Okay, venting now.


I got a call last night from Heifer International. As soon as I forced the speaker to identify her organization and just as she began to launch into her spiel, I spake thusly to her, in, shall we say, firm tones:

Hold it right there. I write you people one check every year. It’s what I can afford. It’s how much you get. Unless you want me to stop donating to your organization entirely, stop calling me and stop writing to me. Goodbye.

And I hung up.

I donate to two international organizations, Heifer International and Doctors Without Borders, every year without fail. I’m incensed to say that judging from the amount of mail they both send me throughout the year they are spending a good portion of my donation on soliciting further donations.

If this continues, my donations don’t.

That is all.



Dana View All →

Author and founder of Storyknife.org.

27 Comments Leave a comment

  1. My sister supports doctors without borders. She met one of their doctors at a function recently (by chance) and he said they are finding it harder to fund raise at present, as there are so many other charities now competing for donations. So they have had to increase their advertising recently to raise more money as they are really up against it with ebola.

  2. I agree, Dana, I’ve donated to both of them but really am appalled by the amount heifer has spent on colorful brochures that end up in the landfills.

    • Me, too. Mine never make it past the post office trash can, so they’re killing trees to absolutely no purpose in sending them to me.

      (Yikes! Just realizing who I’m replying to. Hi, Cathy!!)

  3. Dana, I agree wholeheartedly, bur I find the escalation from snail mailings to phone calls particularly annoying. I loathe talking on the phone – which I have to do a lot for my job – and have cut several charities from our giving list after receiving multiple calls.

  4. My husband, who had been donating to a particular charity for many years, kept getting phone calls from them to increase his contribution. After one too many of these calls, he told them to start going after those who don’t contribute and stop harassing those who do – he then cancelled his monthly contribution and will not be giving to that charity again! We now have 6 different charities we give to and not one of them has hassled us for more money.

  5. I wonder if there’s a way to donate anonymously, through Paypal using an email dedicated to this sort of nonsense. I’ve also been turned off from not only giving to charities, but participating in our political process. Now there’s a way to get on all kinds of “please donate at least $5 to this crucial cause, or else!” lists!

  6. Our daughter graduated last year from a university in the UC system. We donated every year to their alumni association campaign, but now seem caught in a vice grip of relentless phone calls (from students, who are taught to not take no for an answer). After DAILY phone calls last week I lost my temper and told the student it felt like harassment; each family member has told them at least twice or more, “Sorry, we can’t afford it this year.” NOT COOL. My daughter is embarrassed for her alma mater.

    • I got fed up with the UC alum phone calls too. I switched to donating directly to the program I graduated from (Dept. of Engineering) and told the alumni association to take me off their list of calls (and blocked them in my phone for good measure). The only thing the Engineering Department sends me is a thank you note and a copy of our quarterly magazine.

      • Yep. I donate directly to my university department at U.W. and never open the entreaties that come my way via e-mail or snail-mail. Luckily, the only phone number the university has for me is the one I had when I lived in Seattle. Now I live in Alaska.
        Other charities/political groups apparently do have my number, however. I donate what I can and try to cut off phone entreaties as quickly as Dana does, but DAMN, some of those people won’t take “no” for an answer. Which is what they’re paid (not) to do, I guess.
        Me: “I am on a very strict budget. What you have already received is what I can afford.”
        Caller: “Yes, and we’re grateful for your past donation but right now we have a new campaign going to prevent the world from exploding/house homeless parakeets/whatever.”
        Me: “Perhaps you didn’t hear me. I said that I have given what I can afford and there will be no further donations at this time.”
        Caller: “I understand, I mean who ISN’T on a budget, right? But if you could give even $25….”
        Me: “I am ending this call. Goodbye.”
        Even if I were to say, “You know, I’m never giving Good Cause X another dime because I’m irritated by the way it bugs me,” I don’t know that this message would ever get to Good Cause X. My impression is that a lot of them use professional fundraising groups — and I doubt that they’d tell the folks writing their paychecks that they’re pissing off potential donors.

  7. My favorite donation recipient is Best Friends Animal Society in Kanab, Utah, which cares for some 1700 dogs, cats, bunnies, horses, etc. They send out 4 fliers per year, all with an inexpensive newsletter updating their activities. My mom donates to the Salvation Army and every time she sends a donation, they respond with a mailer asking for more!

  8. I used to work for an NGO and this is a recurrent problem. Was Heifer asking you to switch to a monthly donation program? Many NGOs are trying to get their donors to switch from big once a year donations to smaller monthly ones. It helps NGOs plan their budget, and truthfully – get more money from donors.

    That being said one big recurring debate within the NGO was how annoyed people were with the persistent fundraising (phone calls, letters, emails). It was a tough call – when they first started using these methods donations increased, but after a few years the market is saturated and donors are tired. Particularly because it is generally the same people who donate to several NGOs.

    One thing I can tell you for sure – being the person working the phones to fundraise sucks. Your pay is often linked to how many new donations, increase in donations you can generate. And you’re feeling heat on both sides: from the people you call who are super annoyed with you, and your bosses.

    Generally NGOs have a “do not contact list”. You should contact them (making sure to provide enough information so they can find your file) and ask to not be contacted. Or only receive a letter once a year. Also ask them to not share your information with other NGOs.

    • I’m sure it does, Barbara, and I admit I did feel a teensy bit sorry for her after I hung up. It isn’t her fault.

      But only a teensy bit. When I talk on the phone it’s going to be to people who are actually in my life, not Heifer International.

  9. This behavior is typical and, I’m with you, if they stopped the mailings and phone calls they’d probably lower their over head, and save a few trees in the process. Alas, sad to say, that’s not how these “systems” work. You’ve taken the right approach; it’s what I do, too.

  10. I totally understand. When I donate, I usually write somewhere that I will not donate again if the recipient contacts me in any way. I have had really good success. Except with Right to Play,who no longer gets my money. Thank heavens it’s mostly only emails now. My mother gets harassed by phone a lot still. She’s too polite with them still. She should just ask for a supervisor and then tell them not to call. Now if only the Banks would stop trying to sell me stuff!

  11. I contribute to Heifer as a Christmas gift to a friend. Each year I go through the same routine. Call, make the donation, then have them check that I’m on their “don’t send and don’t call list.”
    The first year I donated I got tons of junk mail and needy calls. Frankly, if it wasn’t for my friend I’d have ceased contact with them.
    Here is their charity rating.

  12. Partners in Health is now my go-to medical charity. They are 100% with no fund-raising, no calls or mailings. The updates come via email or Facebook.

    • I second the recommendation for Partners in Health. I first donated to them just after the earthquake in Haiti, and I now donate monthly because I don’t feel hassled to keep increasing my donation level. Most of their updates are to let you know what they have been doing. Besides being a Charity Navigator 4 star charity, they are truly partners in health with local organizations in the areas that they serve.

    • Heifer Intrnational calls me almost everyday of the week! I block the number , then the next day they phone me from another number. I think stalking laws should apply to this behavior. I will never give them another penny.

  13. We have the same complaint. We have cut down our giving to several charities that send us mailings month after month. We concentrate our giving to our church programs, local,national and to help fight hunger and the homeless.

  14. I had stopped answering my land line around suppertime, since it was always someone asking for money. I agree with Rindy’s friend: they should be calling people who have never donated.

  15. I stopped donating to Doctors when they threw a group of emergency drs. out of Haiti because of a photo op. The ER docs were given 24 hours to get out of the country in the immediate aftermath of the devastating earthquake. PS -photo op was for their local paper, it did not include Dr without Borders. Poor sportsmanship and they were to take all med supplies with them.

    I also do not donate to groups who continue to mail donations requests to dead people after they have been notified of the passing. Not only are they wasting money, it is rude.

  16. A few years ago when I was out of work, Red Cross called and asked me for a “pledge”. I told them my situation, that my husband was the one to keep track of what we could give on a yearly basis and I didn’t know where we were for the year. Could I please just “pledge” $25? No, not without checking to see if it’s in the budget. He finally said that a “pledge” was only a “pledge” so could he put me down for $25? I finally said yes to get him off the phone. 3 days later, I got a bill in the mail for the $25. 10 days after that, I got another bill, and about every 3 weeks after that, a bill in the mail. Then the phone calls started, telling me my “pledge’ was past due and I needed to pay. Well, the person who called me probably still has ringing in his ears. I was furious. They did not get their “pledge”. They did quit calling but we get something in the mail at least twice a month. It gives me great pleasure to put their mailing in the recycle bin.

  17. Count me as one of those who will not be bulldozed into agreeing to contribution by telephone. In the case of one organization, I got a formal apology from the local director when I resisted being urged to “pledge”. No more phone calls from them.

    As to Heifer, I couldn’t find a form to opt out on the website, so I dropped them a line and included a link to the blog post:

    Subject: perhaps you want to fix this

    seems as if you’re pushing the people you give you money hard…
    Please consider making it very easy to have us take our phone numbers off your list and our addresses off your list…Can’t you at least respect an annual gift without insisting on more frequent giving.

    Their reply, while prompt, seems to be a little off-handed (certainly, she did not read the post).
    Thank you for contacting Heifer International.
    We sincerely apologize for the many unwanted solicitations you have been receiving from Heifer. Unfortunately, I was unable to locate your donor account using the email address provided. In order to remove you from our solicitations lists, I will need your valid USPS mailing address, which will help me locate your account.
    I look forward to hearing from you.
    Kind regards,
    Amy Dieringer
    When Cows Fly Manager
    Donor Services Representative – Team Lead

    That’s about it for my response. Now, I’m going back to the desert mountains of Central Asia, since there are many more pages of Dana’s fine book, By the Shores of the Middle Sea.
    This is Anne in Juneau.

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