Opinion: Time to focus your giving locally, avoid waste


With the approach of Thanksgiving comes the tradition of watching your mailbox swell, day after day after day, until about December 30. No, the mail is not filling with greeting cards from friends and family, but with the endless gifts of wasteful solicitation from virtually every national “nonprofit” on earth.

Who are these marketers and development directors? Not a creative brain among them. This year my wife and I were fortunate enough to receive more than 1,000 preprinted, personal return-address stickers for our outgoing envelopes. Does anyone pay their bills by mail anymore or write letters other than by email? Even if their multi-million dollar research failed them, have these direct mail marketers not noticed personally that nearly every organization does return-sticker giveaways?

I admit there are a few savvy pros that have recognized this trend and in response have moved to not only sending the return stickers but also including a value-added full sheet (or two) of colorful, fun stickers to put on anything: one’s forehead or car or cat. And, if that is not enough of a differentiator, they’ll add a dozen blank greeting cards and accompanying envelopes designed by who-knows-who in the 1950s. (That really gets me motivated to send in my check.)

It’s also important to read the letters that come along with these requests. You may miss out on learning that if you are among the first million or so to respond with your donation, that in addition to the enclosed gifts, you will also be sent a special thank-you, such as a huggable bear or beach towel. No need to fret. Your generous donation will pay for the gift, the packaging and postage. Very efficient.

My favorite and very least-likely-to-respond-to mailings are the ones with a “give-back.” You know the ones I am referring to. They usually have see-through windows on the front of the envelope with a shiny dime or penny or unmarked 49-cent stamp peering through. Talk about thoughtful.

As a former CEO of a design and advertising firm, I have to say that this egregious and hypocritical waste of money is not only annoying but positively insulting. How can an environmental organization send out these solicitations wasting enormous natural and financial resources while proclaiming that my donation will go to helping save the same? Every one of these organizations, and you know who they are, is wasting enormous amounts of money and resources with these tactics. If they are going to mail anything, why not just an honest letter of request that includes a breakdown of their annual budget (including executive pay!). Those that use their money wisely (and there are some) will deservedly get more in return.

Or better yet, simplify your life as we have: give locally. There are so many fine organizations right here in Taos (including local branches of large organizations) where your money, time and in-kind donations will be so appreciated and never wasted. You’ll still get the tax deduction, but even more important, you won’t be supporting the proliferation of horribly wasteful practices.

Jules Epstein lives in Arroyo Hondo.