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making a quantifiable difference

staying off mailing lists: anonymous online donations

Here’s a situation I’m sure you can relate to if you’ve ever donated money:  First you feel happy for having contributed to a cause you care about.  Then you feel dismayed at the flood of resulting mail that comes pouring in from the organization you donated to and everyone they sell your contact information to.  Most of us don’t want to have to deal with the hassle of all this mail, or know that we’ve indirectly caused a tree massacre.

In the past, people have avoided the dead tree deluge by donating anonymously through a third party such as an attorney, a broker, or entity such as Fidelity Charitable Trust.  These days, another easy way to give anonymously is to donate via an online service.  JustGive and Network for Good both help users make one-time or recurring online donations. If you specify that you want to make the donation anonymous, both will keep your personal information private from the recipient of your donation (as well as the rest of the world).  In this way, you can avoid a deluge of mail.

JustGive charges a 3% processing fee;  Network for Good asks for a minimum 5% tax-deductible donation to their organization (4.75% for recurring donations; 3% for donations to non-profits that have subscribed to the site’s DonateNow service) on top of your donation.  These sites also make it easy to donate online to sites that don’t offer that option on their own websites.  Both sites are endorsed by American Institute of Philanthropy.  CharityNavigator has partnered with Network for Good and explains why, although I still haven’t found a convincing reason to prefer the more expensive of the two services.

If the organization you are donating to offers PayPal donations, PayPal’s fees are smaller than either of the above options, so long as the charity gets at least $3000 a month.  PayPal doesn’t allow anonymous donations, but you can also check the “no shipping required” box to hide your shipping address from the recipient.  However, according to the PayPal Privacy Policy,

If you are buying goods or services and pay through PayPal, we may also provide the seller with your confirmed credit card billing address to help complete your transaction with the seller. The seller is not allowed to use this information to market their services to you unless you have agreed to it.

If you do not pay by credit card (instead paying from your PayPal account balance), it sounds like you may be able to avoid sharing your mailing address with charities altogether.

Have you used any of these services, or found other ways to stay off of mailing lists when donating? What’s your favorite method?

Also, bolding main points of the post: obnoxious or good?  Please give feedback!

August 2, 2011   2 Comments