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Is It Worth It for Charities to Harass Their Donors?

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Is It Worth It for Charities to Harass Their Donors?

No Stupid Questions Podcast

Freakonomics Radio,

5 min. de leitura
3 Ideias Fundamentais
Áudio & Texto

Sobre o que é?

When’s the last time your favorite charity reached out to you – and if they reach out often, are they still your favorite?

Editorial Rating



  • Eye Opening
  • Concrete Examples
  • Engaging


When’s the last time you got a request for money in the mail? If you’re like many Americans, chances are you’ve had several in the past week. These mailers are bad for the environment, and probably not great for your mental health, but are they good for the charities that mail them? In this episode of No Stupid Questions, Angela Duckworth and Stephen Dubner answer a listener who asks, “Why are charities spending money to annoy their donors?” Dubner and Duckworth explore whether repeated mailings and free gifts from charities inspire donors to give more.


Charities may get more donations when they solicit donations through paper mailers, rather than through email, but repeated mailings annoy donors.

You may have noticed that snail mail seems to be going the way of landlines for telephone: Both bring you more unsolicited ads, junk mail, and other spam rather than welcome messages from friends and family. If you’ve ever donated to charity and made the mistake of giving them your address, this problem is amplified. The charity you give to today might be selling your address to some other firm tomorrow. 

Charities receive more donations per capita when they solicit through paper mail than when they solicit through email, but given the cost of postage, paper and cheap “free” gifts, are paper mailers really cost-effective? Donors often feel frustration with the sheer volume of mailers they get from charities each year.

Research and anecdotal evidence suggests that charities might benefit from giving donors the option to receive less mail.

Many charities engage...

About the Podcast

Stephen J. Dubner is a journalist, podcast and radio host, and the co-author of the Freakonomics book series. Angela Duckworth is the Rosa Lee and Egbert Chang Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, the author of Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, and the co-host of No Stupid Questions, a podcast on the Freakonomics Radio network.

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