Charity marketing and excessive calls and contacts

CHOICE is revisiting the issue of charity marketing and investigating how donors end up on contact lists that lead to excessive calls and contacts from people claiming to represent charities. Our working premise is that these tactics diminish our willingness to give. We’re also calling out the apparently counterproductive tactic of including little gifts (calendars, pens, fridge magnets, etc) with mail solicitations. Do these tactics by charity marketers make you want to give more, or less?


I refuse to give to anyone who contacts me…I treat everyone as a scammer and take offence to charities making cold calls trying to get a donation. These calls usually are at inconvenient times and also they use tactics to try and keep you on the call…so they can try and convenience you to make a donation. Scammers often use similar tactics.

I donate when I have some spare money, feel generous and am willing to help someone else out. This occurs at a time of my choosing, not when a charity cold calls.

I also refuse to deal with charities which give out ‘gifts’ when you donate, with exception of the likes of the RSL for remembrance day - even then I decline the ‘gift’ (plastic or fabric poppy) offered. I would rather my money being used for a good cause and not for gimmicks to persuade someone to donate.

I have also contacted a number of charities which cold call to be removed from their calling list. It took persistence and a number of calls/forms filled in before it was removed. A charity adding you to a list to call you again in the future is also a turn off for future donations for the reasons outlined above. I now avoid giving personal or contact details when making a donation.


A few organisations I donated to for years continued sending postal solicitations despite my repeatedly contacting them to stop. I finally advised them if I got another I would cease donating. They could not do it for more than a few months when we would again start receiving their postal solicitations. I no longer donate to them and have found similar charitable organisations to support who can (1 year and counting) keep the family off their lists.


Upon enquiring, I learnt some interesting things that mean I never provide phone, address, or credit card. I was told by someone hawking for a charity on the street pre-Covid that:

  • Once they have your details they can bug you all they like because a business relationship has been established so you can’t avoid the company via Do Not Call registers any more.
  • The people in the street asking for money are usually paid a proportion of what they earn. If they get you to hand over a credit card the idea is that a periodic payment is expected, and the hawker gets the first one in full.
  • Worst of all, when asking how a charity I’d never dealt with got my contact details, I’ve been told straight out that there are so few leads for potential donors that charities get together and pool prospects into a shared database. I hope hackers never get access to it.

Translation give to whom you want to give, when you are ready, never hand over personal information and stay in control. i.e. you push your donations rather than letting them be pulled.


Any annoying tactics will make me not want to donate anything to a given charity. At the top of the list of annoyances is the use of chuggers in places such as shopping centres.

Whilst there might be good reason for charities not having to comply with the do not call register and other regulations, this should not extend to situations where charities use commercial fundraisers.

After buying some raffle tickets to support a given charity, I was then phoned asking me to buy more tickets in the same draw. If being politely told “no thanks” on three occasions the person continued trying to sell me more tickets. To me this is as bad as an online bookie phoning customers and saying “We noticed that you have bet $100 on Slow Boat to win the fifth race, would you like to have some more bets on that race?”

It would be worth investigating whether people who donate to one charity via professional fundraisers, have their details used by the fundraiser to solicit donations for other charities.

In my view, the use of professional fundraisers and charities providing gifts in disrespecting donors who gave money thinking it would be applied to helping the needy. Perhaps the tax laws should be changed, to only allow a tax deductions for a portion of donations, if the said charity spends excessive amounts on professional fundraisers and/or free gifts.


The wife woman has a soft heart and has donated to several charities in recent times. She generally has the phone on silent, and doesn’t answer the phone.

One charity she has donated to persists in calling her every single afternoon. On the reverse number search, that specific phone number has been highlit by several people for the same repetitive call behaviour.

The calls are never answered, and stop after only a few rings. Points for persistence, but a major disincentive to donating again.


There’s not much more to add, I think almost the same way.

I never donate when I am called. I do donate regularly to charitable organisations, but I always choose them myself and then transfer the amount I wish to donate.

And small gifts are rather aversive to me. The money should rather be used directly for the charity. I know that this is a simple calculation, according to which these gifts bring a greater overall return to the good cause. However, you only have to look at the ratio of administrative costs to expenses for the actual purpose of many charities and you start to have doubts.


I remember back in maybe 2017? a certain organisation that I and a number of people I know donated to decided that as well as providing medical services to people who couldn’t afford them, they would engage in support for a socio-political agenda in this country.

I agreed with their position on the agenda and I voted that way when the time came - what I didn’t agree with was the use of what I and others perceived as significant funds to mount a campaign for the agenda over email and physical mail when I saw that as completely outside their mission. I personally know a number of donors they lost over that … I wonder what the real cost was. Subtext: don’t spend my donations outside your mission!

Aside from that - I never donate on request. I choose and make no apology for it - a sentiment echoed in various posts above …


I agree - I plan my donations according to my resources and my interests, and stick to them. I chose the charities I donate to carefully, I review them occasionally, and I’m confident that my money is being used as I wish. I tell cold callers - or those wanting me to increase my regular donations - that I have a donation budget which is fully subscribed, sorry. “Oh, but just an extra five dollars a month, just the price of one cup of coffee…” One was particularly persistent, and I told them by email that if I heard from them again, I would direct my largess elsewhere. The calls stopped.
I have discovered that once you are a regular donor to A, B and C, you start getting calls and personalised mail-outs from X, Y and Z; you are on
the shared list of possibles.


Pretty much the same with me and my wife. We are terribly annoyed by unsolicited phone calls (generally around dinner time) and always tell them we will never donate to a charity that makes unsolicited calls. Doesn’t seem to help, though. We give to a few charities that we have researched and are comfortable with their purposes. Incidentally, those charities never call us, and only occasionally send us mail (perhaps twice a year, so that’s ok). Never, never will we give to charities who pester us with their phone calls. Also, we never donate with credit cards to charity collectors in the street or who are door knocking. I simply don’t trust the marketing organisations behind them.


State & Federal Governments repeatedly talk about not doing something or acting because of Privacy Issues - Cold calling by Charities to those who elect to be on the don’t call list should be respected. This is a Privacy and a Scamming Issue. Also many children manage the affairs of their elderly parents, who live on their own. They have enough to do then have to do deal with unwanted calls. Any good charity should no longer be using this method to solicit donations. The ones that do, spend too much on marketing, and none of these organisations are checking their KPIs.


Unfortunately charities (and government bodies, educational institutions, political parties, social researchers and pollster/survey organisations) are exempted from the do not call register.


It would be interesting to hear from one of these charities - what percentage of calls result in a donation? It must be worth their while to keep doing it.
In the days when these appeals came by mail I simply marked them all ‘unknown at this address return to sender’. Took a lot of persistence on my part before some of them deleted my address.


In general I agree with the comments of phb and PhilT. I donate to a number of charities that I’ve selected because I believe in their causes. I presume I get unsolicited charity calls to our home phone, but they never get past the answering machine and always hang up. The charities that send ‘freebies’ in the mail get binned. I have had some success getting charities to stop sending mail communications, but it’s a bit hit and miss and depends on how good their donor management software is.

Unfortunately, there are contact list providers who collate contact information from many different sources and sell lists they believe have potential for donor aquisition. If you end up on one, there will be charities who purchase these lists for cold calling. Charities are required to remove you from their direct marketing communications if you request it. The problem is they are not required to notify the list merchant that you don’t want to receive communications from any charity. The best thing to do is ask the charity what list merchant and list they obtained your details from and contact the list merchant directly. The list merchant is governed by the privacy act and has to comply with your request to be removed from the list.

Having worked in the not for profit industry for nearly 20 years, it’s a tough game attracting and keeping donors. Some charities do it well, some don’t.


The tactic I use to stop constant begging letters and gifts of stickers and other useless items is that I return the envelope and all contents via the post, having written on it “RTS” (ie return to sender) and “Please remove from your mailing list”

I volunteered for a charity in Melbourne for a while and that request was always honoured. If you use the envelope and donor details they have sent to you, you have a really good chance that they will be able to identify the right person and take you off their mailing list.


I ‘only’ emailed them and their CEO a scan of their address label complete with barcodes expecting it could help them ID me to cease and desist. Maybe ‘old school’ post does attract better attention?

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That’s plain rude of them. Many businesses have a “Contact Us” page or form - in my experience they hardly ever get back to you if you use that format. Maybe, if they receive an actual envelope that is something they really have to do something about. Anyway, I don’t get correspondence of that type any more. I do give (generously) to my favourite charities and if I get “those” phone calls, I tell them my donation budget has been spent.

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I agree that phone calls from charities are a “pain”. I have also told those charities that send me posted mail to desist and use email if they wish to contact me but that doesn’t always work.
I also ask phone callers where they obtained my phone number but I rarely get an answer.
I imagine that many charities have been corrupted by marketing personnel who have recommended that online donors must provide their phone numbers which the marketers then believe gives them license to call when it suits them.


I contribute regularly to a number of charities and am happy to do so. In return I get a steady flow of correspondence, some of it telling me where my money is going (which I have no problems), others asking me to give $250 or whatever (the suggested amount is no doubt determined by previous giving). I make it a point of not responding to these appeals, since to do so would only encourage further ones, making future donations independent of any appeal.


I have an answering machine connected to my landline phone if the phone rings and i dont recognise the number or its not on my contact list, i dont answer, if they dont leave a message then its not important.

Most charities use call centre businesses these days anyway. I use reverse Australia to check numbers and block all the ones that identify persistent or excessive calls.

I have a couple of favoured charities I support and I keep it at that. They generally have my mobile contact anyway.

I resorted to the answering machines simply because I was fed up with scam calls. Recently got a recorded one on my mobile that I recognised 2 words at the start - Australia Post - but the rest seemed to be in Chinese. I didn’t listen to the whole thing, simply hung up.

I have an awful lot of blocked numbers on both the landline and the mobile but it is quieter.