Between marathon donations, breast cancer awareness initiatives, winter galas, and dogs to save from the street, we’ll bet you’re getting tapped (or tapping others) for cash this month. And while there’s scientific proof that giving is good for your health (both physically and emotionally) it can also be the source of a lot of stress. (Is chipping in to your manager's cause sucking up—or totally essential?!) We pulled some ground rules from etiquette expert Jacqueline Whitmore, author of Poised for Success, about how to play the donation game like a pro.
The Rules of Asking
Don’t Bombard Your Social Networks
Sending out a few Facebook posts about an upcoming Alzheimer’s run/walk you’re raising money for is totally cool. But reminding your digital friends about it three times a day for two weeks straight is annoying as all hell. Create a separate Facebook page or Twitter account for your charity if you want to give daily updates—that way people can opt in to hear more.
Be Selective About Who You Hit Up
Manage a team of 15 at your office? Skip them if you’re sending out personal e-mails asking for donations. “When the boss asks their subordinates to donate, it puts people in an awkward position," says Whitmore. "Reach out to work friends at your own level first." (On that note, never feel like you have to sponsor your boss—they know you’ve got bills to pay.) There’s no harm in leaving a flyer on your desk or in the conference room where employees can see it—just let them initiate the discussion about giving to the cause.
Make Your Pitch Specific
Your friends are opening their wallets—make that the hardest thing they have to do! Answer any questions ahead of time by including all of your fundraising info (your goal amount, what the money is going to be used for, and what your personal connection to the cause is) in the ask e-mail—or make it readily accessible on a website.
Follow Through—and Up
If you collect money on the promise to run, sleep outside, shave your head, or cycle for 12 hours, a hurricane or body cast should be the only thing that keeps you from doing it. And be sure to share the results within a few days: “It’s a good idea to send a personalized thank you to every donor, along with pictures or personal stories from the event,” says Whitmore.
The Rules of Giving
Don’t Make Empty Promises
Sure, there’s nothing worse than getting blindsided by a chugger (a charity mugger—your attempts to avoid eye contact are powerless against them), but don’t give a verbal commitment if you know there’s zero chance you’ll contribute. Instead, tell them “I can’t right now, but please keep me in mind for next year.” No harm done.
Feel Free to Ignore Mass E-mails
Some people like to exploit the company contact list or other listserves to make sponsorship requests. No need to respond to e-mails not personally addressed to you if you don’t want to contribute. Five hundred other people probably got the same e-mail, so they won’t miss your RSVP saying no thanks, says Whitmore. If the same person floods your inbox repeatedly, respond with, “Thanks for the info! I’ll follow up if I decide to contribute.”
Say No Without Sounding Like Scrooge
When 10 of your best friends are all fundraising for different events, a girl can go broke. Keep your heat on without hurting any feelings by saying, “I’ve already picked a few charities that I’m donating to this year, but I’d love to support you in any other way possible,” says Whitmore. That could be anything from volunteering your time to sharing a link or liking a page on Facebook.