One woman’s junk mail is another’s treasure

  • Tue Jul 20th, 2010 8:45pm
  • News

By Kristi O’Harran, Herald Columnist

When VISA, my mortgage company and Verizon receive my checks in the mail, the return address label on the envelope could be from O’Harran, Oharran, Harran or O Harren.

I use whatever computer- generated labels, spelled right or wrong, are mailed to me from St. Joseph’s Indian School in South Dakota, Paralyzed Veterans of America, St. Labre Indian School in Montana and St. Bonaventure Indian Mission &School in New Hampshire.

I am on groovy mailing lists from random schools and organizations. Sending back a $5, $10 or $20 donation in their return envelopes now and then makes me a super star on distribution lists.

Junk mail in my mailbox always get a quick glance. You never know when a “free” gift might be usable.

The loot I receive runs the gamut. I have two dream catchers on my bedroom window. Most send return address labels. I’ve received Christmas labels, gift tags, a date book, calendars, note pads, a Christmas ornament, a button from the Tiyospaye extended family club, children’s stickers and tissue wrapping paper with gift bags.

Keeno junk.

If I only send back $5, I do feel cheap, but it is appreciated on the other end. Jona Ohm, Children’s Services Liaison at St. Joseph’s Indian School, said direct mail has been the school’s primary source of funding since it was founded in 1927.

“We are not a tribal entity,” she said, “But rather a private school for Native American children founded by the Congregation of the Priests of the Sacred Heart.”

Sounds like a good cause to support, and I chalk up a tax deduction.

Kory Christianson, St. Joseph’s executive director of Development, said the mailing program, because of its rural location, is the most effective means to raise money.

“We are privately funded by individuals from all over the U.S.A.,” Christianson said. “Sometimes our mailings include only a letter and other times we also include a gift or multiple gift items.”

When they mail out free gifts, they ask themselves questions, Christianson said.

“Does it relate to our mission? Is it an item the donor can use? Does the item assist in promoting our organization? Is the net result cost effective? If the item meets these criterion, we will consider mailing it.”

My grand-daughters, like most 4- and 5-year-olds, love to make pretty pictures from stickers. Peyton and Kelbi are thrilled when Grammie brings home labels from the mail with butterflies, pretty flowers in pots, ladybugs and old Mr. Sun. We received a bookmark, six-month pocket calendar and serenity prayer from Salesian Missions in New York.

Dan Koffman, who operates Koffman Studio and Gallery from his home on Camano Island, is a consultant and publicist with his company, TopSpin Marketing. He said this sort of mailing is called scatter-shot marketing.

“Whatever works,” he said. “People play the odds.”

Koffman said the groups would have to do their arithmetic. How much does each gift cost to mail out? How many contributions might be returned?

Some soliciting organization play on emotions, Koffman said. Kind folks who get free gifts in the mail might be apt to reply with a donation.

Like me.

Paralyzed Veterans of America sent me a real nickle and return address labels.

If I owe you money, expect to hear from Ms. Kristi O. Harran.

Kristi O’Harran: 425-339-3451,