The most obscene “guilt mailing” I’ve ever seen

By | October 16, 2009

UPDATE [March 19, 2012]: If you’ve arrived at this page because you received a solicitation for charity from St. Joseph’s Indian School and you are investigating whether the school deserves your support, then please see the comment below from David Fitzpatrick, a CNN investigative producer who is researching a story about St. Joseph’s and their fundraising vendor, Quadriga arts. He would like to hear from you, especially if you have a mailing from St. Joseph’s which you haven’t yet discarded. You can email him here.

Now, back to the original blog posting…

You’ve all gotten them, right?  An envelope, or sometimes even a box, from some alleged charity you’ve never heard of before.  You open it up and discover personalized mailing labels, greeting cards, a notepad, a tree ornament, a cheap electronic doodad, a coin, or whatever, along with a plea to send a donation.

The strategy the charity is employing is twofold: some confused old people and idiots will think they’re required to send a donation in exchange for the junk, and some others will feel compelled to send a donation because they would otherwise feel guilty about accepting something for nothing from a charity.

I call these “guilt mailings.”

(Interestingly, the UK’s Institute of Fundraising says they’re a no-no (page 8): “Fundraising organisations OUGHT to be able to demonstrate that the purpose of the enclosure was to enhance the message and/or the emotional engagement in the cause and not to generate a donation primarily because of financial guilt or to cause embarrassment.”)

I know what the senders of these mailings are trying to do, and I know it’s slimy, so I’m completely immune to their efforts to generate guilt.  Not only that, but rather than prompting me to donate, guilt mailings tend to have the opposite effect — I tend to put any charity which uses them onto my “do not donate” list for good.  If the freebie is useful, I go ahead and use it without any qualms at all.  I’m heartless about it… when they send reply envelopes with stamps on them, I cut off the stamps and use them to send my own letters, just on principle.

I thought by now I’d seen it all, but I received in the mail today the guilt mailing to beat all guilt mailings, from St. Joseph’s Indian School in Chamberlain, South Dakota:

(click for larger image)

(click for larger image)

What have we got here?  Taking it from the top:

  1. The envelope in which everything was packaged.
  2. A big card with a pretty picture and “Special Holiday Gifts for YOU from the Lakota children!” printed on it, with a ribbon, two bows, and a retractable ball-point pen taped to it.
  3. Twenty-four personalized address labels and six gift stickers, with “What shall I bring to the Lord, the God of heaven, when I come to worship him? – Micah 6:6″ on the back of them.  Oh, I don’t know, how about a retractable ball-point pen and some personalized address labels?
  4. The pitch letter about the poor Lakota Indian children (one of them with the fictional name “Emily Fire Cloud”; oh, it’s just too trite for words!) that St. Joseph’s wants you to help them missionize.
  5. Notepad (not personalized; cheapskates!) with the same bible quote on the back of it.
  6. The first of eight rather fancy Christmas cards with envelopes.
  7. Reply card and return envelope.
  8. More cards and envelopes, and finally, a piece of wrapping paper.

Imagine my surprise (not!) that the American Institute of Philanthropy has not issued a rating to this charity.  They are a religious organization and therefore exempt from reporting laws, and they declined the AIP’s requests for information that would enable them to issue a rating.  The BBB Wise Giving Alliance says that St. Joseph’s fails to meet three of the 20 standards they use to rate charities.  And if you donate to St. Joseph’s, they’ll sell your personal information to make more money off of you.  And let’s not forget about those messy allegations of abuse at the school.

Here’s my personal rating for St. Joseph’s: a big, fat, F.

UPDATE: The only sign of any organization other than St. Joseph’s on any of the materials enclosed in the mailing is this tiny logo on the back of the greeting cards, enlarged here for readability:

reproducta

Googling for “reproducta” takes you to http://www.reproducta.com/, and the “For Fundraising” box on Reproducta’s home page takes you to http://www.quadrigaart.com/.  Judging from the content on the latter site, this mailing was probably produced by Quadriga Art, Inc.

UPDATE [April 5, 2011]: It turns out that Quadriga Art, Inc. does not exactly have a stellar record. According to the American Institute of Philanthropy, at least two different charities for which Quadriga did fundraising, Disabled Veterans National Foundation and SPCA International, paid Quadriga so much for its services that they ended up in major debt to Quadriga, i.e., Quadriga charged them significantly more than they raised, to the tune of millions of dollars. Furthermore, at least one and perhaps both of these charities had contracts with Quadriga which required that their debt to Quadriga be paid off before they could use a single cent of donations for the services their charities were actually supposed to be providing. By utilizing Quadriga’s services, St. Joseph’s has affiliated itself with a fundraising company which thinks nothing of ripping off charities, and puts itself in the company of charities which are at best mismanaged and at worst fraudulent.

UPDATE [December 4, 2011]: Check out the dream-catchers (remarked upon by several people in comments below) that are currently being included in the guilt mailings from St. Joseph’s (click for a full-size image):

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291 thoughts on “The most obscene “guilt mailing” I’ve ever seen

  1. Deavontay

    over everything I think it is really horrible that sjis sent out so much crap when all they could have done was send maybe 2 cards not a whole freaking care package… I have gone to this school for a couple of years and the money is used very wisely but they portray themselves as needy and we aren’t needy especially with all the money they have saved. if you have questions ask an alumni me at deavontaysmallbear@gmail.com

    Reply
  2. Pingback: Drowning in Junk Mail – St. Joseph’s Indian School 2014 Christmas Appeal | Drowning in Junk Mail

  3. Michael McL

    I recently received the bulky package in the mail from SJIS and decided to investigate a little before making a donation. I’ve never received anything from them before and I’m not sure where they got my name but I suspect probably from some other charity I’ve donated to. I was alerted to the plight of eight year old ‘Emily High Elk’, who up until recently conveyed hopelessness in her dark brown eyes. Naturally, I would like to help every child in need but like most I only have so much to give and this organization unfortunately fails the audition. The splurgy mailer I received will not be a total loss in that it has alerted me to the squalid conditions that many Native Americans face that are genuinely worthy of our laborious efforts to improve. Many thanks to jik, Kara and all of you who have shared the results of your thorough research. I will continue to investigate further until I find a few others that are more to my liking. Now has anybody found a good use for a Dreamcatcher?

    Reply
  4. Betty Fitzgerald-Griffith

    I personally made a trip to St.Josephs in I believe 2003 or 04. The trip was to attend a pow wow at the school. Father Steve was there at the time and my friend and I spent several hours with the children as we toured the property who answered questions and never acted as tho there was a problem. My fiend has been connected to the school for years and if there had ever been a problem she would have said something to me.
    I was in a children’s home in 1948 to 1951. I was 8 years old when me and my siblings were all placed by the state of Ohio. It was good and bad.As far as I know there was no abuse sexual or other wise. I suppose it helped as mom divorced dad and that stopped the beating’s. My brother ran away at 12 after a few months as did my 14 year old sister.Neither was ever brought back. It helped that it was so close to the Ohio River and where mom and my grandparents lived.The two babies we taken by an older sister within a year.Me I stayed for awhile alone . That was the bad part.I went to school and for the first time in my life I was taught to use a tooth brush and daily showers. It wasn’t that mom didn’t try hard it was the circumstance. I have been back for reunions and met up with tids who were there and our dorm parents.
    I feel so sad about St.Josephs I wish they had of collected their own money. Of course I won’t send any money.I receive so many request for money and St.Joseph’s was close to my heart. God bless all of the children there or any other facility being cared for by others. Betty

    Reply
  5. Rebecca Richman

    I have received enough return address labels to last me the rest of my life, I am now a healthy 83 year old. Thank you for your information about St Joseph’s
    Indian School. I am sorry to hear that they are not legitimate, but your information has saved me some money. Thanks. Reb

    Reply
  6. Beany

    I have been donating to this charity for a few years now (hangs head in shame). I am now learning I have been duped. I’m not mad. I was lazy. I did spend some time tonight trying to make up for that by doing some research. Charity Navigator has the Native American Heritage Association listed with an excellent 4 out of 4 stars rating. They are not a school but do serve the Pine Ridge and Crow Creek reservations in South Dakota providing food and basic necessities.
    I’ll keep the dream catchers anyway. I hang them on my Christmas tree. They will remind me to give wisely and do my research in future. No sense in filling up the landfills.
    I would encourage anyone who is interested in helping the native people of South Dakota to take a look at The Native American Heritage Association.
    https://www.naha-inc.org/
    If anyone (especially Native Americans) has other suggestions I would be glad to hear them.

    Reply
    1. jik Post author

      Charity Navigator’s ratings are useless. The only organization whose ratings I trust is CharityWatch. If you read the information on their web site, you’ll see why.

      CharityWatch gives the Native American Heritage Association a D rating. The only spend 47% of their funds on program expenses (CharityWatch expects a charity to spend 60% or more), and it costs them $44 to raise $100 (target is $35 or less). In short, I don’t think the Native American Heritage Association is a good choice for your support.

      Consider instead the American Indian College Fund, which gets an A- grade from CharityWatch, Futures for Children (B+), American Indian Youth Running Strong /Christian Relief Services Charities (B), Association of American Indian Affairs (B), or Native American Rights Fund (B). Once you get past the charities with A and B ratings, all the others in this category are D, F, or unrated because they refused to provide CharityWatch with sufficiently detailed information for them to be able to produce a rating (a bad sign!).

      Reply
  7. Glen

    Hmmm…Just so happens I received a “Dream Catcher” package from them in todays Mail…
    I wanted to see if they were Made By the Children or Not…???
    Damn…sure found a Lot of Negatives…
    The first thing that they don’t understand about their 501 (c)3 status is,
    that if the Donor receives anything from them such as a “Dream Catcher”
    books/labels/name Labels etc…even if it is called a GIFT…
    Then the Donation “IS NOT TAX DEDUCTABLE” !!!!!

    AS I am Board Member on a few 501(c)3’s…(Non Paid)
    Their acknowledgement of that Donation must state the fact
    that the Donor Received Nothing in return for their Donation…(IRS Rules)

    You also have to realize that Only a Judges Court Order can Remove
    the Children from their Families…and place them in this “Orphanage” !!!!
    (Which is really what ST Joseph’s Indian School really is…)

    The thought that comes to mind about Child Abuse is that, a
    (Now Former) PA Judge that is now doing Hard Time for a Kick Back scheme
    where he would sentence young kids to a Juvenile Facility for years…
    (most were for Nothing charges…) Wrecked many a young Childs Life,
    and tore Families apart…(He received Monetary Kick Backs for each Child
    he sentence to that Facility…Modern Day Slavery !!!!

    As a Victim of the Orphanage System from age 8…brother age 6…
    (Got caught stealing Food…)
    Be forewarned that there is Sexual Abuse going on 99% of the Time
    in any and all Juvenile Facilities(under age 18) besides the Physical abuse…
    (All of the Boys Supervisors are Members of MBLA (Man Boy Love Association)
    and have been for over 50 years…)

    These are just BIG Money Makers and are protected…
    The KIDS count for Nothing…
    (Wonder how many have Died and have gone Unreported…)
    (Isolated and away from the Publics Etc…)

    Thank you for posting your Article…

    Reply
    1. jik Post author

      The first thing that they don’t understand about their 501 (c)3 status is,
      that if the Donor receives anything from them such as a “Dream Catcher”
      books/labels/name Labels etc…even if it is called a GIFT…
      Then the Donation “IS NOT TAX DEDUCTABLE” !!!!!

      This is not correct. The free gifts are sent to the recipient before they donate any money, and the recipient gets to keep the gifts even if they don’t send any money, so they are not considered a quid pro quo by IRS regulations, and the full amount of any donation made by the recipient is tax-deductible.

      You also have to realize that Only a Judges Court Order can Remove
      the Children from their Families…and place them in this “Orphanage” !!!!
      (Which is really what ST Joseph’s Indian School really is…)

      This is also inaccurate. St. Joseph’s is not an orphanage, and many of the students there are enrolled voluntarily by their parents, without the involvement of the courts.

      The thought that comes to mind about Child Abuse is that, a
      (Now Former) PA Judge that is now doing Hard Time for a Kick Back scheme
      where he would sentence young kids to a Juvenile Facility for years…
      (most were for Nothing charges…) Wrecked many a young Childs Life,
      and tore Families apart…(He received Monetary Kick Backs for each Child
      he sentence to that Facility…Modern Day Slavery !!!!

      I’ve seen no evidence that there is any sort of kickback scheme involved in placing children at St. Joseph’s. Therefore, as reprehensible as what happened in Pennsylvania is, it has nothing to do with St. Joseph’s, and it’s entirely inappropriate to suggest otherwise.

      Be forewarned that there is Sexual Abuse going on 99% of the Time
      in any and all Juvenile Facilities(under age 18) besides the Physical abuse…

      This, too, is an entirely baseless accusation without any evidence, at least when it comes to St. Joseph’s. While it is true that St. Joseph’s has been rocked by child abuse allegations in the past, there is no evidence that such abuse continues, and I personally doubt that it does, at least not “99% of the Time” (whatever that means).

      (All of the Boys Supervisors are Members of MBLA (Man Boy Love Association)
      and have been for over 50 years…)

      This is just stupid, crazy talk.

      Reply

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