Direct Mail Solicitations – Worth Your Time and Money?
A WashingtonWatch.com visitor wrote in yesterday asking about a solicitation she had received to sign a petition about the Social Security Preservation Act. The solicitation came from an organization called The Seniors Center with a P.O. Box address in Washington, D.C.
Direct mail is a common fund-raising technique in Washington, D.C., but it’s good to be skeptical of these kinds of things. While there are plenty of legitimate advocacy groups that use donated dollars to help advance the public policy goals of their membership, there are plenty more that do not. These latter groups raise money claiming an advocacy goal but use the money they collect simply to send more mail solicitations to raise more money.
Seniors are often their targets because many seniors want to be involved but lack the ability to determine which groups are legitimate and which are not.
A rule of thumb that I would use to decide whether to give to any advocacy group is whether you have ever heard of them before. If you have seen the group quoted or cited in newspaper articles, magazines, or television news, that means they are engaged on the issues – and it means you are engaged enough to judge. If you have not seen the group, either they are not a real advocacy organization, or you are not focused enough to intelligently spend money in this area. There is no substitute for being directly involved in public affairs, and writing a check to a group with an important-sounding name or a good fund-raising letter is not a substitute for that kind of engagement.
Of course, searching the Internet for information about a group might do the trick too. I found enough stories with negative and strange information about The Seniors Center and its founder Gary Jarmin that this looks like one to avoid.
Smart people check around before they write a check, and that includes writing in to yours truly for advice.