Abusive Fundraising Emails

I am really getting fed up with the abusive fundraising emails that every non-profit seems to be sending out these days. There was a real crescendo in this past week. I counted 3 emails from the same place I donated to every day! “Time is Running Out”, etc. I decided not to donate mainly because of what I consider a real abuse of email. When you’re asking for money is as frequent as the spam from the fake cialis scammer, maybe you should consider you are actually harming your cause.

Another bad abuser this year was Wikipedia. Not only did I get constant emails asking to donate, the website would also have a banner ad on every page, pleading for my donation. Now my wife had given a donation to Wikipedia on behalf of the two of us back in October, but I could find no way to turn off these annoying banners. The last email I got from Jimmy Wales had the subject “I didn’t think I’d be sending this email”, it talked about how they fell short of their fundraising goals. You know what, maybe it was their over the top abuse of email that turned people off?


The only two ways to effect change are either to delete the emails without opening them, or to let the charities know how you feel.


You’re right, I should send an email telling them why I didn’t donate this year.

You are not alone. I get actual pounds of fund raising messages, along with offers for hearing aids and pre-paid funeral services, hand delivered by the United States Postal Service every year.

Most of it includes “gifts” like personalize mailing labels, calendars, and notepads. Who uses those things in the 21st century? I average using one postage stamp every 18 months.

I don’t blame the organizations for their fundraising efforts. I support several of them. I blame whoever is managing the fundraising. A couple of times I have received a “thank you” letter and a “please give” letter on the same day.

And it is never going to stop. :cry:

“Advertising or junk mail now accounts for 62 percent of household mail volume aside from packages, and the second‐​largest type of mail is bills and other business statements.“

I’ve found a way to manage this. I already know the organizations I’m giving to: my church, my school, and an outside organization serving orphans and abused children in another country. Because I know I’m giving to them, I go and donate online based on a predefined schedule.

Accordingly, I have created filters that look for key words or phrases found in most fundraising appeals. I also create filters for @xyz.org. This way these emails bypass my inbox.

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While I totally agree with you on the fundraising emails, “I deserve to use this ad-free non-profit website without having to see a fundraising banner,” comes across as a bit entitled.


I get that wikipedia’s banners are annoying, I agree, but they’re necessary to keep the lights on I guess. If the banners are a dealbreaker, don’t use Wikipedia :slight_smile:


I agree somewhat, but the key issue from OP for me was that they had donated. The banner kept hassling them even though they’d already donated. While that’s Wikipedia’s prerogative, I think that’s bad UX if nothing else. :slight_smile:


I am not sure, if there might be differences for different countries (different Wikipedia-Adress), but the banner disappeared if I am signed into Wikipedia. If I use it without prior sign-in, the banner shows up, because it could not know whether I contributed already, or not.

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That’s by institutional design. And I don’t mean “the institutions sending the emails” - I mean “the way the government (at least in the USA) handles taxes”.

End-of-year giving is a thing, and it’s at least partially because for various tax-related reasons some businesses and individuals find themselves having to spend money near the end of the year to meet regulatory requirements, lower income below program cutoff requirements, etc.

That also leads to the bizarre situation where a given charity might get a ton of their donations near the end of the year, meaning they’re strongly incentivized to pop their heads up and remind people that they exist and need money.

I wouldn’t expect it to continue into late January, but the last week or so of December is EXACTLY when I expect the barrage to occur.


In the U.K., charities need to conform to sector Fundraising Standards and even fairly modest-size charities need to disclose in their annual public reporting the number of complaints they have received about their fundraising practices as well as saying specifically how they ensure vulnerable people aren’t negatively impacted by their fundraising asks. That means charities behave in a better way than they did before, but there are challenges still!

For my part, I decide in advance who I will give to and always make sure it is a considered decision and never ‘in the moment’. This makes it easy to delete random, unsolicited requests.


Thankfully over here in the UK we have an opt-out scheme(*) with Royal Mail. Anyone who fills in and returns the form is not supposed to receive anything other than addresses mail. Sadly some bleeding hearts get around this ban by using “The Occupier”, which Royal Mail says makes it addressed! Even sadder is that Rotal Mail won’t take no for an ansser so the relevant form has to be resubmited every two years. Quite why they think that anyone would change their mind about receiving such spam I have no clue — and given the current state of their service it is clear that their bosses/owners have have less of a clue.

Does not stop the hawkers who push tons of spam through the letter box for everything from pizza to gutter clearance to kids play sessions. I have on more than one occasion taken such leaflets from a hawker because I was outside and immediately thrown it into the big recycling bin by side my front door.

(*) It may be opt-out but I am of the definite opinion it should opt-in!

There is a a huge difference between the WikiPedia approach of direct appealing to their users and the trash banner ads that web site owners think are going to make them money.

Right, this was my point, I had donated and still had to see the banner which is OK on my Mac, but on the iPhone it takes up half the screen.

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If only. The USPS is the only spammer that I cannot filter.

I was thinking about taking an extended road trip before covid hit and planned to use a mail forwarding service while I was gone. They would receive my mail, throw away the junk, scan the remaining envelopes, and send the scans to me. I would then tell them what to do. Trash it, mail it to me, open it and send me scans of the contents, etc.

I wonder if I could get away with using them permanently? :thinking:

I hear your complaint (I too received a wave of emails), for transparency, I am also a part of several non-profit organizations and I see that side of it. I don’t agree with multiple spamming, however I do get spammed even by for-profit organizations. (Black Friday, Cyber Monday, New Years Day Sales, etc) I get so many emails from NewEgg.com per week, but I do have a soft spot for when they have massive hard drive sales.

@webwalrus hit it right on the head. End of the year giving is a thing and it’s mainly related to tax reasons.

However, I would love to hear the best way from your perspective if a non-profit wants to reach you. (Don’t worry I am not going to add you to our list hahah) But I do want to hear a good workflow, because also keep in mind, most places use MailChimp or some variety of that, and most emails I get from MailChimp (regardless of my settings) wind up in spam, or some random gmail tab. At times, I even miss my own organization emails that are sent :rofl:


I see receiving too many emails as a sacrifice I can make to help the organization. They would forgo significant revenue if they only sent a single fundraising email per year.

Marketing automation software is supposed to help with this (e.g. only send an additional email if the first email isn’t opened or acted upon) but a) tracking blocking makes me look like I missed the first email, b) I tend to donate to smaller organizations and they just don’t have time or staff to optimize their use of their software.

I’d love for large email senders like Mailchimp and HubSpot to let email recipients tell them they really want to receive fewer emails from all senders on the platform. The email senders could expose that flag in the contact record for segmentation and workflows. It’ll never happen.

It’s presumably because you might move out and the new occupier is unconcerned. Given the Royal Mail make money from distribution of fliers, you can understand they want to maximise the audience. Locally some are occasionally helpful, like refuse collection calendars and an event listing magazine.

Most of the more aggressive marketing I receive is from US-based organisations- that might explain the relatively small amount of messaging I receive from UK charities.

This is a pet annoyance… When an organisation I donate to seems to spend a proportion of my donation on glossy magazines, pens, calendars and the like. I appreciate the need to engage with supporters, but perhaps more moderation is required!

The Wikipedia appeal banners are pretty full on, too. Lots of guilt which isn’t necessary IMHO.

I don’t have a complete answer for you, but perhaps, as head of a private school that also sends out appeals for gifts, I can shed a little light on the matter.

First and foremost, most people give based on relationships. Therefore, we focus most of our efforts on building and sustaining genuine relationships with those who give to the school or may do so. Building relationships takes significant time and energy and must be genuine and never manipulative. In short, most of our advancement efforts focus on building authentic relationships rather than appeals for money. Significant gifts follow relationships.

Second, people give because they believe in an organization’s mission—its impact for good, especially in helping others. Accordingly, appeals for gifts should be focused on telling stories of changed lives brought about by the organization’s people and programs and how donations will advance the organization’s mission. Appeals should not focus on the organization’s needs.

Third, people want to give where the gift will serve as an investment that will continue to produce results. In other words, while people certainly give as “one-off gifts,” those giving significant gifts want to know how their donation will yield lasting results, not merely fill a funding gap. They consider their contributions to be an investment for the future that will advance the organization’s impact and mission.

Fourth, people don’t respond well to repeated appeals to “crisis,” guilt, or mere emotional appeals.

Fifth, an organization must make a priority of thanking those who give. Thanking donors is a challenge for email appeals for funds. The request for gifts is more prevalent than genuine expressions of appreciation. To be successful over time, organizations need to focus throughout the year on sharing stories of impact and thanking prior donors.

Email campaigns for financial support are necessary for most non-profit’s advancement efforts. They do produce results. But creating effective email campaigns is complex. They should focus on telling stories of changed lives (not the organization’s needs), be authentic, and not try to manipulate through guilt and emotion. Emotions ebb and flow. Emotional appeals will produce short-term giving but not significant, sustained giving.