Service of Unsolicited Promotional Items: Use or Toss?

June 17th, 2021

Categories: Guilt, Promotions

I love–and use–the return address labels and notepads that charities send soliciting funds. Mostly I don’t donate.

In the last two weeks I received a few surprises. The Central Park Conservancy mailed five note cards [photo right] and envelopes. The New York Public Library doesn’t need to send me anything because I already donate out of gratitude for the tremendous e-book collection it shares with me. Nevertheless I recently received a notepad [photo above] and return address labels. They look great–I like the graphics.

The pen [photo below] came from a company that hopes I’ll order more. Because it’s a business I don’t mind putting it to use with no plans to purchase.

Do you keep–or toss–freebies from charities if you don’t donate? What are your favorite promotional items? Do you always send money when you receive an unsolicited gift?

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17 Responses to “Service of Unsolicited Promotional Items: Use or Toss?”

  1. Helen Rabinovitz Said:

    99% of my goodies come from animal rescue sites. I like animals better than some humans I know. I try to send money to a couple different organizations each time. My favorite free gift are the cards…birthday, get well, blank and already getting xmas. Oh and wrapping paper too mostly for Xmas. Sometimes I can’t help but think the money they spend sending these items out might be more than they get back in actual donations. I do my best to give. Let’s say this there’s a few that will really be happy and surprised because they’re in my will!

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    You are clearly a generous donor while I am small potatoes. I never received wrapping paper! I’m a fussbudget when it comes to note cards and don’t like flimsy paper or blurry or unattractive images so I probably wouldn’t use cards with those characteristics. In any case, there are far too many needy charities. I can’t give to every one because it sends me a freebie. But the tactic must work or nobody would do it. Could be that the printers donate the labels, note pads and cards so the charity needs pay only for postage.

  3. ASK Said:

    I Like the note pads and address labels best, I don’t use the cards or the wrapping paper. I don’t always send a donation in return because I didn’t ask for these items. What I really object is some charities that send a nickel or a dime and then expect you to give. I haven’t seen too many of the latter incentive lately so maybe it was turning out to be an expensive way to solicit.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I remember the coins. Haven’t seen them in ages either. Like you, notepads and labels are best–the latter even welcome!

  5. EAM Said:

    EAM on Facebook: I’m also guilty of keeping the premium gifts and not donating. Sometimes, I do keep it in mind afterwards. I read a Social Q’s article that said it’s ok to keep and use them without obligation.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    If I’ve never before donated to a charity it knows that this is true of a certain percentage of names on a list it bought of people who have donated somewhere. It takes its chances. If the tactic didn’t work, they wouldn’t do it.

  7. Linda Levi Said:

    Linda on Facebook: Must admit I keep and use the address labels (don’t hate or judge me please). But received hardly any during pandemic. In fact recently had to purchase them! And shipping fee (hate those) nearly as costly as labels.

  8. Nancie Steinberg Said:

    Nancie on Facebook: My dad kept every label. I still have some. I think he contributed to most.

  9. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Nancie and Linda:

    I use the address labels. In fact, to pay bills I use the ones that keep coming for Homer. I used to make my own. Like most of theirs better. I’ve never bought any.

  10. Debbie Kunen Said:

    Debbie on Facebook: I donate 1x a year maybe 2x. If they have the budget to send gifts, good for them.

  11. Jeanne Byington Said:


    The goodies must bring in more money than they cost or so many wouldn’t do it. As I wrote in an earlier comment, if we gave to every charity in need of support many of us would soon become the clients of a few. I imagine that board members and supporters of certain charities print the materials pro bono and they must get special bulk/nonprofit postal rates which helps.

  12. lucrezia Said:

    If I like the item, I use it, if not, it’s trashed. Same for the advertised product. Too bad life isn’t that simple!

  13. Jeanne Byington Said:


    The more I responded to comments the better I felt about using the labels and notepads for which I don’t plan to pay when I’ve not ordered them to begin with.

  14. MarthaTakayama Said:

    I use the address labels I receive and the occasional pen. Sometimes I use the blocks of paper, but I also tuck them in charity donations along with greeting cards that are sent occasionally. I don’t respond with a charitable donation to the sender just because they send me unsolicited items. I also question the expenditures and waste involved in sending out these goodies and wonder if it makes sense.

  15. Deb Wright Said:

    What a good subject to share! Sometimes I feel guilty getting a tote bag, and I will send a minor donation if I know the charity. Other times, when I know the organization has very, very wealthy donors, I just keep the return address labels. I do keep the freebies if I can use them. I got a beautiful Nature Conservancy calendar a few days ago. I wasn’t going to send money but then I remembered what their goals are.
    Sometimes (which I think is presumptuous) the letter will start at a minimum of fifty dollars. If I can, I will send fifteen or twenty dollars.

    Due to how many requests come almost daily, it is overwhelming. But for the most part, I do not have guilt about keeping things like labels or pens or note pads. Sometimes my recycle bin is filled with charitable requests

  16. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I’ve never been sent an unsolicited tote bag! You must be a generous donor. And if half of the thousands if not millions of recipients sent $15 to a charity they’d amass a pretty penny.

    I, too toss in the apartment’s paper disposal a fat stack of materials from these folks weekly.

  17. Jeanne Byington Said:


    It must be worthwhile or they wouldn’t be doing it for all these years. The labels usually come before holidays and I welcome them!

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