Reply requested, but not guaranteed

News-DemocratNovember 28, 2013 

I try to recycle most junk mail without even opening it, but every once in a while a teaser draws me in.

For example, "Official Receipt Verification Enclosed" was printed in white letters on a green color band that ran across the width of the envelope I received in the mail.

"Reply Requested" was stamped below in red letters.

I thought it meant it was verifying something I had bought so I opened it. Actually it was a form promising me an official receipt if I sent money.

It was National Wildlife Federation form no. F4112. "For official use only," it said.

I was bemused by that. Was I an official who could use it? Or did that mean NWF officials? U.S. government officials? Basketball officials?

Several weeks ago, the organization sent me a membership card. This letter wanted to know whether I got it. I think the paper recycling receptacle at Washington School in Belleville got it, if you want to know the truth.

They wanted me to send along at least $15 via check or credit card. They also would like it if I would remember them in my will.

Well, I would like it if people would remember me in their wills as well but I'm not writing a bunch of letters to beg for it.

I'm sure the National Wildlife Federation is a fine bunch. They have the Better Business Bureau seal on the back of their form F4112. Also the Charity Navigator seal, an independent evaluator of charities.

"NWF holds high ratings with Charity Navigator," the form states.

I checked. On its own website, Charity Navigator asks for money to keep its effort going.

But anyway, it rates NWF as four stars on accountability and transparency but only one star on financial, saying that NWF provides only about two-thirds of its budget for activities. The rest, I guess, goes to salaries and administration. That doesn't seem that great to me.

It's not as if this charity is the only one begging for my help. Heifers International wanted me to send $60 to help buy goats in some country. They called me on my cell phone. Woke me up, too.

When I wouldn't give $60, they were willing to settle for a lesser amount. I was more willing to hang up.

NWF and three other nature-related charities sent me calendars and wanted me to make a donation for them. I was curious about how that works. Do people actually send money? They must or why would the group do it?

I called all four organizations that calendared me and asked answering machines how it all worked.

One person called me back. It was a man with the NWF.

He listened carefully to my question and said he would have to get back to me.

I'm still waiting.

I'm not holding out much hope, After all, I know how well "Reply requested" works.

Have a column idea? Call Wally at 618-239-2506 or 800-642-3878; or email wspiers@bnd.com

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