Christmas Fundraising In Honor Of The Deceased

by admin on December 11, 2017

I have a situation here and I really need your advice, and the advice of everyone else.

My in-laws are wonderful and generous people. They have many friends, but they are closest with “Fred and Ginger Smith”.

This past spring, Fred and Ginger Smith lost their daughter, “Lily” to cancer. She died at the age of 43 and left behind four teenaged children. It was a very sad time for Fred and Ginger, and my in-laws as well, as they consider the Smith family as their own family.

Fast forward several months, Fred and Ginger are coping and moving forward. One night my in-laws received a call from Fred saying that he and Ginger were throwing a Christmas fundraising party in Lily’s honour, and all money made would be going to a cancer charity.

The party will be held in a banquet hall, with food and drinks provided. Fred advised that the cost per ticket is $100. $80 will be going to pay for the food and drinks, and $20 will go to the charity. Fred asked my father in law if he would go. My father-in-law, being very generous, said he would buy 10 tickets and bring 10 people. The conversation does not end there. Fred then says, “That’s great, but can you see if you can get (gives the names of 4 of my father-in-laws friends) to buy tables as well?  They are rich and they won’t miss the money. Also, it’s 10 chairs per table, and there will be a silent auction and prizes to bid on. Tell everyone to not only buy tickets but bring money too!”

My father-in-law was floored. He did not know how to respond to this. He was already generous in offering to pay $1,000 for the event by buying 10 tickets, but being asked to go ask his friends, whom Fred and Ginger don’t know, made him feel like he was being taken advantage of. My in-laws are rather put off by this (understandably) and don’t know what to do.

My question is, how does one tactfully deal with a scenario like this? The commitment to buy 10 tickets has been made, and my in-laws will follow through as promised, but I think what irks them is that Fred and Ginger did not seem to think it enough, and wanted them to do more.

I personally think spending $100 for a charity event, with only $20 going to charity, is ridiculous. I would rather give $100 directly to the charity. But how do you relay this sentiment? And how do you let them know that it’s not appropriate to be asked to recruit for their event?

I know Fred and Ginger are going through a hard time, as this will be their first Christmas without Lily, so how can you be tactful yet sensitive to their feelings? 1211-14

It does seem odd to me that potential donors must be enticed to part with their money for a good cause by means of being entertained.  It’s as if the intrinsic value of financially supporting a worthy charity isn’t enough, the donor must receive something of value in exchange for his/her donation.

In the case of your in-laws, saying nothing in response to Fred’s “suggestions” for further donation possibilities is the right road to take and carry on with the original plan to buy 10 tickets.  Having a polite spine means knowing what your spending limits are in regards to a specific charity, and being perfectly at peace with that dollar amount such that no one trying to manipulate you into more has any effect on your emotions or wallet.

{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Just4Kicks December 11, 2017 at 4:41 am

May I say first off, thank you for the “Fred and Ginger”, it gave me a much needed laugh on this snowy and icy east coast Monday morning! 🙂

Okay, my two cents pertaining to your post is while I am very sorry to hear of Fred and Ginger’s untimely passing of their daughter, especially this time of year, I find it rude of them to hit your FIL up for more money than he is willing to give.
1,000 dollars in my opinion is above and beyond in and of itself, my husband and I don’t have an extra $100.00 to our names with Christmas being only a few weeks away.
FIL should stick to his guns and his original offer, which again, in my book is VERY generous.
Good Luck to your In-laws and if possible, I would love an update.


at work December 11, 2017 at 7:07 am

“You know, I really feel like I want to donate directly to Cancer Charity. It’s a personal choice. I wish you the best of luck with the fundraiser, and please know that I am thinking of you and your daughter.” Questions, complaints, arguments etc. could be answered with “It’s something I feel led to do,” or “I’m so sorry to disappoint you, but I really feel this is how I want to donate.” You’ll probably have to rehearse saying “I’m not comfortable approaching Bob and Carol about this. I hope you understand” to fend off the command to get others to purchase tickets. If it were me I’d be honest: “That’s a lot of money, I just can’t ask Bob and Carol something like that!”


BellyJean December 11, 2017 at 8:18 am

I am so sorry for your family’s loss – I’m sure that Lily was like another daughter to your In-Laws.

I agree with Admin’s comments completely.

I can’t imagine the heartbreak Fred and Ginger must be feeling. The only rationalization that I can think of for Fred’s comments is that he, and is wife, are so focused on fundraising (perhaps trying to block out the pain), that etiquette has flown out of their minds, and the number 1 priority is to make the fundraising event a success – period. It’s like, 1) ask people to buy tickets – check, 2) leverage my network – check, 3) leverage my invitees’ networks – check, 4) fund-raise oodles of money – check.
Still a faux pas – but I can see it happening.


Aleko December 11, 2017 at 9:39 am

I agree that asking friends to contribute $100 directly to the charity would raise far more money than getting them all to come to a dinner (unless they plan to twist everyone’s arm quite mercilessly for the silent auction); but I can just about see why Fred and Ginger would want not just to raise money but have an occasion where their daughter’s name is up in lights, so to speak. So a fair enough project, and quite reasonable to ask their friends to support it, and I can well understand OP’s FIL actually wanting to do that by buying a fistful of tickets. (OP says she would not want to, but fortunately she wasn’t the one who was asked.)

But when Fred, instead of being thrilled and grateful that their friend was willing to do so much, promptly urged him to hit up other people on their behalf, that was a line crossed (especially with the comment “They are rich and they won’t miss the money”, which is always a charmless thing to say, even if true). I think OP’s FIL can and should say ‘I’m sorry, but I don’t feel I can ask them that. And, Fred, I know how much it means to you to raise money in Lily’s honour, and my wife and I are very happy to help out ourselves, but you need to be aware that you could alienate people badly by hard-selling it and throwing around remarks like “So-and-so won’t miss the money”.’


Just4Kicks December 11, 2017 at 10:03 am

I forgot to add what another poster stated. …”They are rich and won’t miss the money!”.
Be that as it may, its THEIR money to do with what they choose.


Wilson December 11, 2017 at 10:15 am

I understand that Fred and Ginger are going through a hard time, and that some common sense seems to have flown out the window for them. And it’s nice to do a fundraiser. But – if this were another group raising funds for its pet charity, with only 20% actually going to the charity, we would be warned off it. Sounds like the one really profiting here is whoever is catering. FIL is being very generous to buy ten tickets when only $200 of his $1000 is going to the family (I would just want to give the $200 to the kids!) Ideally he would be able to speak with Fred and point out the pitfalls of going this route, and to tell him that no, he’s not going to ask his so-called rich friends who wouldn’t miss the money to also buy tickets; but that may not go over well. I agree with previous comments that he is probably best off to just buy his tickets and keep his peace. If they ask him if he has talked to his friends, then perhaps he could say something like no, he doesn’t fundraise his friends (I know, not good wording, but something to that effect.)


Heather December 11, 2017 at 10:16 am

I think it is admirable that Fred and Ginger are attempting to rise above their pain and do something. Yes, it is true that someone can simply donate $100 instead of $20. But without this collective effort on Fred and Ginger’s part, how many collectively would? $80 for an evening including food and drink is a bargain… and as another poster pointed out, there is an evening to remember Lily by. Plus, they are being upfront about where the money goes.

Obviously, they went a little too far in terms of expressions like, “they won’t miss it”… or the actual wording of how they described the silent auction. But can’t we forgive them a few faux pas at this time?

I’m pretty sure that the $1,000 won’t go unnoticed and that Fred and Ginger will be grateful. Your in-laws will have done something positive and enjoyed a lovely evening.

Other than a few minor transgressions, I don’t see the bad here.


Aleko December 11, 2017 at 11:15 am

I totally agree that good friends should forgive them, but I think they should also gently warn them that if they attempt to pressurise less loving friends or the friends of friends in the same way, it may not go down well at all.


Dee December 11, 2017 at 1:06 pm

Fred and Ginger aren’t doing a single thing altruistic. The entire event is paid for by their friends. The relatively small amount left over after expenses will, supposedly, be donated by Fred and Ginger. In the end, F and G are hitting up their friends to throw a party in their daughter’s memory, and then to cough up more cash so that F and G can look good with a donation, in their name, to charity. And that’s assuming any leftover money actually gets donated.

It is greedy situations like these that remind me to never make a decision on the spot. “I’ll let you know if we can make it”, or “I’ll run this by my husband and his schedule”, etc. I’ve found myself in similar situations as the OP’s in-laws, where the initial invite is something palatable and then, after securing my acceptance and participation, I’m hit with the extras that are now very difficult to say “no” to. I now wait until I’ve heard the entire proposal before thinking on it and deciding later. The only time I’m willing to jump in headfirst is with those people I’m close to, because they never treat me like F and G are treating their “friends”. If they need me for something, and if I can do it, I will, no questions asked.


Semperviren December 12, 2017 at 8:33 am

These people lost their daughter. They might be cut just a tiny bit of slack for not thinking clearly or behaving perfectly under those circumstances. One can acknowledge the etiquette violation without ascribing the ugliest possible motives.


PJ December 12, 2017 at 11:33 am

I agree with Semperviren.


Dee December 12, 2017 at 6:34 pm

This isn’t a spur-of-the-moment event, a reaction to something that just happened. The daughter died months earlier, so the immediate shock of the death is well past. The event is something that requires a lot of planning ahead of time, so it’s been in the works for months. This is all very calculated by Fred and Ginger over a great deal of time, which couldn’t be done if they weren’t thinking clearly. They have an agenda, it’s very rude, and they’re using their daughter’s death to wrangle funds from friends. They may/may not be great people otherwise, but this behaviour is really very poor. And that’s what I’m calling them out for.


pyes December 13, 2017 at 12:58 pm

Actually, you are making some very mean spirited assumptions. First, you have no idea if there is an actual 501c charity set up and the donations would be made from the charity, not them. Second, you say ” Fred and Ginger aren’t doing a single thing altruistic” but then indicated you acknowledge how much work goes into planning a charity fundraiser. Would it have been better if they could have gotten sponsors so that more of the $100 ticket price goes to the charity, sure. But they are being very upfront and honest about the split between cost and contribution. Third you state they have “an agenda” and also indicate you don’t believe any of the remaining funds would be donated. You do not know these people. You have no reason to assume that they would swindle their friends.

I hope you’re just having a bad day and that you don’t normally feel that everyone’s actions have some dark side.

Devin December 11, 2017 at 11:49 am

To me the only real etiquette failure was commenting on the friends’ money. Fred would have been better off asking if FIL would mind sharing this event with friends. This way it is a request and there is no pressure on the FIL and he can easily refuse or he can give a non comitatal answer like ‘I’ll mention it if I see so and so at the club/office’.

For those commenting on the giving $100 vs buying a ticket for $100, since the hosts of the event are being open with the percent going to charity I see nothing wrong. Hosting an event like this themselves takes a lot of start up money to put together an event with dinner, drinks, entertainment and silent auction. Larger charities can often get food and service donated since it is a tax write off, but one off events, where the proceeds go to the charity but the event isn’t hosted by the charity itself, don’t receive the same level of in kind donations. Your personal beliefs on how best to do charity are your opinions and not an etiquette issue.


staceyizme December 11, 2017 at 4:17 pm

You’re right about the fact that costs can run to significant sums to “front” food and drink and other expenses such as table/ chair and equipment rental, security (if needed) and incidentals like flowers, linens, door prizes etc… But- $80 seems on the high end for most areas. I like organizing events and you do have to put in some time to source the right ingredients for a good meal and do a fair amount of calling, emailing and networking to check on possible donations. It’s never promising to learn that only twenty percent of the cash contributed for tickets will go to the charity. In most mid to large cities in the US, $80 will still get you a decent prix fixe meal for a holiday or special occasion in a nice venue. For $80, I’m guessing that they aren’t serving the standard chicken entree/ garden salad/ token dessert.


Lenniemonster December 12, 2017 at 12:11 am

Very generous of your FIL!
I concur with Devin, The only real faux pas was the comment on anothers finances , especially when there is a much nicer way to ask if a friend if they could network.


NostalgicGal December 11, 2017 at 12:28 pm

$80 for the food and drink and $20 goes to the charity? I think I’d say “Gee, great idea. I’ll just donate $200 to the charity then.” and skip the rest. If they protest, “Well, in the end the charity still gets their twenty percent, right?” Any more real protests might be construed as there’s a profit being made in there… that does sound high for an evening of food and drink and activities.

I think that the $1000 is better spent being given directly to the charity, and I would amend it to that and having the charity send Fred and Ginger an acknowledgement that the money was donated in their name….


ErindV December 11, 2017 at 3:15 pm

It may be a regional thing, but events like this are not uncommon where I live. The goal of the ticket price isn’t to raise money, it’s to cover the cost of the meal/entertainment/drinks and get people in the door to bid on the silent auction, which usually consists of donated items. That is where the bulk of the money is raised.


Pat December 11, 2017 at 12:29 pm

Regarding the “they won’t miss the money” comment. I think that people soliciting donations for a charity (no matter how worthy) need to keep in mind the fact that they have no idea what the potential donor’s other charitable commitments might be. Yes, the person may be relatively wealthy, but perhaps they’ve made a substantial commitment to some other cause that means a lot to them that’s used up their charitable budget. Or, perhaps the seemingly wealthy person cannot afford it for reasons unknown to the person soliciting the donation. I think it’s incredibly generous of OPs FIL to purchase $1,000 in tickets – he is under no obligation to contact other people if he is not comfortable doing so.


lakey December 11, 2017 at 1:07 pm

The problem with something like this is that people are being put in a position where it is very difficult to say “no”.
I think In-Laws response could be, ” We’d love to attend the event, but I don’t feel comfortable making that kind of a request of my friends.”


Heather December 11, 2017 at 6:58 pm

This makes a lot of sense to me.


staceyizme December 11, 2017 at 1:55 pm

I don’t get how this is anyone’s problem to manage with the exception of your FIL? Frankly, most people wouldn’t be nearly so generous, but it’s up to him whether he prefers to stop at $1000 for 10 tickets or pass on the “invitation” to the event. It sounds like a celebration of their daughter’s life somewhat in the guise of a charity event and I agree with you that the split between the cost of food and drink and the supposed contribution to charity is objectionable. But- the only way to object as a third party is either to attend or to decline. Everything else falls within the purview of the “hosts” and their erstwhile “donors”.


gramma dishes December 11, 2017 at 4:26 pm

I seem to be all alone here, but I think this whole idea is awful. I would be stunned speechless if someone made that kind of ‘request’ of me. I think $1000 is one heck of a lot of money to contribute, whether I was the father-in-law or the acquaintance approached secondarily by the father-in-law.

But asking outsiders to make similar contributions is way over the line. I can’t imagine who talked this couple into thinking this kind of charity event was a good idea. It seems almost deliberately designed to alienate friends and acquaintances.


Dee December 12, 2017 at 6:36 pm

You’re not alone, gramma dishes.


Semperviren December 12, 2017 at 8:53 am

Counting other people’s money and deciding how it ought to be spent is vulgar, and demanding more from someone who’s already been generous is rude. However, these people are close friends, and grieving; if this is not their normal behavior, I’d be inclined to chalk it up to their “not quite being themselves”, buy the tickets as promised, and ignore the other request.


LilySparrow December 14, 2017 at 12:45 pm

I do a good bit of volunteering, and it’s common for large charities to ask active volunteers and major donors to sponsor a table and/or sell table tickets to a fundraising event.

However, such charities have pretty strict rules about fundraising and accountability for their expenses. I can’t imagine a responsible charity organizing a large gala with only a 20 percent return! If you’re only looking for $20 per person, you can raise that with a lot less effort, time, and expense.

The social awkwardness aside, if I allocated $100 to a certain charity, I’d feel it was terribly unethical to spend $80 of it on a fancy meal for myself, much less mislead my friends into doing the same. I’d rather write a check directly as an “In Honor Of..” and have them send the family a card.

In your FIL’s place, it appears Fred and Ginger want the emotional support of friends “showing up” for them at the holidays. So I’d explain my issue with the disproportionate expense, attend and pay for our own tickets as a couple, and then hand them a check for the difference made out directly to the charity.


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