Dec. 5, 2022

60. When a friend asks you to donate...but you don't want to

Welcome to Spend Donate Invest. Today's question is, how do you politely decline when someone asks you to donate to a fundraiser and you don’t… want… to?

Please share this episode with someone who you think might enjoy a short listen. Introduce them to something new. That’s how podcasts tend to survive and grow. Word of mouth. Thanks so much and let’s talk again soon.

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Welcome to Spend Donate Invest. I’m your host, I go by GG that’s short for Genet Gimja, and I’m here to chat with you. You know, let’s, let’s talk. I had this experience a couple of years ago when I had spent weeks going all in, advocating for something that was important to me- it was on the topic of anti-Blackness, and then I remember logging on to my investment account and having this sudden feeling of disconnect. Things didn’t line up. I was out here advocating for my values, and then I was putting money into companies that are actively working against my values! It was a wild feeling.

And you know, I think most of us have thought about “voting with our dollars” in the past, especially when it came to shopping, but I hadn’t spent much time thinking about other aspects of my money and whether it is aligned with my values or not. Where I’m investing, where I’m shopping, and I also started to take a deeper look at my charitable giving. Rather than donating here and there when people asked or when I saw a heart wrenching news story, I decided to take it just one step further. Nothing to dramatic, nothing too intense, I just wanted to see if I could put a liiiiiiitle more thought into what I was doing with my money. And I wondered if anyone else was thinking about these topics too.

I used to send an email to my contacts about once a year to ask “where are you donating” and the number one response I always got was- thank you so much for asking that, please let me know what you find out from others!

It can be overwhelming! Our modern lives are overwhelming! Most of us just don’t have time to think about the impact of every one of our actions. So that’s what I’m here for, to provide some gentle suggestions on how we can put our money and our values more in alignment. We’re not seeking perfection here, we’re just seeking progress.

SO any time you are wondering about a topic feel free to send me an email and I’ll see what I can find out. I’ll do some research, chat with experts, and come back with some thoughts.

One topic that has come up when chatting with listeners is the etiquette around giving, and I think that can come up during the holidays especially. So the question is, how do you politely decline when someone asks you to donate to a fundraiser and you don’t… want… to?

I love this question. Because sometimes it can be uncomfortable. I used to work at a very large company where there used to be a culture of wearing a pin if you donated to a certain charity. And people would walk around and wear this pin. Obviously this was intended to peer pressure folks into also donating. Maybe you’ve found yourself in an environment where everyone around you is donating to a certain place and you don’t really want to.

Or maybe a friend has reached out to you to ask you to donate to a cause they care about, maybe it is their birthday fundraiser. Or, and this can be a socially challenging situation, maybe you have a friend who is associated with a cause and they’re asking you to donate. Maybe they are opening a nonprofit and they’re asking you to donate.

There may be many reasons why you don’t want to donate. Maybe it’s just not in your budget!

So here are some thoughts. I think the most important thing is to decide how you really feel, you might be sensing some internal resistance. I would encourage you to spend a few minutes with that and try to get to the root of it- maybe journal about it, if you journal. Or talk it out with a nonjudgmental friend you can be honest with.

Is it a “no” or a “not now?” 

“Not now” is less awkward. I have definitely told people before “hey, thank you for letting me know about your fundraiser and the opportunity to support what you’re doing. I have already allocated all of my donations for this month, but could you come back to me at the first of next month, that’s when I donate. Or next quarter. And if I’m worried this person won’t remember to reach out to me, and it’s important to me, or that they think I’m not really planning to donate, then I will put it in my calendar.

So that’s an option for how to handle the “not now” situations. But the more awkward “no’s” are when it is a flat out no.

Maybe you don’t believe in the work they’re doing. That can be a very awkward position, especially when the person fundraising is someone you care a lot about. So here’s an idea for what you could do. Let’s say your best friend is raising money to open a charter school in your city but you are vehemently against charter schools, you’ve done your research, you’ve talked to your friend to understand why this is what he wants to do, what the money will be used for. Which by the way, if someone is comfortable enough to ask you for money please please please feel comfortable asking where the money will go, how it will be used. SO let’s say you’ve gathered all of this information and your mind body and soul is just screaming, I can’t get behind this project, I can’t walk by that charter school and know my dollars paid for that freshly painted building. Well if we drill down to the root of what your friend is trying to achieve, at the root of it, your friend is trying to provide more educational access to students in a particular area. Maybe the school even has a focus, it could be a school focused on performing arts or for English learners etcetera. Well then consider putting your donation towards that same root cause. You could donate towards a music program for kids in that same area. You could give to after school programs. Or frankly you could donate to the public school in that area. Should we have to donate to our public schools? No? Is that what taxes were supposed to be used for? Yes! But here we are.

What I’m getting at with this suggestion is that you might be able to go back to your friend and say thank you for sharing me what you’re doing, and for explaining the reasons behind it and where the money would go. At the end of the day, I don’t believe charter schools are the right direction for educating our kids. But I welcome the chance to serve these kids, and thank you for planting that seed in my mind. I have thought about ways to serve the same community, and what I came up with is to put a donation in for this organization that gets at the same root issue I know we both care about, but in a way that felt better aligned with my own values.

So that’s it for this week. Have you ever found yourself in an awkward situation where you were asked for a donation and didn’t know how to say no? I’d love to hear how you handled it. What went well, what didn’t.
Get in touch any time, the email address for the show is spend donate invest at gmail dot com. You can also go on to the show’s website at spend donate invest dot world. There’s a monthlish newsletter that you might enjoy. This month’s issue has some ideas in it about decolonizing our Thanksgiving plates, redistributing our wealth to include indigenous communities across the US.

Please share this episode with someone who you think might enjoy a short listen. Introduce them to something new. That’s how podcasts tend to survive and grow. Word of mouth. Thanks so much and let’s talk again soon.