Friends Asking Friends For Donations – How Do You Handle It?

The other day, I got an email from friend I have had since I was a child asking for money for a cause they are involved in. We do not talk that often; maybe once every few months and generally about nothing all that important. But recently, his child was diagnosed with autism (at 3 years old) and they have gotten involved with Autism Speaks, the organization that works with families dealing with autism. And right now they have a fundraiser going on and they asked me to donate some money to their fundraising account. Of course I did, but it got me thinking about the etiquette of asking friends, family and co-workers for donations to causes that you are involved in.

When you ask someone you know for money for a cause close to your family, that person has to give the money asked for, right? How would you possibly get away with not donating to a cause your friend or family member is involved in? I think it would be impossible. I am not saying that you SHOULD want to get out of it; but rather that you don’t really even have a choice. Do you? Am I missing something?

Seems I am not the only one thinking about this, as I just came across an article over at Paid Twice where she wrote about school fundraisers and being asked to participate. While I would fully donate to any of my own child’s fundraisers (my wife is a teacher, believe me – they need the money badly), I am not sure I would donate to another child’s regular old public school.

My friend’s cause, autism, deals directly with their own kid – so I donated what I could at this point. But it did get me thinking about the etiquette of what you can ask for and what you shouldn’t ask for, and how people react to different situations. What do you guys think? Do you only give when it is directly related to a friend’s situation or your child’s school? Or do you give for any and all that come along? How do you decide?

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Comments (15)

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  1. I specifically cultivate a reputation of being both frugal and a hardass, so I rarely get asked to contribute money. I donate to causes that I believe in, and I’m pretty generous when it comes to spontaneous non-monetary giving to friends and family members. But I don’t like to be asked for money directly, and I feel strongly about my right and my ability to always say no if I don’t feel like donating.

    Honestly, if you set a budget for charitable donations and actually contribute that amount, you should always feel comfortable responding to a donation request by saying something along the lines of, “I’m sorry, we’ve already made/decided on our charitable contributions for this year. But I’ll be happy to consider your cause for next year.” I might also ask that the person requesting the donation send me some sort of donation link by email if there is one, thus hinting that an indirect method for requests might help avoid the social tension of asking for/turning down a donation.

  2. david says:

    Good ideas Kate – I like the “we have already made our contributions” line. But in this case, with my friends’ child being diagnosed with Autism, even if I had gone over my limit I still would have given money.

  3. E says:

    I don’t feel obligated to donate money to friend or family causes. Nobody has the right to tell you how to spend money that you earned. Guilt is not a good reason for doing something in my opinion, but it may be to some people, and that’s their choice.

    It’s not legitimate of me to tell people how to spend their money on household goods, shoes, or movie tickets — just as it’s not legitimate for other people to tell you how to spend yours. Unless your friendship is based on an exchange of money, people usually choose to respect your choice.

  4. josh says:

    I typically donate to any cause I want to because people have asked me for donations and the suggested amount has been relatively low. If they ask and it’s not a cause I want to support, I almost always make fun of their cause in a more or less good-natured manner.

  5. Emily says:

    I must have the word “sucker” tattooed on my forehead in invisible (to me) ink. People hit me up for money all the time and I can never say no…if I even gather my resolve, the “n” sound starts to escape my lips, that old song “What If God Was One of Us” starts rolling through my head, and I end up saying “nnnno problem”.

    I do, however, stop answering my door this time of year, for the hoards of school children mobbing the streets with their books of overpriced wrapping paper and tasteless chocolates….

    Maybe one of these days I’ll grow a spine….

  6. Four Pillars says:

    Man, that’s a tough situation – I really don’t know how (or if) you can say no.

    On the one hand, it’s not like the money will go directly to your friends or even benefit them since it will probably go to some sort of research or helping out other families. But how do you say no?

    I think in that scenario, I probably wouldn’t consider not donating.

  7. david says:

    Yea, when it is for a friend and their kid has whatever they are raising money for, you kind of look like a jerk if you say no, huh?

  8. Tom says:

    I tend to be cautious about loaning money, but when I do want to I avoid the awkwardness by using http://www.givinganon.com

  9. Ron says:

    Just say no.

  10. Matt says:

    If what you’re describing could be called “solicitation” then don’t do it, but that’s just me.

    Related sidenote: One of my coworkers recently solicited the ole’ “my son is selling this tasteless generic candy bar for $5 for his whatever…” – I really didn’t like having to make up an excuse for something I frankly wasn’t the least bit interested in participating in. I’ve never (and would never) solicit anything from anyone and especially not an acquaintance. Just me I guess. I don’t like salespeople in general and I don’t want to become one – especially if there’s an implicit guilt trip involved.

    Barely related sidenote: Once I had this friend who became an Amway cult member. Everytime he would come by he was always trying to convert others to that illogical pyramid scam. He used to be well liked but after awhile everyone avoided him and warned others. It was a shame. Now, what you’re describing isn’t this extreme but solicitation is solicitation, be it cold call to the elderly or guilting your friend with your pet interest.

  11. Michele says:

    I donate to causes I believe in. I also support some of the neighbor kids in their useless wrapping paper schemes. I can usually find something for around $10 and they are nice to cat when he hangs out in their yard (they would be nice to the cat anyway).

    I like to focus most of my charitable giving on Clean water projects in Latin America, because its not high profile, I guess teaching people how not to poison their water table is just not as glamorous as donating to the disaster of the moment. Millions die every year because of it, but 3 people dying from SARS starts a worldwide panic.

    I also do some traditional giving out of habit. Always throw change in the red kettle, a few bucks in the firefighter’s boot for MDA on Labor day weekend, its money I don’t really miss. I figure a little goes a long way.

    I think its a good idea to budget for charity. Pick a few that you want to give to, but then, I also think you should set aside a certain amount for the “unexpected disaster” charity giving.

    When I was working with the fundraising for the Latin American projects, we would ask for donations and people would say, “how can you worry about that when there was a tsunami, or a hurricane, or (insert disaster here).” If you give to the cancer society each year, you should not cut that donation to give to hurricaine relief.

    As for people asking family members/friends to support their causes — well that is the basis for most charitable campaigns. They depend on it. You put a human face on it and people care. Its human nature.

  12. Velvet Jones says:

    I like what Kate said, and that’s pretty much what I do. I have an account for charity that I stash a little bit of cash into every month. At the end of the year I plan to donate that money to Rolling Dog Ranch, which is located in Montana that takes in disabled animals, everything from cats to horses, to live out the rest of their lives. I’m an animal lover so I feel its something worth supporting. If someone came to me and said that they are collecting money for whatever cause, my usual response is either:

    “I don’t have the money to give, but I support your cause and recognize that it’s important,” or

    “I’ve already allocated all my extra cash to a particular cause [I don’t say what it is because I don’t want to get into an argument over which is more important] but I do support what your doing and recognize that it’s very important.”

    It sounds hokey but it’s true. I live on a pretty tight budget. I understand their cause is important to them, however I’m unwilling to give money I don’t have for it. Especially if it’s something I’m not particularly passionate about. That said, I did make a small donation to the American Cancer Society in memory of a friend’s mother, as the family requested that in lieu of flowers. I would have sent flowers so it wasn’t like I wasn’t going to spend money anyway.


    I think this is very tough. I ignore all my friends requests for donations. I have my own beliefs and causes. I would much rather donate my hard earned cash to a food bank in my local town to ensure some poor family doesn’t go hungry through the winter because our economy SUCKS! I say take care of what you see . . .

  14. TuringTestFailure says:

    This is tough….I got a request a week or so ago to support a walk for Down’s Syndrome from a former co-worker with an affected grandchild. Like Velvet, I support a local dog rescue. I give my entire budgeted amount to that cause. I’ve had folks tell me that is a less worthy cause than one for children, and perhaps that is true for them. The bottom line is, it is my money to donate if, when, and where I choose.

    My usual response is the same as Velvet’s, but if they press me on the issue, I respond with something like “okay, how about I donate x amount to your charity, and you match the amount by donating to mine?”

  15. Donna Traylor says:

    If your child were diagonsed with a disease, you would expect your friends to donate to the worthy cause and why wouldn’t you. If they are truly your friend they should donate and help find a cure or fund additional research. Don’t you want to put an end to cancer, diabeties, autisim etc.? If the shoe was on the other foot………….