General Question

poisonedantidote's avatar

Would this volunteer organization face any legal trouble?

Asked by poisonedantidote (21611points) December 21st, 2012

A friend of mine is thinking of setting up an organization, that will have members of the public volunteer to write anonymous letters of encouragement and hope, so they may be handed out at random to people in need.

They would take letters from the general public that volunteer to write and send mail, then they would take the letter and hand it to someone who could benefit from it. Such as homeless people, old people in homes, prison inmates, and so on.

I have raised legal concerns with my friend, in that they are not actually a registered charity, just an unofficial activist organization.

After having it explained to me better, I am not sure if it would be legal or not.

They would be asking for letters to be mailed to them, with them as the named receiver. In other words, in their terms and conditions, they would claim ownership of all mail delivered.

This will allow them to open the mail, to inspect it and make sure the content is appropriate, before handing it over to a recipient.

They would not ask for, or accept monetary or material gifts or donations, and would have a policy, stating that anyone who sends cash or gifts, will have their mail returned when possible, and donated to an official named charity in the event that returning it were impossible.

They would also reserve the right to make copies of the letter, as well as quote it or use it in parts in magazines, articles and other outlets.

They would reserve the right to destroy letters that are not appropriate, as well as more or less do what they want with all mail at their choice.

Would that be likely to be legal?

(I am just asking for personal opinions, and don’t hold anything anyone says as actual legal advice)

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5 Answers

snowberry's avatar

If this is in the USA, in my opinion it probably would be illegal. In the spirit of “any good deed will not go unpunished”, if someone doesn’t stand to get some sort of income off of it, our litigious society will find a reason to shut it down. I don’t know about other countries.

I remember a few years ago there was a group that wanted to write Santa letters to little kids who wrote in, and they shut it down too.

CWOTUS's avatar

I can’t see any utility in such a group, but I can’t imagine that it could run afoul of any law, if operated as stated. It’s a “free speech” issue, after all.

jaytkay's avatar

I remember a few years ago there was a group that wanted to write Santa letters to little kids who wrote in, and they shut it down too.


It’s too late for 2012 but here’s info so you can get ready for next year. The US Postal Service gives you a kid’s letter, you write a response and choose a gift and the USPS delivers it.

They’ve been doing it for 100 years.

In my area, the Chicago Sun-Times has a similar program.

Directly on the original topic: I don’t see why this would be problematic. It sounds like maybe the goal is to harvest heart-warming stories to sell a book, but maybe I’m being too cynical.

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