Declining Charitable Appeals, Vol. 11, Issue 18

Dear Etiquetteer: Have you ever addressed what to do when multiple friends request via email, Facebook, and other social media, donations to their cause of the moment? I receive multiple email requests and reminders throughout my friends' fund-raising process. Although I would love to support each friend and every cause, how do I address the issue? I feel bad ignoring their request and guilty if I cannot support every cause every year for financial reasons. It seems if I donate once then it is expected I will donate every year. Any suggestions or articles you have would be appreciated as the requests are for good causes and many are from good friends that I would like to keep!

Dear Solicited:

Allow Etiquetteer to put you at ease, because your feelings are not unique. For all the hundreds of thousands of fellow citizens who advocate and raise funds for Charities of Their Choice, there are hundreds of thousands more fellow citizens who would rather not make a donation and feel awkward about saying No.  Solicitations come in many forms, from raffle tickets and bake sales to special event tickets and race sponsorships to invitations to join various giving societies. More often than not, the requests won't stop until an answer of some sort is received; many fund-raisers use the equation Silence = Hope. Declining graciously an opportunity to contribute to a friend's cause ends your anxiety and also allows your friend to direct his or her energy toward others who may wish to support that particular cause.

So, what is the most Perfectly Proper thing to say? The most neutral is "Thank you, but I have other charitable priorities right now," which could mean that you're directing your largesse to Charities of Your Choice, saving money for your own purposes, or just scraping by paying your daily expenses.  There is no need at all to specify, and should your friend ask, identify the Charity of Your Choice if you wish, or simply reply "I prefer not to say since I contribute anonymously." By all means, soften the blow by praising the Charity of Their Choice (if you agree with its mission) and thanking your friend for his or her work on its behalf.

It's not uncommon for those who have given in a previous year to be asked again. If you're unable to repeat the donation, it's Perfectly Proper to respond that you were so pleased to contribute in the past, but that your priorities have changed in the current year.

Volunteer fund-raisers are wise to put their friendships first and not continue to press for generosity after being declined. It would be a sad thing if, blinded by Zeal, they dropped you as a friend for your lack of financial support -- but it would be their loss.

It's ironic that Etiquetteer should receive a query about how to decline fund-raising requests, since Etiquetteer is hosting a fund-raising event for the Gibson House Museum on Monday, December 3! Should you be unable to participate in this sophisticated and jolly celebration of the Repeal of Prohibition, you at least know how to give your decline to Etiquetteer with Perfect Propriety.