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by Abigail Van Buren

Donor Labors to Climb Mountain of Charity Mail

DEAR ABBY: Please help me and others who are constantly asked to give donations. I am a university professor at retirement age; I have a modest salary. Fortunately, I am frugal and thus able to lead a comfortable life.

I contribute to numerous causes. Helping my fellow human beings is a moral duty from which I derive great satisfaction. Yes, I realize there are catastrophes in this world, and I do add something to my contribution whenever I can. However, I am unable to do it all the time.

Every year, I send checks to more than 80 charities, and I make it a point to label each donation "annual contribution for the year" -- to no avail. Still I continue to receive three to four daily requests and/or "gifts." Besides the inconvenience of all this unasked-for and unwanted mail, I'm concerned about the waste of paper and the money that should go to philanthropy and not marketing.

How can I convince charities to accept the fact that I can send them only one check a year? Could you suggest that these associations label us "once-a-year contributors" and stop showering us with requests and gifts the rest of the year? Believe me, Abby, I would be most grateful. -- NOT A MILLIONAIRE, COLUMBIA, S.C.

DEAR NOT A MILLIONAIRE: I could suggest that charities send solicitations only once a year -- but the effort would be useless. Many large charities have become automated. The donor lists have become part of a computer information bank, and requests for money are spit out and mailed a minimum of several times a year. One would think the expenditure of paper and postage would be taken into consideration, but they must make so much money that they can afford to waste it.

At one time, I was in your situation regarding a charity in Los Angeles. I, too, was concerned when I continued to be solicited almost monthly. I called a development person at the charity and asked to be solicited only once a year. During the next few months, I continued to receive requests for money from them -- and then a package arrived containing a useless "gift," because I was such a "valued friend" of the charity.

Since that was not how I wanted my donations spent, I contacted a much smaller charity that does similar work and solicits me only once a year. It now receives the donation I previously gave to the larger program.

P.S. It has been years, and I still receive requests from the large charity. I throw them away unopened.