Dear Etiquetteer: I understand that replying to invitations is Perfectly Proper. But I receive a number of invitations to fund-raising events, some from organizations I strongly support and some from organizations I rarely or never support. Do I need to RSVP when I'm not going to an event?
There's a difference between a strictly social invitation and an invitation to a fund-raiser. One is invited to the first solely for the pleasure of one's company, but to the latter for the potential of one's largesse. Other etiquette writers have suggested that one need not respond to invitations for gallery openings or for Home Retail Opportunities - to buy, for instance, jewelry or kitchen supplies - from a friend who facilitates buying parties in private homes. No matter how sociable the event, its real purpose is for one to spend money. Etiquetteer would suggest that this, too, applies to fund-raising events, though their sociability becomes more and more impacted with the accretion of speeches and live auctions.
But as with everything else, there are exceptions. If you are invited personally by a friend to buy tickets to fill a table at some big affair, a Gentle Decline after the first appeal will save you from second, third, and fourth appeals.
You may wish to use the reply card to send a request to be dropped from their invitation lists (as opposed to their mailing lists altogether), writing "I prefer to support your organization in absentia."