Nonprofit Address Labels

Mom never ran low.

Address Labels - Teach Tolerance Sticker (Lg)

Reader, I’m beginning this post with a Tolerance sticker from the Southern Poverty Law Center because its image is clear, its colors are bright and its message is uplifting.

That makes it the most worthwhile item from Mom’s collection of address labels. The labels were sent by nonprofits that hoped she’d donate.

I couldn’t begin with the photo below because the sheet of labels wasn’t very attractive after I scratched out Mom’s street address.

Address Labels - Sheets

I did that to preserve the privacy of the family living there now. They’re not involved in this blog and they don’t need their street address plastered here.

Mom’s house (the house where my five siblings and I grew up) is gone. It was bulldozed on Halloween 2007, a year after she died.

The current residents have traded up. Our run-down, one-story domicile has been replaced by a sprawling Dallas palace.

I don’t know that family. They may get their own share of unsolicited address labels.

But it would be hard to rival Mom’s.

In a bag I brought from her house – why, I don’t know – I found close to 1,500 labels sent from at least 25 nonprofits. Here are a random five:

  • The Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island Foundation
  • Help Hospitalized Veterans
  • The League of Women Voters
  • The Humane Society of Texas
  • Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch

Address Labels - Michigan

For some nonprofits like the March of Dimes and the American Diabetes Association, Mom had many sheets of labels.

How many labels could she actually use?

Let’s add ‘em up.

In a given month, she might mail five bills, 20 meeting agendas to members of her investment club, two thank-you notes, three get-well cards and five letters to children and grandchildren.

That’s 35, or about one sheet of labels.

Address Labels - VFW

I think she saved hundreds because it was flattering to receive something with her name on it and because hey, they were address labels. They’d come in handy.

It was about 25 years ago, in the early nineties, that mailed solicitations that included address labels started getting popular as a fundraising strategy.

Mom was approaching 70. By age, gender and socioeconomic status, she was a potential nonprofit donor.

This fact was not lost on nonprofits’ direct marketers.

As Mom donated, her name got sold to other nonprofits.

She heard from organizations that wooed her with labels featuring her name plus flowers …

Address Labels - Flowers

or images of Christmas and New Year’s …

Address Labels - Holidays

or her last initial.

Address Labels - 'S'

She saved all of those plus the patriotic ones …

Address Labels - Patriotic

and the ones targeted at pet lovers and people old enough to remember unicycles and gramophones.

Address Labels - Nostalgia & Pets

Mom even saved the ones that misspelled her last name …

Address labels - Misspell Last Name

or misspelled her first name and made her a doctor.

Address Labels - Misspelled First Name

She saved the ones that showed little regard for quality. Had anyone taken the time to test what these images were going to look like when printed the size of a Chiclet?

Address Labels - Bad Ones

What will I do with these hundreds of labels?

I’ll add one sheet from the Democratic National Committee to my “Mom and Dad Memorabilia” notebook. The DNC was a nonprofit that Mom always rooted for, giving it her time as well as her money.

The rest I’ll shred. That’s what I do with the ones that find their way to my own door.

I do donate, but I try not to end up on every mailing list. So I’m not of prime interest to direct-mailers.

But they liked Mom. I think she actually appreciated the personalized address labels. As new ones arrived, she’d add them to her impressive collection.

Sometimes she’d say ‘thanks’ with a check.

She became very popular.

Address Labels - Thank you!




Nonprofit Address Labels — 2 Comments

  1. Dear Tracey,

    I think there’s another reason for saving those stickers besides being flattered. It seems like a philosophical remnant from the Great Depression–you simply mustn’t throw away anything useful! I used to tell my mom to toss those “gimmee” envelopes without even opening them, but she felt obliged to look because “somebody” had gone to the trouble of sending them to her and it would be rude to pitch ’em. Plus, I think she was a little bit hopeful that there might be something valuable in that envelope. She kept the stickers and she kept the note cards, which she always sent back a donation for because they really were “valuable” to her mind.

    When my sister and I went through Momma’s stuff, we couldn’t simply throw away the cards and stickers. They were all boobie trapped with money! Mom tucked spare fives and tens into all sorts of odd places like stationery boxes–“Just in case!” After she died we had many “Thank you Momma” meals with little stashes she had squirreled away.

  2. Hi Edie:

    I agree that our moms’ generation had trouble throwing away items ‘of some value’ that came to them unsolicited.

    I liked writing this post because it gave me a reason to read about the nonprofits that send address labels, greeting cards, notepads and sometimes even coins (nickels, dimes, pennies) to potential donors.

    The consensus from academic philanthropy researchers (yes, there really are college professors who track nonprofit direct marketing) is that we should feel free to use or give away any of these items without sending a contribution.

    Nonprofits that send us these ‘gifts’ hope for a 1% response rate. At that rate, they make millions. Sending us address labels or a notepad definitely pays off.

    I don’t mind shredding the personalized address labels, but I don’t throw out the other items. I give the notepads and greeting cards to Goodwill and I add the coins to my change jar.

    The philanthropy professors say this is just fine. Nonprofits don’t track what we do with these items and we shouldn’t feel guilty, however we respond to their letters.

    I’m glad you and your sister looked closely through your mom’s stationery. With her monetary booby traps, she made that close scrutiny worthwhile! 🙂

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