Confessions of a Junk-Mail Junkie - Part One

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"Take my name off your mailing list!"

Do you ever write this across an appeal for a donation, and then send it back in the postage-paid business reply envelope? Six months later, do you wonder why another mailing from the same charity arrives on your doorstep?

I'm the editor of Herizons, Canada's largest feminist magazine. I'm going to tell you why this happens.

There is, in fact, no mailing list to remove your name from. Non-profits that send out direct mail agree not to keep a record of your name and address once a mailing goes out. Most organizations that make their lists available to others even plant a name to be sure a list is only used once.

Over the years, I have found that most of the complaints we receive after a direct mail campaign goes out are as a result of three main urban myths about direct mail.

Writing "Save the Trees" on the mailer and returning it is a political statement.

  • Like you, most folks in the non-profit sector are environmentally conscious. However, without fundraising or subscription appeals, these environmental, feminist or anti-poverty initiatives could not be sustained. A daily newspaper weighs 25-40 times more than the letter and brochure in your hands. Please, just recycle the darned mailing if you don't want to send money. Or write your grocery list on it.

A rubber stamp that says, "Take My Name off Your Mailing List " will stop mailings.

  • Sending material back at the senders' expense may be easy, but it is a hollow gesture. Your message could be forwarded to the organization that supplied your name, but it would have no way of knowing what you wanted. Do you not want mailings from all organizations, or just from the one that you are reacting to?

All subscription and fundraising appeals are junk mail.

  • Targeted direct mail is, so far, the only proven way to build the circulation of small magazines in Canada. This is mostly because American magazines hog 80 per cent of our country's newsstand space (another story).

Most people in the non-profit sector go to great lengths to protect our lists of subscribers or donors. We usually have a limit on the number of trades or rentals we do per year, as well as strict criteria about who we trade and rent with.

Monday: advice to reduce the number of mailings you get and information about Canada's recent privacy legislation.

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