Uncharitable Charity Gifting

by admin on August 14, 2013

A few years ago, my husband and I decided to get his mother what we thought would be a very nice and thoughtful gift – a donation in her name to the Breast Cancer foundation. (Her twin sister is a survivor of breast cancer.) We thought it would be appreciated and sent her the card saying that a donation had been made in her name.

Did she appreciate it? No! In fact, her exact words were,  “I’m so disappointed. I REALLY wanted something for MYSELF.” As in something for her that she could use/have. This was not a “I know I’m a twin but want to be treated as an individual” matter, she was just being extremely selfish. I couldn’t believe how she reacted. Thank goodness my husband agrees with me and thinks that she is being incredibly selfish.

What do you think? 0813-13

Donations to charities can be a very personal, individualized thing.  What you might support, I might not agree is worthy of my money so choosing to “gift” someone with a donation in their name can be presumptuous.  It’s not that this particular breast cancer awareness group is bad but to be honest, there are some well-intentioned charities I would not choose to be associated with due to some flaw in their mission statement or how their donated money is allocated.    For example, there is one charitable organization that advertises heavily on television and upon investigation we found that too great a percentage of every dollar donated went not to intended “victims” but rather administrative costs and advertising.   I found a similar group with a much better ratio of dollars applied to the actual people needing it.

What you did was give a gift that made you happy.  Mom should have been gracious and said nothing but obviously your donation to a charity she is obviously not affiliated with was not viewed as a gift.   If you feel the need to support breast cancer research, by all means donate to your heart’s content but don’t assume others have the same passion to assist in charitable fundraising with their birthdays used as the opportunity.

{ 149 comments… read them below or add one }

Brenda G August 15, 2013 at 12:56 pm

While I agree than any gift should be accepted graciously and while keeping in mind that the gift-giver had only the best of intentions, I do understand why someone might not like to have a donation made in her name.

I make charitable donations to a charity whose mission I support wholeheartedly. I do so anonymously, because I prefer not to get mail from 500 charities and would much rather miss out on the tax deduction than 1) have to sort and recycle the associated mail and 2) have my name floating around out there.

I would be quite pleased if a friend asked my favorite charity and offered to make a donation in my name, but I would request that the donation be anonymous or in her own name if she would like the tax deduction. The idea is that a charity that I am known to support gains more resources.

My mother, on the other hand, would see such a donation as thoughtless. For my mother, gifting was all about taking the time to shop around until just the right thing for the recipient was found. The pleasure of gifting was in the hunt for the perfect gift for that individual. Failure to invest time and effort into searching for the right thing would have been offensive to her and a donation to any charity in the recipient’s name would have been cheating. When she received a gift that she knew had been chosen with knowledge of her in mind and which would have taken time and effort to seek out, it made her feel as if the gift-giver held her in high esteem. (My mother died of breast cancer 2 years ago. She would not have appreciated a donation in her name prior to her death, but she loved the collection of inexpensive, overly feminine earrings that I bought and sent to her when she said that she thought she didn’t look like a woman because she was losing her hair from chemo.)

I guess what I am saying is that the known preferences of the recipient of any gift has to be the first thought. If your M-I-L gains enjoyment from her overly large collection of kitschy kitten plates, buy the woman a new kitten plate. If she has expressed a wish that people wouldn’t buy her more “stuff”, ask if she’d rather you make a donation to a charity of her choice in her name, be treated to a fancy dinner/spa day/etc., or have you make a monetary donation to a travel account (perhaps so that she can finally visit Venice or take that cruise she’s been talking about).

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Ellex August 15, 2013 at 1:57 pm

“Wow. I am 100 percent disgusted by the comments I’ve seen here. Firstly,a gift is never rude. That is bs. Even a regift. Even a charity you don’t support”

Really? My grandad is known to be staunchly on side 1 of a hot-button political issue – a single issue voter in fact – it wouldn’t be a rude gift if I gave to side 2 of the charity in his name (and yes, it would be a charitable donation to a charity, not funding to a politician)? It would make him very angry, spoil the occasion completely, and leave everyone feeling awkward even if he pretended to be gracious and like it. If that’s not rude then I don’t know what is.

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Tracy August 15, 2013 at 2:38 pm

Honestly, I’m always suspicious of these stories where few commenters agree with the OP, and suddenly new details are released that coincidentally address all of those comments and put the OP in a much more favorable light.

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Jen August 15, 2013 at 2:56 pm

@tasryn, I have to disagree with your assertion that a gift is *never* rude. I know of a few “gifts” that were actually personal slights, ex. a scale from a mother to a daughter who was by no means overweight or trying to lose weight but to whom the mom often made disparaging comments about her looks. Some “gifts” are given by incredibly rude people who use people’s birthday parties to embarrass them about supposed flaws.

Also, a lot of the commentors made their comments before @R gave clarification, which puts the entire situation in a new light, so I think your harshness towards the previous commentors is a bit much. Cut them some slack, they were going on partial info. :)

Regarding my earlier post (#93) on how admin costs aren’t necessarily bad, I did some more searching and found some articles on the topic:

http://giving-evidence.com/2013/05/02/admin-data/

http://www.freakonomics.com/2011/06/09/why-ranking-charities-by-administrative-expenses-is-a-bad-idea/

http://goodintents.org/choosing-a-charity/dont-choose-a-charity-based-on-administration-costs

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MichelleP August 15, 2013 at 3:28 pm

Jaw on the floor from the posters judging the OP. Never ceases to amaze me how comfortable people are being rude, even on an etiquette website, from the safety of a computer.

@Tasryn, thank you. You said it just right.

@Molly, where on earth do you get that the OP “hates her MIL so”? For the record, if that was my MIL, I would.

OP, you are nicer than I am. I wouldn’t give her a gift again.

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MichelleP August 15, 2013 at 3:30 pm

Nothing the OP posted in her update “changed the story”. She merely provided more details.

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Ergala August 15, 2013 at 3:41 pm

At first I was 100% on the side of Admin. Then I read R’s update and how this was NOT a gift given for a special occasion. It was just something done to be nice. That right there made me disagree with the Admin. Now if the OP wants some ideas for how to be snarky (totally rude but I can’t resist) she can do what was done to me last Christmas. My mother would ask what I wanted for Christmas. I’d tell her. She’d get something I absolutely had no use for or already had 5 or 6 of (all from her…from prior years). Like crockpots. This past year I mentioned I’d REALLY like something for me since I don’t get a gift otherwise (yes married with kids and I don’t get anything…). She sent me a pair of socks, a package of disposable razors, $1 can of shaving cream and a purse from Wal-Mart. She sent my sister what I wanted. I thought it was a mistake so when my sister and I chatted later in the day I asked if she needed that item because maybe mom mixed up our boxes. Nope, she had asked for it a month prior when mom asked what she wanted. I admit I was in tears. I cried all Christmas morning. Not because of the crappy gift I was given but because of how little thought went into it. It was like she had walked through the drugstore and thought “OH NO! I FORGOT ABOUT ERGALA!” and grabbed random items.

Now I did discuss this with her a few weeks later. I tried to think of the correct wording and I BC my sister on the email (we have to do this…mom tends to blow things out of context, this way we know who said what and how it was said before any arguments break out.). I simply explained that I understand I can be difficult to shop for, but that I had told her the item I wanted. And that I had mentioned before that if she wasn’t going to get it to please let me know since it was going to be 50% off and I’d just buy it then since I couldn’t afford it otherwise. She said she was absolutely ordering it for me. I said that I felt hurt by the gift because it seemed rather thoughtless. That they gave my husband a guitar but gave me socks. Socks I can’t even wear and weren’t the right size. I couldn’t return any of them because we don’t have a CVS anywhere near us and that was the brand they were. She replied back a week later stating she thought it was thoughtful since she figured I never get to buy things for myself. She had just been at my home on her yearly visit a few weeks before Christmas and saw that I was all set on toiletries. So with that I dropped it but I did suggest that in the future they merely give me a card. Not because I’m a brat but because I am sick and tired of being hurt every single year.

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Danny August 15, 2013 at 4:05 pm

Wow, I am shocked at all the negative comments on here! If someone gave me a gift, (Birthday, Christmas or other wise) of a donation to a charity that I support, I would be thrilled! I think all you people saying “I wouldn’t like a gift like that blah blah” are the real gimmie pigs demanding a present for yourselves instead of wanting that money to help others less fortunate. I don’t know where you guys live, but where I live, charities actually do help people!
And maybe the OP just didn’t want to bore the readers with all the details and write some long winded post?

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R August 15, 2013 at 4:26 pm

Thank you, @MichelleP. I agree with your nice comments and appreciate them. :)

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cathy August 15, 2013 at 4:43 pm

I’ve gotten that type of gift, and it always feels like it’s more politically correct or something that makes the giver feel or look good rather than something the recipient would like. I think it’s more polite to sound out the person beforehand about it and see what the reaction is. If it’s a charity they already support or a cause they feel passionate about, it might well be a good gift idea. Otherwise, I would probably steer clear, or make the donation and give them a regular small gift as well.

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schnickelfritz August 15, 2013 at 7:06 pm

The OP’s follow-up stated the MIL never appreciated previous gifts, etc., and other negative MIL traits. So why did OP even submit this? Why did she think it was a great idea to call it a gift, without any special b-day, etc. , when she didn’t expect any gift to be appreciated?

I still can’t fathom, gifting a Mother, with a non-gift charity note. The fact that this is the OP’s MIL, and not her Mother, is interesting. From the time you cut out valentines, doilies and construction paper, to making macaroni necklaces, and maturing to really thoughful gifts for your Mother. I cherished using my first babysitting money, walking 2 miles to a drugstore/gift emporium, and finding the perfect gift for my Mom. I loved finding her treasures. I still have some of them – when she had to move from her home, she returned the gifts to her numerous children (she actually dated the stuff, with our names and the year received). And, I have offered those to my nieces, and they love having a little treasure from Grandma’s, gifted to her from their Auntie 40 years ago. My Mom had so many kids, she would actually post a list for Christmas or b-day – small items she may want (new cookie sheets, cake pans, tea towels, her favorite Jergen’s hand lotion, hairbands, manicure sets, etc. She had to – she had so many kids, and then the growing grandkids. We would coordinate, so we didn’ duplicate.

My Grandma – she was housebound. The extended family – she wanted 5 lbs. sacks of flour and sugar, butter, vanilla, baking powder, walnuts, cocoa, etc. She preferred her pantry was filled for her baking hobby (poppyseed too!) She made it very easy, and was thrilled with 5 lbs. of sugar!

Where I came from, there was nothing sweeter, than presenting Mom or Grandma with a gift – no matter how small, or scrunchily wrapped. To watch the look on their face, was pure love. It did not have to cost more than $5.00; it truly is the thought that counts, something special they would use and appreciate. And then you got a big hug.

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R August 15, 2013 at 7:57 pm

I apologise that I did not include enough information in my first post. This is my first time posting and I did not know what was expected of me.
This was not a Birthday or a Christmas gift, just an extra gift of a donation on top of the cupcakes I baked and MIL sold at the breakfast benefit that she (MIL) organised. We did not prompt her with “did you like the gift” she simply said what she said after opening it. I don’t know, maybe MIL was annoyed that all the attention was on her twin even though she organised the fund raising? You just can’t please some people. It annoyed me and still does now “years after the event” because I have been nothing but nice to this woman and the only reason she hates me is because I’m “half-chinese” Yes, I left out that she is racist, too. She wanted her son to marry “a nice blond woman with childbearing hips” so that she could have “cute little blond grandbabies”. I am not exaggerating, all the females on her side of the family are blond, which one of my bridesmaids commented on at the wedding. The bridesmaid’s words: “Wow! You’re right, they’re all blond!”.
MIL even encouraged one of my blond friends to go out my husband while we were going out! Here, we don’t “date”, if you are “going out” with someone it’s the equivalent of “going steady” or “being exclusive”
I’ve learned my lesson and now don’t have much contact with MIL. My husband deals with her for me.
Is that enough information for you?
If what I did makes me “uncharitable” as you put it, then so be it!

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NostalgicGal August 15, 2013 at 8:43 pm

Charity donating in another’s name… IF you know that person actively supports that charity, and would be thrilled if you did. Otherwise it can fall very flat. I can see both sides of the OP’s issue.

I would say though that unless she knew the MIL was truly a staunch supporter and actively encouraged others to do so; it would be better to find a gift FOR *her* and ask about doing the donation in her name FIRST before donating in her name.

If you want to donate to a charity, then just do it.

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R August 15, 2013 at 11:19 pm

Ok, I usually sit quietly and don’t say anything but this time I am determined to stand up for myself!
Those of you posting negative comments, please read the whole story before judging me and maybe next time don’t be so quick to jump to conclusions. I was deliberately vague in my first post because I did not want to say too many bad things about my MIL but I guess you need to know the whole story.
Here is the whole story that I wrote in previous comments:

Ok,
I have read the comments and I am going to try to defend myself.
First of all, I obviously did not provide enough information for all the readers. Husband’s mother is extremely passive aggressive usually so she is not a saint and we have given her normal gifts in the past (hand lotion etc) things that she wants/asked for and she was ungracious in accepting those, too.
I made her hundreds of cupcakes that she requested so that she could sell them to raise money for breast cancer for her twin sister so that is why I thought the donation to charity would be a good gift. They are very close and I thought that she would appreciate the gesture. That is all. I was just so surprised by her reaction, which is why most of you probably think I’m so “high and mighty” in my post. I just thought it would be a nice thing to do and I was vert shocked by her reaction. Since she had not appreciated any other gifts we gave her in the past and she herself was trying to raise money for the charity I thought she would like the gift. Maybe no matter what we give she will not be satisfied.
Also, she was not added to the charity’s mailing list.
We really did try to do this for her even though it was the charity that “would have benefited”.

I apologise that I did not include enough information in my first post. This is my first time posting and I did not know what was expected of me.
This was not a Birthday or a Christmas gift, just an extra gift of a donation on top of the cupcakes I baked and MIL sold at the breakfast benefit that she (MIL) organised. We did not prompt her with “did you like the gift” she simply said what she said after opening it. I don’t know, maybe MIL was annoyed that all the attention was on her twin even though she organised the fund raising? You just can’t please some people. It annoyed me and still does now “years after the event” because I have been nothing but nice to this woman and the only reason she hates me is because I’m “half-chinese” Yes, I left out that she is racist, too. She wanted her son to marry “a nice blond woman with childbearing hips” so that she could have “cute little blond grandbabies”. I am not exaggerating, all the females on her side of the family are blond, which one of my bridesmaids commented on at the wedding. The bridesmaid’s words: “Wow! You’re right, they’re all blond!”.
MIL even encouraged one of my blond friends to go out my husband while we were going out! Here, we don’t “date”, if you are “going out” with someone it’s the equivalent of “going steady” or “being exclusive”
I’ve learned my lesson and now don’t have much contact with MIL. My husband deals with her for me.
Is that enough information for you?
If what I did makes me “uncharitable” as you put it, then so be it!

Yes, I know the second explanation was a bit too much but I was angry.

@schnickelfritz the reason I’m so upset even though it was my MIL and not my mother is because I never knew my birth mother and had an abusive adoptive family including the mother and I was hoping that just once I would get a nice maternal figure in my life. Sadly, this was not to be. The in laws are coming to visit this week, which is probably why I’m so upset about this right now.

I just wanted to vent and instead I get nasty comments.

To all those who posted nice comments: Thank you! It’s nice to know that there are some decent, kind people out there and no, it’s not “suspicious” like one commenter said.

Ok, I’m done!

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hakayama August 16, 2013 at 12:26 am

@ R, OP: So sorry about your efforts gone to waste. You have my full sympathy on acct. of your MIL.
The “DIL Sisterhood” is a good website for people like you. See you there?
@ Most respondents: There are significant differences between donations “in name”, “in honor” and “in memory”. A gift “in honor” of my friend’s milestone birthday was declared to be the best gift ever. Possibly because it was to a cause she supported, but also because she is not a gimme pig.

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mpk August 16, 2013 at 4:20 am

I just read your update, and it sort of makes no sense when you go back and read the original letter you wrote. If this was a fundraiser, then why would she expect something for herself? It would seem that the donation would be appropriate in that setting, so something doesn’t ring right to me.
I also agree with most of the posters on here. Gifts of donations should only be done if they are requested.

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speechless August 16, 2013 at 7:13 am

“Dear MIL, I went shopping today and in honor of your birthday I bought my self a dress and had your name embroidered on the belt. See enclosed photo. It’s so cute! You can thank me for it later….”

While the OP’s MIL was rather rude with her response, she couldn’t be considered ungrateful as she received no gift. The charity recieved a donation, the OP recieved a tax writeoff, but poor MIL received nothing. A gift is a gift, and a charitable donation is a charitable donation. People, don’t confuse the two.

That being said, I have made charitable donations in my father’s name. I did this becuase he passed away several years ago and I couldn’t give him gifts anymore, but still wanted to remember him. This, I believe, was the reason the custom of charitable giving in someone else’s name came to be.

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Barreleh August 16, 2013 at 7:27 am

Like one of the other posters said, if someone me as a gift a donation to an organization I support, I’d too would be thrilled. But if they gave me the gift of a donation to an organization I don’t expressly support, like the mother in this post, I too would be in a snit. For example, both my parents died of a certain disease, but if someone were to make a donation to the many organizations claiming to work on eradicating this disease, I would not be happy, because all of them are tied to Big Pharma, and are only working on prescription medications to handle this disease, when other more effective and less expensive treatments are available. It’s possible that the mother feels the same way about the breast cancer organization.

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Lacey August 16, 2013 at 7:36 am

Hahaha Angel, I thought of “The Human Fund” too!

OP, it kind of doesn’t make sense that the story is now entirely different. Someone being disappointed with a spontaneous gift for no occasion at all is very strange. That just seems like a little extra “btw, I made cupcakes AND gave you money!” Who would be upset with that? Who knows what the truth is now. But having to deal with racism from someone in your family is horrible and must be incredibly stressful, so I can’t blame you for hating her.

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Lacey August 16, 2013 at 7:36 am

“Gave you money” I mean towards her fundraising goal.

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Jen August 16, 2013 at 8:48 am

@R, wow. **hugs** for you. I’m sorry that it seems so many commentors aren’t actually reading your updates before they post (if they are reading the updates, they are ignoring the details) or they would realize that this wasn’t for a birthday and that your MIL DOES support the specific charity you donated to.

I don’t understand why they think your story doesn’t make sense with the added information. It makes a lot MORE sense now that we have all the details. Yes, I agree that “Someone being disappointed with a spontaneous gift for no occasion at all is very strange” but aren’t strange instances like that exactly what this site is built upon? If posts weren’t strange or out of the ordinary, we wouldn’t avidly read the posts. Much of the time I spend on this site is punctuated with, “Why would anyone DO that?!” as I shake my head at the folly of the human race. ;)

The only thing I can figure is that maybe a lot of people aren’t really looking at your situation objectively as YOURS but instead are remembering similar situations in their own lives in which they received a gift they didn’t like and are casting themselves in the MIL’s position, and so are ignoring all the points about the MIL’s passive aggressive behavior and how she was specifically raising money for this charity and how you baked hundreds of cupcakes (which I know can be a lot of work).

Being half-Asian myself, I totally empathize with you on the racism part and I’m really sorry you have to deal with such a racist person as a close relative. Also, having dealt with racism and prejudice, I would venture a guess that if MIL had a white, blond DIL who gave her the same gift, she would have been delighted. I know that’s just speculation on my part, but given the MIL’s history of not liking ANY gift and my experience with behavior patterns in overtly racist people, such a reaction has a pretty high percentage chance of likelyhood.

So, again, **hugs** for you. Some of us are reading everything and get what you’re saying. :)

(And if anyone thinks I’m just siding with the OP because we’re both partially Asian, my previous posts were also on her side and those were submitted BEFORE she revealed that little tidbit. ;) I’m just showing my support more strongly now because it seems so many are determined to tear her down.)

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AthenaC August 16, 2013 at 9:03 am

The debate about the quality of the submission and followups is interesting. Surely I am not the only one who has observed that there is no way to please everyone (or anyone, really) with a submission.

If you submit something concise, no one understands the significance of the situation because they are missing the background. If you submit only the details that entered your thought process (that you are aware of), then commenters say, “There’s no reason to mention X or Y detail – it doesn’t matter.” If you submit a complete package of background and situation, no one complains about not understanding, but they all say, “Oh gosh, that was so long – get to the point already!”

As a submitter, when you go down one path or the other, you often don’t realize the gaps in your writing until your submission gets eaten by the comment wolfpack, which prompts you to follow up with more background to explain why and how a situation unfolded the way it did. You also usually have to point out that when commenters fill in the various omissions with their own issues and assumptions, their entire analysis is compromised. But then as soon as you do that, “Oh you’re changing the story! It’s not fair to waste someone’s time with half a story.”

Look, it’s a hazard of this particular question / answer / discussion format. Lighten up.

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NostalgicGal August 16, 2013 at 9:07 am

Amen, L.J, (#28)

Many years ago, I sat down with my folks and we sorted it out simply (I’m an only). They could give everything they had to the Hare Krishnas or buy bubblegum or whatever; there was a few small family heirlooms that I wanted. That was it. They weren’t worth much but that’s what I wanted. I wasn’t holding my breath for anything else. And made them get two simple life insurance policies; enough to cover funeral expenses and settle estate.

Over the last several years they gave me almost everything I’d asked for plus a few things I didn’t. (a shoebox full). Only thing yet is a picture that was my maternal grandmother’s, and I will get it someday. No problems…. My father passed away the day after Christmas 2012; and the issues surrounding that was caused by others; not my mother. That’s the best way to have it, simple.

If mom said her worldly belongings were to go to X charity, I’d send it. She knows I’d do it. Meantime we her support net make sure she doesn’t lose her last marbles and fritz away what she does have.

If the person is very strong about their charity, giving to and supporting X charity, then making a donation in their name would be okay. Otherwise, give the person something, and ASK before doing a charity donation in their name…..

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Kirsten August 16, 2013 at 9:43 am

“I just wanted to vent and instead I get nasty comments.”

No, you posted a story and people commented on it, which is how the site works. People are not ‘nasty’ because they are not 100% on your side, or because they don’t believe you come over well in the information you chose to give them. Nobody gets 100% supportive comments when posting here, simply because everyone has such a different view on things.

I’m sorry you don’t seem to have realized how this site worked before you posted and asked Admin’s advice, but venting after years, and now getting ‘angry’ with posters because they don’t just say ‘how terrible, she was totally wrong’ is a bit pointless. As for this:

“To all those who posted nice comments: Thank you! It’s nice to know that there are some decent, kind people out there ”

There are A LOT of decent, kind people on this site, and many of them have tried to explain why your MIL may have been rude, but you just don’t want to hear it. Instead you get ‘angry’ , accuse them of being ‘nasty’, then make a cheap dig implying they aren’t kind or decent. Over an etiquette post because they didn’t 100% agree with you. Wow.

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Politrix August 16, 2013 at 11:35 am

“But having to deal with racism from someone in your family is horrible and must be incredibly stressful, so I can’t blame you for hating her.”
Assuming that what R says is true. We can only go by what she’s posted, and so far I’m not really convinced she’s being completely truthful.
What R’s MIL is ALLEGED to have said and done in the follow-up post (fixing up her fiancee with a blond woman of child-bearing hips, etc. etc.) seems a far more egregious etiquette breach than not showing proper appreciation for a (non) gift. It kind of boggles my mind that all this other stuff is mysteriously mentioned after the fact that most commenters weren’t 100% on board with the whole “MIL as evil, gimme-pig witch” diatribe.
When I was in my 30’s I had a family member inform me — out of the blue — that I was too old for holiday gifts anymore, so she’d made a donation to charity in my name. I smiled and said, “Why thank you! May I ask what charity you donated to?” She mentioned an organization I hadn’t heard of before — I said brightly, “Well, thanks again!” and was secretly relieved that I didn’t owe her any more than that. Donations in my name as holiday or birthday gifts don’t phase me, really, but I definitely can see where someone would feel disappointed, even hurt. (“Anonymous” explained it very succinctly in a previous post.)
Also, if this was just an “out of the blue” gift, why did MIL say, “I’m so disappointed. I REALLY wanted something for MYSELF.” Even the most entitled gimme-pig doesn’t expect a gift unless there was some pretext, such as a wedding, birthday, or other special occasion.
This story gets weirder and weirder by the minute. Looking forward to R’s next response, wherein we learn that the Mother In Law hates children and tortures puppies.

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Lo August 16, 2013 at 3:19 pm

@R

“the reason I’m so upset even though it was my MIL and not my mother is because I never knew my birth mother and had an abusive adoptive family including the mother and I was hoping that just once I would get a nice maternal figure in my life.”

You have my sympathies. Etiquette dictates that you do have to treat your MIL with a basic level of human decency and never to be cruel– and it sounds like you’ve managed to do this. Etiquette does not say that you have to submit to her to make yourself miserable nor that you even have to see her ever again if she is racist as you describe.

What you’ve said above? It’s a shame that life cannot be this way. But by pinning your hopes on this woman to be the mother you never had you’re experiencing a much bigger letdown in the MIL than is necessary and that may be why you’re taking the advice here so personally. That’s a tall order to fill, even for a MIL who enjoys your company.

Because she apparently dislikes you for your ethnicity, I would strongly recommend cutting her out of your life completely. Let your husband see her if he needs to. If you two have children keep them away, no child should be exposed to that. Having no grandmother is better than having one who might look down on them. I urge you to seek counseling for this; the objective viewpoint of a licensed therapist can work wonders in your life. It did in mine.

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Kay L August 16, 2013 at 9:07 pm

In general, I think it is very presumptuous and intrusive to make a donation in someone else’s name as a gift for them.

If people want to make donations that is their business, not anyone else’s. Charity is kind of a personal thing.

I think the only way you do this is in memorial to someone. If someone is still living and breathing they presumably take care of their charitable giving themselves.

But, if someone really likes this and would request it then that’s ok. But, only under those circumstances.

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Mo August 17, 2013 at 12:30 am

Seems to me that you would have gotten the reaction you were looking for if you’d said “MIL, you’ve inspired me to make a donation in addition to the cupcakes I’ve baked.” The problem was saying it was a gift to the MIL when it wasn’t.

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Anonymous August 17, 2013 at 8:29 am

After the updates about the charity donation not being connected to a birthday or holiday, and the MIL wanting a Caucasian, blonde DIL and being disappointed that the OP is Asian, I agree that she’s nasty and toxic. I only assumed it was a birthday or similar type of “MIL specific” gift before, because the OP didn’t mention anyone else getting gifts, like they might have a gift exchange with everyone for Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa, or all the mothers in the family would get gifts if it was Mother’s Day, so with the information I had, and with everyone else thinking it was for MIL’s birthday, I thought that too. I shouldn’t have assumed. I’d also like to echo Lo’s comment about the OP keeping her children (if she has any) away from MIL. I too had a toxic grandmother growing up, and I was forced to have a relationship with her when I clearly and repeatedly said I didn’t want one. She died when I was thirteen, and I don’t remember feeling sad; I remember feeling relieved that there would be no more enforced visits. So, OP, I’m sorry if I offended you in any way in my previous post.

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Angel August 17, 2013 at 11:16 am

OP, in the original story I was under the impression it was a birthday gift. Now your story is completely different. That doesn’t make a whole heck of a lot of sense. If it was just a gift just because, why would she say anything?? There is probably more to the story than even you’re sharing in the 2nd version of events. My question to you is, why are you doing so much extra stuff for someone who does not appreciate it? I can see giving a small donation, but why the cupcakes?? That seems very personal and time consuming as well.

I stand by my original opinion that giving a birthday gift, donation to a charity is not the right thing unless the person has requested it. But you have changed the story so much that I can’t even give you an adequate response to your post. It sounds like you are trying to do the right thing but your MIL doesn’t appreciate it. So do less.

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Anonymous August 17, 2013 at 12:00 pm

@Angel–I understood that the OP baked the cupcakes for MIL to sell at a fundraising event for cancer research. There could be a valid reason why–maybe the MIL isn’t as good at baking as the OP, or maybe she didn’t have time, or maybe the OP volunteered because she knew that the MIL was busy with other aspects of the fundraiser.

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Lisatoo August 17, 2013 at 12:51 pm

I understand MIL. I have lost my best friend and both my parents to cancer (plus grandpa & 2 aunts). The hurt is TOO raw to have someone remind me of it like that. I wouldn’t like it at all. Plus, if it were a charity connected to Lance Armstrong I would be very angry indeed.

As far as the ‘for me’ thing goes: Having gone through this at very close range, I’d like to echo the sentiments of the poster who wrote that cancer takes a HUGE toll on the bystanders. I have had NO life for almost 8 years straight, because everything was about the 3 of them. Always taking care of things, errands, homecare, not taking a vacation because I was affraid they’d die while I was gone. I don’t resent it and I miss them like crazy, but if I develop cancer as well at an early age & die from it -could very well be, with my genes- I will have spent a quarter of my life caring for someone else with cancer. So, I think I’ve done quite enough for cancer victims by now, thankyouverymuch. A donation would be….. Well, like a slap in the face. Here, we donated 50 dollars, so WE are great ‘giving ‘people. Never mind the work the MIL most likely put in while caring for her twin.

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Lisatoo August 17, 2013 at 1:52 pm

Just saw the last updates.
R, you are being QUITE racist yourself. Pointing out that all the women are blond, as if that’s a bad thing??? Why would it be? Your ‘defense’ posts make me see you in a very bad light. I think there might be another reason why your MIL dislikes you, and your skincolor ain’t it.
Like other posters, I also don’t believe everything you said to prove she is ‘horrible’. I hope will come to your senses one day and that you will become a bit more objective in regards to your own behaviour. Grow up a bit. Right now you sound like a whining 16 year old, and a racist one at that.

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Lisatoo August 17, 2013 at 1:57 pm

Also, this comment: ‘all the females on her side of the family are blond’

Yes, SO????? All the females on your side are probably dark-haired, so what? That’s how they were born, why is that something you feel the need to point out to your bridesmaid? I’m sorry, but this comment just makes me livid. Accusing someone on a public site of all sorts of things, including racism, while doing THE SAME THING yourself. /end rant.

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Michelle C Young August 18, 2013 at 8:22 am

OP, if your mother-in-law was expecting a gift, for birthday, or Christmas, or whatever the occasion was, I do not think it was “extremely selfish” of her to want something that she could actually use, herself. I think it was typical of a human being to expect that the expected gift to her would actually be TO HER.

And for all you know, she’s already donated 10% of her annual income to the charity in question.

Even Mother Teresa had to think of herself, now and again. It’s not “extremely selfish,” nor “incredibly selfish,” to want something she can enjoy for herself, on her own birthday, or from her own Christmas gift. Do you not expect the same thing, when it is YOUR special occasion?

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Vall August 18, 2013 at 8:47 am

OP, you asked in your original post what we thought but then in your later posts you say that it was all just a rant. Was your purpose to gain insight into the etiquette of charitable donations or simply to rant about your MIL? Had the updates been even a bit objective or I felt you were honestly looking for advice on the etiquette issues, I’d feel differently. I generally have no interest in rants for the sole purpose of making someone look bad. Many times that tactic will backfire anyway.

I agree with others who have said that a charitable donation is a gift to the charity rather than a gift for whoever’s name it is given in (unless that person specifically asks for it). It doesn’t sound like a gift was given to the MIL at all—which is fine as long as no one expects her to see it as a gift to her. I would thank someone for giving their own donation to a charity that I believed in but I wouldn’t even think to thank them for giving me a gift that they never gave to me.

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Michelle C Young August 18, 2013 at 9:16 am

R – Your additional information really changes the situation.

An EXPECTED gift (for example, if it is a family tradition to give birthday gifts, regardless of age – such as in my family), is quite different from a “just because we were thinking of you” gift. And expected gift, by nature of being expected, is something that is FOR the RECIPIENT. A “just because we were thinking of you” is something else, entirely, and you showed you were thinking of her by donating to the charity for which she actively raises funds! You really were thinking of her, and she really was rude in her response to it.

How could she be disappointed in something she never expected, in the first place? She had no expectations to disappoint. Yeah, that is totally off, there.

And this sort of response is her typical response to gifts from you? Ah, sounds like a problem on her side, yes.

Those extra details really do make a huge difference.

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Michelle C Young August 18, 2013 at 9:38 am

Lisatoo, I believe R’s point, re: the blondness, was that only blonds were accepted into the family. The MIL *specifically* requested *blond* for a DIL. So, it is a valid point, and not racist to say that MIL only allowed her sons to marry blonds. The MIL refused to accept a non-blond, because all of the women on her side of the family were blond, and it was a THING with her.

By the way, Lisatoo, I was born blond, and I didn’t feel at all attacked by R’s comment. R wasn’t saying anything against blonds. She was saying that her MIL refused to accept anyone who wasn’t blond. There’s a difference.

I’ve seen people like MIL, the controlling type who want to order who/what/when/where/how their children live their lives, who they marry, where they live, what work they will do. It’s horrible.

R – if you want to vent about your MIL, there are websites devoted to just that. Online support groups for daughters and sons in law who have issues with their in-laws can be very therapeutic.

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schnickelfritz August 18, 2013 at 9:48 am

I agree with Kirsten, Politrix and Lisatoo. Many families deal with cancer; and not just one victim. We recently lost a very young family member; among caring for parents, siblings cousins and grandparents, as well as very close family friends with cancer. All in a span of 10 years, we were always nursing patients. It was very, very difficult, to find and enjoy pockets of “stress-free, peace of mind, relaxing family time”. It can get to a point, where you skip over every commercial, ad, conversation, etc. on the subject. Then, any suspicious spot on your skin, pain in your side, cramping etc., totally freaks you out, because you realize your family genes (especially if you had a suffering twin) make you predisposed. It does get to a point, that the patient, and the close family members, do not want to talk about it.

I have a dear cousin going through it now – I don’t ASK her for updates (or her family) I let her volunteer what she wants to share. She knows we are all praying and thinking of her. I tell my suffering people “OK, when you are awake at night, worrying and you cannot sleep – transfer your restlessness to me (mentally) – and I will be home, in my bed, and I will awake and worry for you for a few hours” that sounds crazy, but it does work for many, just to use visualization – “OK – Schnickefritz has this – I can clear my mind and rest for a few hours.” When my sister went through a divorce, and was devastated – we started this game, and she swore it helped her sleep. And, the truth is, I was up worrying about her anyway! It is important not to keep asking the patient or family for frequent updates. They will tell you what you need to know. Give them a break from having it 24/7, on a loop in their heads. You have to have a laugh, tell a joke, tell them something from your day, they would get a kick out of. They know you are thinking of them.

And, R, you do sound racist and bitter, those horrible blondes! Your follow-up comments, sounds tailored to the above comments you didn’t agree with. Your story still does not make sense. Your donation, was NOT A GIFT! Sometimes, businesses (vendors, etc.) will send our company Christmas Cards “A donation has been made in your name… bla bla” (usually something we have never even heard of, not even a local food bank or toys for tots, something we could at least relate to) – those cards get a lot of snickers (I work in a very large department) – I then realized most people had the same mind set on that subject, I thought it was just my own take.

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Lychii August 19, 2013 at 3:22 am

The whole point of gift is to make the recipient feel good, isn’t it? But in case of a ‘gift of donation’ it’s a bit different…

– The giver feels good for having donated to a favored cause
– The giver, as an afterthought, dedicates her donation to a recipient, now feeling even better about herself
– The recipient gets nothing, not even the satisfaction of having donated (because she didn’t), but is under obligation to be thankful and appreciative of the oh-so-thoughtful giver

Yes, giving an ‘in-your-name’ donation is selfish and not a real gift, unless specifically asked for! It’s also (as I’ve learned from some comments on this site) a suitable punishment for greedy bridezillas and children who don’t write their thank you notes. To conclude – don’t pretend to be shocked when someone is less than thrilled about their gift that you gave to yourself.

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Abby August 19, 2013 at 10:11 am

@ Mo-

“Seems to me that you would have gotten the reaction you were looking for if you’d said “MIL, you’ve inspired me to make a donation in addition to the cupcakes I’ve baked.” The problem was saying it was a gift to the MIL when it wasn’t.”

I think you are exactly right. Sounds to me like MIL wanted people to donate to the specific charity OP donated to, but she wanted to them to do because in her mind it was the right thing to do, and not as a “gift” to her. From her perspective, it would be like me saying to an animal loving friend, hey this morning I was driving to work, a puppy ran out into the road, and I swerved to miss it. Happy Birthday! I realize that’s an extreme analogy, but I kind of think that’s what MIL was thinking.

OP, I don’t know if you are still checking responses or not (I kind of guess not). I’m going to reiterate the posts that point out that like, 99% of submissions have at least a few people pointing out the theoretical culpability of the OP in the post. Even in the submissions where the OP was clearly wronged, some posts are going to say that OP needs to get a polite spine. It doesn’t mean that people are unkind- it means they want to point out a different perspective or offer some constructive criticism on how the OP can improve their interactions with a particular person or situation down the road. It’s generally a bad idea to post about your life in a public forum if you only want to read one specific response.

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NocturnalSun August 21, 2013 at 5:48 pm

Donating to a charity is a personal thing for me and if someone were to donate to a charity in my name, I would be very upset over it to the point of being offended. While the idea behind donating is a grand idea, and support it, I do not believe in donating in a person’s name unless they have specified to do so in lieu of a physical gift.

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crella August 21, 2013 at 6:17 pm

“How could she be disappointed in something she never expected, in the first place?”

Maybe, but if someone handed you a present, and said ‘This is for you’ (or similar), at first you’d be pleased and I think, expect that it was something for you.

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Dust Bunny August 22, 2013 at 4:46 pm

Gifts given to third parties, unsolicited by the second party who was the “recipient”, are not cool. If the second party asks that gifts be given in his or her name, fine, but otherwise, give them in your own name and give the second party a gift that is actually for them and not for your ego.

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BB August 23, 2013 at 2:17 am

While the MIL reacted extremely rudely, I must say I completely side with the Admin on this. I am an identical twin and my sister was sick for a long time when we were in our twenties. I love my sister and we are incredibly close, but during the main points of her sickness it was absolutely terrible. We were stressed, miserable, and as her twin I was always treated like my life should be focused only on, and completely revolve around, her. I was even told once during a rough patch in my life, by a family member, “You really can’t have any problems okay? We have enough to deal with with your sister and don’t have time for you as well”.. Everyone saw us as a unit even up until that point and every moment of my life suddenly became not as my own person, but as her twin. When you’re the twin your sibling being sick is hard enough for you, without you having to lose your identity in the process. No one ever said to me ‘How are you holding up with all of this?” instead I was just always forced to be made to feel guilty by everyone around me that I was well. If I received a donation to a charity related to that I would be incredibly disappointed. Getting a gift so focused on my sister and her decease would absolutely make me feel once again like her life was more important than mine, as well as bringing back painful memories of how hard that time was for our whole family. Of course I am very happy that my sister is well now, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything, but I would have a very hard time feeling grateful for a gift like that.I wouldn’t voice it, and I might appreciate the gesture, but it would not make me happy at all, and maybe that’s selfish, but it’s true.

I see that it was not a special occasion gift, but if the MIL was working hard to organise an event, it might have been nice to let her know that you wanted to contribute to said event by making a donation yourselves in honour of your DH’s Aunt, and not tried to make it like you were giving her something for her.

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Tom53092 August 29, 2013 at 11:10 am

I’ll never understand why donating in someone’s name qualifies as a gift. A nice gesture, sure, but not a gift. At best, it is a gift-by-proxy. As such, to give someone a gift-by-proxy and represent it as a gift, and then hold the non-receiver of the gift to the same etiquette standards as a gift recipient, is unfair.

I believe that to qualify as a gift, the recipient should take possession, and there should be no strings attached. Instead of making a donation in her name, you could send the check to the non-recipient, along with a stamped envelope, then tell them to mail their gift. Here, the non-recipient takes possession, but with strings attached, so it’s still not a gift.

Or is it that you gave to a recognized charity that makes you think it’s a real gift? How about this instead: “Sue, I ran into a homeless guy on the way over, so I gave him your gift money in your name.” Still feels like a gift? Or, “Sue, your neighbor needs a new set of tires to drive to work, so I gave her your gift money for you.” How’s that sounding like a gift?

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Kathleen September 11, 2013 at 10:48 am

Gifts can be such a contentious issue. I won’t pretend to be anything but on the fence as far as the two sides to this story. However, if there was a special occasion such as a birthday involved, I would have given a personal gift rather than a donation. Since he reached adulthood, I do gift cards for my son as I know cash is what he needs and prefers, and I will give him a side gift if I’ve found something I know he would love. On the receiving end, I never complain about gifts. (I would complain if someone got me a puppy, however, as much as I love dogs.) In the 50 years we’ve known each other, my sister has yet to buy me a gift that I like. She is simply incapable of “learning” me, and I just smile and say “thank you.”

So, two failures here — failure to “know” the recipient, and on the other end, ingratitude and ungraciousness. Next time, ask what she’d like, and if she asks for something exorbitant, then MIL can officially be labeled a “gimme pig.” (And not to ignore the other issues here. It is unfortunate OP’s MIL does not accept differences. Such unnecessary lack of tolerance that is all too common.)

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Joy February 9, 2014 at 11:18 am

Wow! Wow! Wow! I stand in SHOCK! The giver most def did not give for herself…she gave to an organization in which had a VERY close impact to the recipient’s life….her TWIN sister is a breast cancer survivor for goodness sakes! Gifts are meant to be held close to the heart for their MEANING! Wow!

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