Proper Charity Etiquette

When it comes to raising money for charity, there is a proper way to ask your friends and family for money, and then there's the more commonly used improper way—you know, like shouting at them to open their wallets right this minute! Read on to learn how to fundraise the mannerly way. 

Richie Frieman
3-minute read


CharityHow many times have you witnessed a coworker run around the office trying to win his kid a new bicycle by selling boxes of cookies for a school contest?  Happens all the time. For starters, it defeats the purpose if your child doesn’t do the selling himself. “Okay,” you say, “I’ll bring Johnny to work one day and walk around with him cube to cube.” Good thought, but no, that’s not very mannerly either. It’s rude to shake down your coworkers like a mobster or guilt them into participating. Instead, you should ask your coworkers once, perhaps in an email saying, “If anyone would like to buy cookies for my child’s school, please let me know.” Then leave it that. If someone wants to contribute, they will.

Fundraising for your kids is one thing, but what about when coworkers, friends, or family members bombard everyone around them with requests to support a fundraiser they are supporting?

Don’t get me wrong, I am all for charity. I started my own children’s clothing line called Charm City Babies with a philanthropic backbone aimed at giving back to those in need. So trust me, I understand. But when you badger others for your own gain, rather than act as a support system for the cause at hand, it becomes an issue. If you are constantly sending “friendly reminders” like “I guess you didn’t get my last email…” (which is pretty passive aggressive and not that friendly) to those around you, they will be turned off quickly and will not want to donate.

When you are trying to raise money for an event or charity, asking once is all you need. Besides, there are other ways to send proper reminders that don’t look like you are going door-to-door to all your friends and family with your palms open.

I always stress that being subtle can be a mannerly person’s best tool. If you’re subtle, people don’t think you’re invading their lives, but will respond because they admire your delicate approach. So if you are trying to raise funds, get creative with subtle hints. Try posting an article from the local newspaper or a cool blog on your Facebook page that supports what you are doing. Keep it uplifting and positive—nothing that has a strong political tie. This way, people will see you are doing your research, rather than just trying to reach a certain financial goal.

Secondly, be a champion for the brand, not a dictator. A champion is someone who wears the title proudly and doesn’t have to do a lot of talking to get the message across.  The “dictator” is the annoying person who rants and raves about unfairness or ugliness that is getting in the way of their cause.  Show a positive face and avoid an aggressive tone when you are talking about a cause you support. People will respond more to kindness than threats.

Raising money for a cause is always a tricky subject. After all, everyone has a particular cause to champion, and they have every right to be picky with their money. If you respect this fact and understand that not everyone feels the same way you do, you can save yourself time and energy trying to win everyone over. It’s much easier to ask for a small amount from many people rather than a lot of money from the few close people around you. It shows you appreciate any donation they are willing to give and that no matter what, every little bit helps.

Do you have a great story about how you dealt with this type of situation? Post all the details in the comment section below.

As always, if you have another manners question, I look forward to hearing from you at manners@quickanddirtytips.com. Follow me on Twitter @MannersQDT, and of course, check back next week for more Modern Manners Guy tips for a more polite life.

And if you have any recent graduates in your circle, or perhaps someone who is looking to start a new career, check out my new book, Reply All…And Other Ways to Tank Your Career. It's available for pre-order now!

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