Drowning in Junk Mail – How to Research Who Makes the Junk Mail

For anyone who stumbles on this post, please read how this fits into my over all strategy for stopping junk mail. This is not the first step. This is for groups who will not stop sending junk mail after being repeatedly asked to do so.

I have gotten a couple of requests asking how I find who is behind the junk mail. This takes a little foot work, and a little Google-fu to get what you are looking for.

For Charities, 501(c)3:

Sign up for Charity Navigator and Guidestar. They both have the IRS 990’s for charities. But they only give you access to the documents if you sign up. I like Charity Navigator better, but sometimes only Guidestar will have the documents you are looking for.

Look up the charity who’s junk mail you want to stop. In this case I have picked United States Justice Foundation in Charity Navigator.

Look past the 1 star rating and click on the IRS (Forms 990) tab

Scroll down to the bottom of the page where the links to the PDF’s are. The IRS documents will always be out of date. In this case the newest 990’s are from 2013. You just have to hope that they haven’t changed fundraisers.

This is the first page of the PDF. It gives all the vitals, address, phone number, who is in charge.
This is when you start scrolling.

This is what you are looking for.
Section B. Independent Contractors. This is for independent contractors that received over $100,000 in compensation. There are only 5 spaces. This is only the top 5 independent contractors that got over $100,000. In this case they are all for direct marketing. Sometimes they list printers, or the delightfully vague “consulting”.

They are:

Keep scrolling
Supplemental Information Regarding Fundraising or Gaming Activities. This is the other section where you will find fundraisers. In this case it is their biggest fundraiser Richard Norman Company. Who they paid over $200,000 in 2013.

For Political Action Committees, PACs, 501(c)4, Dark Money groups:

Open Secrets used to be my goto for documents, but they aren’t consistent with giving a link to IRS documents for every group. Now I use Citizen Audit for looking up IRS documents for PACs.

Citizen Audit is very easy to use
Citizen Audit

Just type in the group you are looking for and click “Search”. It will appear under the search bar.

Click through to the group’s page.
Citizen Audit 2
Scroll down a little and look for the “See PDF” for the newest IRS 990. It is the same form that charities use.

IRS 990’s only ask for the top 5 independent contractors that received over $100,000 in compensation. The FEC wants all of a PAC’s expenses. Every pen and pencil, every taxi ride, every stamp for every envelope.

For FEC documents you have to go to the official FEC.gov. This website is AWFUL. No really, it is as bad as any geocities site from 1995. I am just going to link to the search page to save your brain from the terribleness of this website.

Candidate and Committee Viewer search

Type in the candidate or PAC you want to look up.

This is the page for Ryan Zinke the house representative for Montana. He was sending my gal junk mail. She was in California.
You want to click on the operating expenditures link. A note about the FEC website: NEVER, EVER use the search bar in the top right corner. It will plunge you in to the worst garbage search of all time.

These are the expenditures for team Zinke. It goes on, and on. Page after page. Click the “Purpose” bar to put the expenditures in alphabetical order. You are looking for key words like: Printing, Postage, Direct Mail, Marketing, Fundraising, Caging, List Rental

Capitol Caging corp: Caging fees. Open Secrets page

Forthright Strategy: creative fees, I am cheating with this one I already know who Forthright Strategy is.

Legacy List Marketing: List Rental
O’Neill Marketing Co: List Rental

CMS – Consolidated Mailing Services: Printing
Donor Bureau: Printing

I may not call the 2 company’s who do printing. Unless they keep popping up over and over with other PACs

So what do you do with this information? Look up each fundraiser in Google, go to their website, then email them and give them a phone call. They maybe confused. Tell them all about your junk mail problems until they take you off their mailing list. They may ignore you. Take note of the lack of response and move on to the next fundraiser. When the junk mail doesn’t stop, and you file your formal complaint with the DMA and your state’s attorney general, mention the lack of help you got from each company.

How To Be A More Effective Charitable Donor

I am not endorsing one charity over another (unless they are on this list, or this list don’t give to those guys) But rather a philosophy of how to give.

  1. Pick a cause and stick to it. Pick something you are passionate about. Pick a cause that you will be involved in, not just with money but with time. Volunteering is just as important as money. Bill and Melinda Gates have almost unlimited funds but they still manage to have focus and a vision. You don’t have to have the world vision that they have, just pick one little thing that you care about.
  2. Have a charity budget. Your tax prep person can help you determine what that dollar amount should be. After you have given out your charity budget for the year tell everyone else NO! And stick to it.
  3. Only give to a few charities. Yes they all need money, yes they are all good causes. But you are only one person, and you can only do so much. Limit yourself to 5 charities (I think that is to many BTW) Your money and time will have more impact, if you give a lot of money to a few charities. Rather than a little money a lot of charities. Freakonomics talking about how less is more.
  4. Do not be swayed by the sob stories in the letters they send to you. Try to look past the big eyed crippled children, holding animals that are going to be put down if you don’t GIVE MONEY RIGHT NOW!!1!! Target Marking on how to make an emotional direct mail appeal. I have seen most of the examples over the past year.
  5. Don’t give over the phone. The telemarketer that was hired to call you, will get a percentage of your donation. You can give over the phone, but bump up your donation 10% to 50%, so that the amount you want the charity to receive, actually gets to them.
  6. Give local. This project has soured me on the large national charities. Give to a local cause close to your hart. Instead of giving to the National ASPCA give to your local shelter. The dollars will go farther if they don’t go through the bureaucracy of the national charity.
  7. Do your homework. Sign up for Charity Navigator and look at the IRS 990’s of the charity you give to. Go to the meetings, talk to the president of the organization. Are they well organized? Are they accomplishing the goals they set for themselves? Do they have a long term plan? People can have a great cause, and passion, but be terrible at executing the goals they are so passionate about.

 University of Pennsylvania’s Center for High Impact Philanthropy They are academics and talk a lot. I wish they had an info graphic or some other easy to share page that distills down their philosophy.

Thanks Guidestar! That is exactly what I needed.

Charity Navigator’s  Top 10 Best Practices of Savvy Donors

delawareonline.com Make more than a gift, make an impact

NorthWestern Mutual on giving more effectively

Mashable’s charity donation tips

The Wall Street Journal on How to Vet a Charity

Philamplify only rates big endowments or foundations. I hope they expand their offerings soon.

The Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) They help charities be more effective.

Caroline Fiennes wants your donation to have the most impact, and for charities to do the most with your money.

Time for a TED Talk!

I do not agree with anything Dan Pallotta talks about. The more administrative costs go up, it is no longer a charity doing good works. It is now a business that raises money. Which is what Mr. Pallotta runs.

Now to bring it all back to junk mail:
Who ever you choose to give to, tell them not to sell or share your information and to limit the amount of mailpieces and emails they send you a year. For many charities a major source of income is selling their mailing list. If you catch them doing it, that is a deal breaker. You and your money will go elsewhere. Good charities will listen to you. It costs them more to find a new donor, than to keep one.

This post was inspired by a comment from dbaplanb and her mother’s giant boxes of charity junk mail.

Drowning in Junk Mail – Flip Your Junk Mail Over

Funny things start to happen when you open, sort, and send out over 100 pieces of mail a week. You stop reading it and start to look at the construction of the thing they have sent you. The quality of the paper, the size of the font used,
Abe Lincoln Foundation
crazy blue writing all over the letters.
Blue scribbles on junk mail

A lot of the mail comes with these little cards:
501(c)(4) cards
I have been using them to stuff in the smallest pre-paid envelops (it is amazing what you can do when you get 30 or 40 in a week). Take a look at it. It is a bunch of legal mumbumo jumbo about how to get copies of financial reports. But it also gives you a big clue as to who is sending you stuff. They list the name of the parent 501(c)(4) and the mailing address, In this case it is for National Center for Public Policy Research, and our good friends at Policy Issues Institute. I have been picking on them the last few weeks, so let’s turn our attention to someone new.

The Seniors Coalition (TSC) junk mail

If you can look past the crazy writing in red that is all over the place, you will see that this is from The Seniors Coalition run by Sean Ferritor.
Hay, how did you figure that out so quick? Well let me show you:
The Seniors Coalition junk mail
This is the back of the solicitation letter. It has all the usual legal stuff but look at the very bottom
The Seniors Coalition junk mail
They want fan mail! Email: tsc@senior.org
A quick Google of Sean Ferritor pulls up US Border Security Council. And look they have a Flicker page
Here is a photo of Sean Ferritor taking junk mail to the post office.

And here is Owen Thomas calling your grandma, asking for money.

This is fun! Let’s see what else we can find flipping over the mail.

National Association of Chiefs of Police
National Association of Chiefs of Police. Email policeinfo@aphf.org
National Association of Chiefs of Police
Charity Navigator page, 0 stars 64% of budget spent on fundraising.

Help Hospitalized Veterans
Help Hospitalized Veterans, email hhv@hhv.org
Help Hospitalized Veterans
AC360 report on Help Hospitalized Veterans. Charity Navigator page is a must read, the only thing worse than 0 stars is a Donor Advisory. What can I say, only the classiest charities for this mail box.

So what did we learn today? Look on the back of your junk mail. There is gold hidden in the fine print.


Drowning in Junk Mail – Sad Donkeys and Gun Raffles

I am in a holding pattern right now. I have sent emails to the top 4 groups that send me junk mail, every week I enter smaller groups and charities into Catalog Choice (I have over 70 requests right now). I am not going to see a sharp reduction in junk mail until the week of May 19, it is marked on my calender with a big red “X”. I have the post office stopping the worst of the worst scam mail, but it can take up to 2 weeks for them to kick in. I thought you might like to see a random day in my mail box. On Monday I got 30 pieces and on Tuesday I got 25, more than enough material for a blog post.

Turning Pointe Donkey Rescue
The smallest envelope comes from Turning Pointe Donkey Rescue. Guide Star page.
That is a first. I have gotten horse rescue stuff before:
Arabian Rescue Mission, Great Ripoff Report back and forth.
Arabian Rescue Mission

Speak up for Horses, Charity Navigator page (no rating, sub 1 million dollars)
Speak up for Horses

This is about 2 donkeys Kiki and Koko, that were found in a goat pen, with overgrown hooves. And the owner feed them “highly processed feed, which is like junk food for donkeys.” Anyway send money to help these 2 donkeys. Their physical location is in Dansville MI, but they want me to send the money to PO Box 1138 Merrifield VA 22116.

Foot & Mouth Painting Artists
Foot & Mouth Painting Artists, Wiki page, opt-out here mfpausa@bellsouth.net
Loyal Friend, Remember the set of All occasion cards, notelet and postcard you recently received from us?
Um no, I got some note cards from the kids at the Perkins School for the Blind. Charity Navigator page
Perkins Trust, School for the blind
And from American Farmland Trust, Wiki page, Charity Navigator page (not rated yet)
American Farmland Trust
But none from Foot & Mouth Painting Artists. Now I am kinda bummed out I didn’t get mine. Their thing is to mail out note cards then ask for money. I missed the first part 😦

Second Amendment Foundation
Second Amendment Foundation, Wiki page, Charity Navigator page (Percent of the charity’s budget spent on fund raising expenses: 27%)
Raffle Time! 6 entries for $25 win stuff from top brands like Glock, Beretta, Ruger and many more! Thanks Alan Gottlieb but I will pass this year. Great article about Alan Gottlieb.

American Claims & Reporting Center (ARC) Daniel P. Kennedy
American Claims & Reporting Center (ARC) Daniel P. Kennedy. This is a nice advance fee fraud scam. Give them $20 get $3.872,164.00 standard stuff.

The back of this notice is the interesting part:
American Claims & Reporting Center (ARC) Daniel P. Kennedy, Disclaimer
Part of it says that if I send this back with “DNM” written next to the mailing address they will stop. Now I have a choice to make. Do I send this back to them and hope they stop sending me stuff, or do I fill out form 1500 and send it to the USPS and know it will stop? Come on, this was never a choice! I am a vengeful mistress, off to the Pricing & Classification Service Center you go.

Drowning in Junk Mail – When Good Charities Go Bad

To all the good charities who find themselves in this post, look at the company you keep. On this page, and the rest of this blog. No matter what your Charity Navigator rating is, at this moment you are all the same to me. All of you are the same as the SuperPacs that send 3 and 4 letters a day. You are the same as the scammers from Jamaica and The Netherlands. You need to rethink your “direct mail marketing strategy”. I can tell you right now, if you wound up in this lady’s mailbox, that list of leads you bought is garbage. Also think about what happens when you sell your list of good donors to others. Look at this list, there is no rhyme or reason to these charities. No focus or main cause like a normal person. She was giving a little to everyone. Which is great for all you random charities that wound up in her mail box. But every donation she made is one hour less of full time care that she now needs because she has dementia. The same dementia that led her to start donating to so many charities in the first place.


Wild Horse Freedom Federation
Wild Horse Freedom Federation
Guide Star Page

The packaging is deceptive with the “Post Gram” exterior and the fake printer holes along the side. All of this is to get an elderly person’s attention. The cause? To save everyone’s favorite animal: Horses.


Disabled Police Officers of America
Disabled Police Officers of America
This charity is #30 on the worst charities in America


Pride Rock Wildlife Refuge Terrell TX
Priderock Wildlife Refuge

They are sub $1 million so they don’t have a Charity Navigator rating . Otherwise they seem to do good work keeping big cats.


Council of Indian Nations
Council of Indian Nations
Charity Navigator page
You must be extra diligent when donating to a Native American charity. Make sure it is actually going to help people and not line the pockets of the fundraisers.


Civil War Trust
Civil War Trust
Wiki Page
Charity Navigator page
The Civil War Trust is who they say they are. They buy up parts of Civil War battle fields before a Walmart is built on top of them. They are currently trying to capitalize on the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.

Trees, Water & People
Trees, Water & People  TWP Blog
Charity Navigator
This one I really feel bad about. They only spend 3.8% of their budget on advertizing. And somehow they wound up in this black hole of a mailbox.

Rainforest Action Network
Rainforest Action Network
Wiki Page
Charity Navigator
“RAN helped pioneer market campaigns against large multinational corporations in the 1990s, using grassroots activism and savvy media work to advocate for changes in environmental policies. Since then, RAN has had numerous successes in its campaigns against logging companies, banks, and vehicle manufacturers.”
Um, how did this hippie group get in this mailbox?


African Wildlife Foundation
African Wildlife Foundation
Wiki Page
Charity Navigator
“In more recent years the AWF has modelled its program around three objectives: empowering people, conserving wildlife and protecting land. Empowering people involves conservation enterprises that provide benefits and incentives to local communities, sponsoring training of African conservationists and working with government to define conservation policy. Conserving wildlife involves research into species and into how these species interact with people, the basis for defining programs from which both humans and animals can benefit.”

Aww, do you see those sweet little eyes? Where is my checkbook?