Invitations from Fund-Raisers, Vol. 15, Issue 48

Dear Etiquetteer:

A development officer from my college library (not the college itself) sent me an email saying he would be in my area and asked if I would like to meet with him while he is in town. Although I have an interest in libraries, I am not interested in making a contribution commitment to this one. I do make an annual contribution to my college. I have not responded to him because I do not want to engage. Is it OK to ignore a solicitation like this? I don't feel that it is a purely social call that I would typically respond to, either to accept or reject the invitation. On the other hand, I have been involved with nonprofit board fundraising, and know that it is a difficult job.

Dear Prospected:

Certainly this is not a social call; the development officer knows you're a donor to the College in Question and is unlikely to be calling you out of the blue. But that is the job of a development officer: to meet and foster relationships with Likely Prospects. This is not a Bad Thing, and Etiquetteer does become weary with those who sneer at the place of fund-raising. Those doors don't just magically stay open . . .  *

At the same time Etiquetteer recognizes the feelings of those who fear they are Only Attractive for Their Resources, and the anxiety Invitations Such as These arouse. Prospects can manage these relationships by managing the expectations of the development officer. Etiquetteer is inclined to encourage you to acknowledge this invitation by setting the expectation, graciously, that you're not in a position to alter your current annual giving amount or designation. Should the officer repeat the invitation, recognizing the current state of your charitable intentions, you could meet and learn something that might be valuable to you in your perception of Life at College Today. And who knows, the day might come when you need Inside Information and this development officer could become an ally.

Just remember that "anything you say can and will be used against you" when crafting future college solicitations. Use discretion about your personal circumstances. While you needn't appear in rags, this is no time to refer to your latest glamorous overseas vacation.

And speaking of libraries and charitable giving to colleges, Etiquetteer wants to advise you to restrict any future Major Charity you're contemplating to a purpose that aligns to your preferences. Etiquetteer was upset to read that the University of New Hampshire had applied a significant portion of a bequest from one of its deceased librarians to a new football scoreboard. Etiquetteer could only wish that the Late Lamented Librarian had consulted with someone privately about this long in advance.**

*Etiquetteer is irresistibly reminded of that famous scene in Meet Me in St. Louis: Rose: "I loathe, hate, despise, and abominate money!" Father: "You also spend it."

**Of course Etiquetteer recognizes the importance of unrestricted giving to any non-profit organization - paying the utility bills has never been considered Sexy - and considers unrestricted gifts a wonderful opportunity for annual giving.