and you could be inundated with even more junk mail. People often complain of being inundated by requests for money that they can't  seem to stop.

If you get one of these letters, it's your choice. Mine went into the shredder after I salvaged the included postage: four 1-cent stamps. Postage this week went to 49 cents for a U.S. postage stamp.

(Credits: The graphic herein is from the Devon Authorities Recycling Partnership, U.K.)


Anvilcloud said...

Good advice.

Daisy said...

I hate getting all those junk mailings from charities sending address labels or cards or whatever and asking for a donation. I toss them all too.

Montanagirl said...

I'm right there with ya. The donation solicitations seem to be non-stop. I only donate locally so I know exactly where my money goes. I swear I have enough address labels to last me for a hundred years! The cancer research place couldn't get a mailed donation out of me, now they're calling me non-stop to the point of harassment. We have caller I.D. on our phone and on the TV screen when we get a call. I just pick up the receiver and hang it up again.

Out on the prairie said...

I don't even open them, I give to a lot of areas.

L. D. said...

Our local PBS likes to send out letters to collect on fundraising things. They create it in such a way that it looks like you had signed up for it to do a monthly donation. I do not like them when they are trying to deceive.

Sandra said...

you did what i would do.. i always trash or shred every single piece of junk mail. if i want to donate i give to the charities i want to help.

Anonymous said...

I've never heard of charities sending out checks over here and I would be so surprised if they did that I never would believe it wasn't a scam :-)
I too would have thrown it away!

Have a great day!

Rebecca said...

I hate when I donate to a charity and then they spend more money than I gave them asking for additional funds!

Triumph said...

In addition to my favorite local charities I usually am inclined to make contributions when there are major disasters in the world. However, no matter how reputable the world charity, a contribution results in endless solicitation phone calls for more donations. So what I do now is make those donations anonymously in cash so they don't know who to hassle. For instance, I learned the company that Mercy Corps contracts with to make telephone solicitations takes the lion's share of the money; even though Mercy Corps is a worthwhile organization.

Emma Springfield said...

I am glad you had the foresight to check it. Everyone should always investigate because as the old saying goes "If it seems to good to be true, it probably is."

Anonymous said...

Don't forget that you most likely have to put YOUR BANK ACCOUNT NUMBER on the check to cash it at your bank. The check is returned to the sender and WHLAH!!!! They now have your account number.
Of course you can send the "Postage Paid" envelope back empty and with NO return address. That makes it "Postage Due" on their end.
Grenville (The Skeptic)

Tammy@Simple Southern Happiness said...

You get some amazing things in the mail. Thanks for the heads up on this one.

HOPE you did not get all snowed in like we did. was not the snow, only 2 inches, it was the ice. I gather you have heard how Ga got hit hard. Thank the lord that hubby was sick and took the day off yesterday.

William Kendall said...

I give to charities that have a good reputation, that pour the bulk of their funds into the programs, that do not pull this mass mailing kind of crap later on to keep guilting you into giving more money.

DeniseinVA said...

Thanks for this post, I shall tell my friends. A couple of them have told me about being scammed before in other ways. I think we a generous nation with our donations to charity, unfortunately there are so many scams out there. The link you've provided I will be adding to my blog-roll blog for reference.

Elaine said...

There really are a lot of scams out there. I mostly just donate locally.

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