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Declining An Invitation To A Holiday Fundraiser

Here is an etiquette question for you. Every year a good friend and I ‘adopt’ several needy families for the holidays. We provide new toys and clothing for the children and raise the money at a casual fundraiser with all our friends. We ask that friends give $20 for which they get a raffle ticket (with some really cool homemade raffle items like baked goods paired with bottles of wine, baskets filled with holiday items, etc.). I also provide a homemade gift for attendees to take home with them as a thank you for attending (cupcakes, chocolates etc.). The only thing I feel bad about is that attendees have to buy their own drinks but we do provide some appetizer platters and it is usually a really fun evening and we’ll raise about $1000 that we spend on the items for the needy families.

Here is a question from a few years ago as pertains to the event. I invited a close friend of mine (I should say that back then the attendance request for this event was only $10). He responded to the invite by saying that the charity was not one he believed in so he would not be attending.

I appreciate honesty but wouldn’t it be more polite to have said: “I’m busy that day, I can’t attend.” Or frankly, is $10 that big a deal when we are talking about helping needy children to have a Merry Christmas? If it were a money issue, I would  completely respect that response (I’ve had friends who could not participate for that reason in the past and I invite them to come by anyway – the more the merrier) but I was so put off by this response that this friend and I didn’t talk for a few weeks. I’m completely over it now. He is a very good man and a really loyal friend, but I always wondered if I overreacted to his response.   0730-13<

You overreacted.   You are running a charity event but it’s very personal in nature so any rejection of the charity may be viewed by you as a rejection of you.   I have my charities I support and I may not have chosen to sponsor yours either simply because your charity is not within the sphere of charities I will fund that year.    Due to the casual nature of your charitable work, there may be no accountability for how money is spent and I think people are well within their rights to choose where their charitable dollars are going based on fiscal oversight by third parties.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • DanaJ December 3, 2013, 12:36 pm

    @Allie I too would not put the wording of “not a charity I believe in” to be all that literal. It probably just means that it is not a charity to which he typically donates, his charitable dollars are already spoken for, and/or he prefers to donate to charities that have a broad scope rather than individualized “one family at a time” programs. We get a ot of charity requests too, many of which come from organizations whose causes we support strongly, but we have already donated to a different organization.

    BTW – we also “adopt a family” each year through a similar program. Several of our family members take part to fulfill the wishlist, so we don’t have fundraisers.

  • WillyNilly December 3, 2013, 12:45 pm

    I’m curious how the OP goes about “adopting” these needy families. If it is via a larger organization, does that mean the OP gets to claim a personal charitable tax deduction for all the funds raised? If so this fundraiser party is personally funding the OP’s bottom line as well as the needy family’s. Or does the OP give a tax receipt to each donator for their entry ticket?

  • Vicki December 3, 2013, 1:05 pm

    OP, you aren’t morally or socially required to appreciate honesty over white lies, and it might be easier if you accepted that. But if you have told people that you appreciate honesty, they’re likely to take that at face value: maybe your friend said that it wasn’t a charity he believed in because he thought you’d be upset if he gave an excuse like “sorry, I’m busy that night” and then happened to mention later that he hadn’t done anything in particular.

    As others have said, there is no charity so wonderful that it is everyone’s first choice. There isn’t even a cause so wonderful that it is everyone’s first choice, and for almost any charitable goal, there are multiple ways to donate. (For example, if I want to buy livestock for poor farmers, I donate to Oxfam rather than the Heifer Project, because I don’t want religion attached to that goat.)

    So maybe the OP’s friend meant “I don’t celebrate Christmas, and am not going to pay for other people to do so.” (There are people who actively disapprove of Christmas presents and celebrations, as well as those of us who just don’t care.) Maybe he has other priorities for his charitable giving, because vaccinating children, giving them clean water, and making sure they have enough to eat are important. Or maybe he’s in favor of charity, but not in favor of charity parties and showing off what you’re doing, either because the party expenses are money not spent on the goal, or because he agrees with the Jewish teaching that the highest form of charity is completely anonymous–the donor doesn’t know who the recipient is, the recipient doesn’t know who the donor is, and the rest of the world knows as little as possible about the whole thing. You can give money to Oxfam or a food bank or, yes, Toys for Tots without anyone except the organization knowing. (You don’t even have to tell the IRS.)

    Or maybe “it’s not a charity I believe in” is the white lie, and the truth is he’s completely broke, a relative gambled away all their savings, and he literally doesn’t have that ten dollars but doesn’t want to admit that to someone who assumes that everyone she knows is at least well enough off that ten dollars for her charity is no big deal.

  • Kaymar December 3, 2013, 1:12 pm

    +1 to Kara above – it’s one thing to adopt a family / take a tag off the giving tree to purchase holiday items for a child in need yourself. It’s something I enjoy doing. I also have had friends set up fundraising pages for races or other events where you could sponsor them / their cause by donating to the charity directly. In this case, the setup involves the OP donating items purchased with other people’s money. That’s just bizarre. Does the OP seek a tax deduction for this contribution of other people’s money? The mind reels.

  • Kovi December 3, 2013, 1:14 pm

    While I do think that saying, “Sorry, I can’t make it.” would have been a better thing for him to say, I agree that you are taking this a bit personally. There are charities I will support, and ones I won’t. Oftentimes, I simply don’t have the money (yes, even $10 is a lot when you live paycheck to paycheck) to spend on other people.

  • LovleAnjel December 3, 2013, 1:19 pm

    @ Anonymous

    ” Also, there have been instances of parents in low-income families hocking Junior’s Christmas Playstation to pay the electric bill, etc., so some people feel it’s just best to stay away from the whole thing, or select a gift themselves for one of those kinds of charities that can’t be pawned.”

    If the electricity gets turned off, the Playstation won’t be of much use, will it?

  • acr December 3, 2013, 1:33 pm

    OP, has it occured to you that if you and your friend socked away $50 a month, you would have $1200 of your own money to use for your Christmas giving without having to ask your friends to support your charity efforts?

  • Rap December 3, 2013, 1:43 pm

    “I must say it does disturb me a little that he said it is not a charity he “believes in”. It makes me wonder whether he doesn’t believe needy families are deserving of help. Perhaps he feels they aren’t working hard enough or they should not have children if they can’t afford them. I, personally, would not want to be friends with someone who took that attitude. ”

    Or perhaps he doesn’t approve of how the OP runs the charity or in charities where the focus is on making sure people who have enough to eat and a place to sleep also have a nice Christmas. This type of charity is popular this time of year. I instead donate to Smiletrain because I consider helping a child avoid a lifetime of ridicule more important than making sure an otherwise healthy child has a toy. Mind you – Ihave no problem with people who do choose to donate to these sorts of charities, but its a little disheartenining that if I said I didn’t believe in a particular charity’s value – without any followup questions asked to me – people would just assume I’m a rotten person. I’m not trying to take you to task, Allie, I’m just saying when it comes to charities, its not hard to turn your reasoning back on you. What if he is simply choosing to support a different charity, and you’re assuming with no follow up that he just doesn’t think needy families need help? Thats an interesting assumption indeed.

    OP – your friend may have very sound reasons for not supporting a charity like yours. If you’re close, why not gently ask why he doesn’t support it? If you don’t feel comfortable with that, my advice? Let it go. He could have been less blunt but he wasn’t rude.

  • So Many Sarahs December 3, 2013, 2:04 pm

    Just an FYI on the charities at the grocery checkout counter. The grocery stores hate them too. However, the grocery stores have the same problem that OP does. When corporate turns down the charity, the grocery store gets labeled as “a baby-hating store” or the “wants children to starve to death store”. The only real excuse a grocery store can give is “we’re already sponsoring X charity”.

  • gellchom December 3, 2013, 2:14 pm

    “I must say it does disturb me a little that he said it is not a charity he ‘believes in.’ It makes me wonder whether he doesn’t believe needy families are deserving of help.”

    Suppose you found out that this friend, or anyone else for that matter, said of your fundraiser, “I must say it disturbs me a little that Ann and Beth use the money they raise to give Christmas toys and goodies to specific families rather than donate the total raised to Ronald McDonald House. It makes me wonder whether they don’t believe that children with cancer are deserving of help.”


    This guy just chooses to donate his charitable dollars to some other cause than this one (as a matter of fact, so would I). That doesn’t mean that he thinks all others are undeserving. Also, many people prefer to give to established charities with 501(c)(3) tax-deductible status (I assume yours is not) so that they can stretch their giving farther.

    And I, too, wonder how far the money you spend on food and supplies for the party and making all those prizes and thank you gifts would go toward $1000, if the families wouldn’t prefer cash they can use for necessities or at least gifts for their children they choose themselves to gifts and treats chosen by someone else, and if they would feel more dignified getting any help they need from an anonymous source. I’m sure it is very satisfying to be a Christmas Angel, and I know the families must be grateful, but I can’t say that your friend is making a poor judgment about how to use his charitable dollars. I believe you did overreact.

  • Catrunning December 3, 2013, 2:28 pm

    I have a couple of friends who put on the same informal charity – they collect money from their friends and use it to buy a holiday feast and gifts for needy families. Everyone would dress up like Santa or elves to deliver the bounty. I participated for several years, but got a bit turned off. My first year “our” family was in the country illegally. Donating food was one thing, but I had a very hard time with giving them expensive gifts when a great many American and legal immigrant children and adults could not afford to buy those items. It seemed like we were rewarding law breaking, and a number of participants dropped out after that.

    The second year I helped them, we donated to another large family. Only a few days later, I noticed that same family waiting in line at another local toy giveaway. After those two years, I dropped out, primarily because it had become a charity I could not believe in, despite the good intentions of its organizers.

    Are there families out there that need to be supported during the Holidays? Certainly. But there are also a lot of opportunists out there waiting to score. I decided hence forth to direct my holiday charitable giving to established organizations where it would do the greatest good.

  • June First December 3, 2013, 3:02 pm

    OP, a gentle suggestion:
    I agree with other comments that you’re trying to run the fundraiser like a larger non-profit. I’ll assume that you have the best intentions, but it would probably work better if you ask party attendees to bring an in-kind gift (those toys that you’re purchasing) instead of paying admission.

    Perfect example: a friend of mine is a teacher at an elementary school where more than 95% of the students live in poverty. She arranges an annual “socks and underwear” party for her neighborhood. Neighbors bring packages of socks or underwear for these low-income students, and enjoy drinks and a party atmosphere. The packages are delivered to the school, and distributed by school social workers.

    Why socks and underwear? When parents can’t afford to buy clothing for their kids, they stop buying the undergarments first. I’m not condoning it, or saying we need to bail out the parents, but it’s not the kids’ fault that their parents spent the Christmas money on something else.

  • Marozia December 3, 2013, 3:26 pm

    OP, you said you wanted honesty and you got it! You have to have a thick skin in some cases as there are many people who don’t have the same beliefs as others regarding charities.

  • Mich December 3, 2013, 4:19 pm

    @Heartvsbrain…..just because someone makes 6 figures, please do not assume that they do not donate to charity. They may not donate to YOUR charity, but they have other places where they send their money.

    My b/f (who makes well over 6 figures) donates thousands of $$, but it is to causes he vets and believes in. Sadly, once you donate one place, they all come out of the woodwork. Not only that, he will write them a substantial check and a month later they will be back for more.

    He keeps what charities he gives to close to the vest. He may add new ones and drop others, but he won’t give a dime until he researches them.

  • Katie December 3, 2013, 4:23 pm

    OP do you put your own money towards your charitable cause, or does all the money come from your fundraisers? I appreciate you spend a lot of time and effort in putting together your fund raisers, but I wonder if your friend perhaps didn’t want to donate his money to your cause when you yourself don’t directly fund it.
    I know of several situations when this has occurred; very good people put together wonderful fundraisers but don’t personally donate, whilst expecting their friends and families to.
    Or, another one, where people ask you to sponsor them to climb Machu Pichu or Mount Kilamanjaro – or some other wonderful “holiday”, all funded by everyone else!
    If I’m worng and you also donate your own money as well as your time, then I still think you should leave it alone. You have your way of giving to charity, your friend presumably has his, and it is not up to you to question that – which tends to imply that your way is right, and his is wrong.
    Just another point of view.

  • sweetonsno December 3, 2013, 5:05 pm

    I agree that the OP is probably taking it a bit personally. As Vicki mentioned, not supporting the charity is not the same as not supporting the cause. For any given cause (education, poverty, women’s rights, animal rescue, natural disaster relief, disease research, the environment, etc.), there are numerous organizations. I might support one but not the other because of its corporate spending or human rights track record. My friend might prefer another one because of the specific projects that it funds or its political affiliation. I sincerely doubt that this guy is against helping the needy.

  • Library Diva December 3, 2013, 5:20 pm

    I, too, loathe the cash register solicitations. You feel like an easily led chump if you say yes, and a coldhearted grinch if you say no.

    I don’t know what I think about the OP’s friend’s response. It was a little brusque, but is lying really better? Also, if the friend wished to continue his association with OP, he would have to be magically “busy” on that night, year after year, and what if things one day come to a head where OP confronts him in July and says that she misses him at these events, what early December night is good for him? But at the same time, I can see why this stung. He might have worded it better. Perhaps he could have said that he did all of his giving for the year already (even if the amount is zero, it’s not technically a lie) or that he prefers to support x charity instead. It would get his point across without potentially offending his friend.

  • Rosie December 3, 2013, 5:47 pm

    There’s charity and there’s friendship. I see the point some posters are trying to make about how this is no longer a social event, but there are still social aspects to this fundraising event when it involves close friends. I was recently in a similar position as the friend in this story: a close friend of mine started a charity providing educational scholarships to kids in her husband’s third world village, and was organizing a silent auction. This was their first big fundraiser. I have some reservations about their project–mainly that it only benefits a small geographic area that may or may not have the most worthy students, and that it funnels students into a dysfunctional school system, albeit the only option around–but I wanted to support my friend. I helped her with the event itself and made a small donation. Even if the auction wasn’t technically a social event, I decided that our friendship was more important that making a strictly logical decision about the relative merit of various charitable activities, and I was glad to be able to support my friend’s efforts to organize the event.

  • JoW December 3, 2013, 6:42 pm

    If he has replied “I’m too busy that day” you may have invited him to other events for that same charity. By saying he doesn’t believe in that charity he is avoiding future invitations.

    There are a couple of charities I disagree with. When I’m asked to donate I say “thats not one I support”. It usually works.

  • RC December 3, 2013, 6:48 pm

    Like many previous posters, I too would turn down your event OP. I donate to causes of my choosing, and would be offended that you are asking me to pay for YOUR charitable ‘adoption’ of a needy family. Do it yourself, or not at all; don’t ask me to pay.

    And this does not make me a bad person, or mean that I do not believe in supporting the needy; I provide my professional services for free to the needy, and believe this is far more valuable than Christmas presents which are a first world entitlement IMO.

    It is uncharitable of you to imply that your friend was rude or uncharitable for declining, and nasty of you to not speak to him for weeks.

  • Elizabeth December 3, 2013, 8:18 pm

    Is this a religiously affiliated charity? There are many religious groups who will never receive my money because I find their teachings to be offensive, regardless of how deserving needy families are.

  • clairedelune December 3, 2013, 8:41 pm

    @Rosie–I think what you’re advocating is probably the easier/pleasanter/less socially awkward choice, and probably in the end what I would have done if OP were my friend and invited me to this thing, I will admit. But looking at it in the context of her original question–*not* coming to her party for the reason her friend cited isn’t therefore rude. It’s a legitimate way to turn down charitable solicitation, even one coming from a friend.

  • Angel December 3, 2013, 8:56 pm

    I agree with Kara post #49. If you want to adopt a family around the holidays, that is perfectly within your rights. But asking other people to help fund your personal charitable donations–uh-uh. Not something I would be into at all. And if we were close friends I would have no problem telling you what I thought of this. Frankly I think your friend was nice about it. And he said nothing wrong. Honesty builds a strong foundation for a good friendship. In short, I would say you overreacted.

  • Barbarian December 3, 2013, 9:22 pm

    Willynilly and Kaymar,

    If like-minded friends want to combine socializing and fundraising for a charitable cause, this is the way to do it so the guests know its a reputable charity and that donations are tax deductible:

    1. Have a representative from the charity speak about its work for 15 minutes or so.
    2. Then the representative can accept donations from the guests and provide receipts. If food, toys, etc are donated, the charity simply gives them a signed receipt but the guest provides the value.
    3. The charity can answer guests’ questions. Hopefully this will inspire them to remember the charity at other times of the year.

    Entry fees for food, drinks, and entertainment are not tax-deductible as a charity donation. Most civic groups I have belonged to have some type of holiday event at a resturant or club member’s home organized like this.

    Some neighborhoods or groups of friends do this as well and have to charge something to cover the refreshments. Usually one family has the party and it’s not right to stick them with the bill for a crowd of people.

    It’s best to make the general socializing the focus of the event rather than a lengthy sales pitch. If someone like OP’s friend declines the invite because they don’t like the charity, the host can always say, ” I understand. Nobody has to donate. We’d love to have you come and enjoy the party, but if you can’t make it we’ll see you later”.

  • remi December 3, 2013, 9:32 pm

    @LovleAnjel, a friend of mine actually grew up in a house like that. Her mother would go into her room while she was at school and take her things to sell. Every game system and game she’s owned has been pawned, and whenever she comes over to my house for our monthly gaming nights she remarks that she used to have this system or that game, but her mother stole it years ago. Most of the time it’s gone up in value so she could have made a lot more money now selling it for herself, or it’s too expensive for her to replace even though she’d like to. It’s not just a case of “There’s no point in owning this if you can’t afford to use it!” It screws you up to live like that; she doesn’t trust her family or friends not to take anything of value that isn’t hidden, and she is afraid of getting expensive things now for fear that they will be taken away too. It’s actually a form of child abuse because of the long-lasting effects it can leave on a person.

  • Kate December 3, 2013, 10:06 pm

    It is quite a blunt response, but I do have to agree with him.
    Firstly, you don’t know the extent of this person’s charitable donations. He might have already provided his holiday donation to another worthy cause.
    Secondly, there are a lot of quite personal reasons why someone may choose to give or avoid support for a particular charity. When I donate, I like to know that the charity’s finances are all above board. I also choose not to donate to religious charities, particularly those who visit Third World countries and hand out religious items that conflict with the beliefs of the group they are there to help.
    I also don’t have a lot of money to donate, so when I do, I use my money to support the ‘lesser known’ charities (say, mental health research over breast cancer, because every second company supports breast cancer research these days whereas a lot of other devastating illnesses go virtually ignored).

    He probably thought that if he said “I’m busy that night”, he would still be asked to donate money, and if this donation conflicts with his personal beliefs then there’s not a lot OP can do about it, except make her own donations with her own money.

  • Kate December 3, 2013, 10:11 pm

    @Allie – it could be that the friend fully supports providing for needy families, but that the organising charity is not one he wishes to support. For example, the Salvation Army support needy families, which I agree with. I do not agree with the views of the Australian media officer for this organisation, who thinks gay people should be killed. Therefore, they will not get my money.

  • hakayama December 3, 2013, 11:43 pm

    “It’s not what I do.” “I don’t do that.”
    The above are phrases I wish I had thought of using when I was being somewhat coerced into a contribution to a privately organized benefit shindig for folks that lost their home to Sandy (the hurricane).
    As it turned out, between some insurance and the friendly benefit, the victims apparently did OK for themselves. So I definitely feel that my money should have been given to help much, much more needy people.
    I will not now start questioning the “interesting” practice of “charity” by way of having a good time, whether it be the private parties or galas organized by recognized non-profits. What I do definitely want to question is the bit about a “Merry Christmas”… Is it going to be food on the table or a toy extravaganza?
    Ages ago, I do remember seeing an interview with an “underprivileged” woman who stated something along the lines of “just because we’re poor, doesn’t mean my kids shouldn’t get nice things”.
    Does that woman’s thinking run to the OP’s “Merry Xmas” concept?
    I definitely prefer to send my dollars to give people clean water, farm animals, basic necessities…
    @English1 and @Cat: count me in your camp, please.

  • Rebecca December 4, 2013, 1:35 am

    “It’s not a charity I believe in” doesn’t necessarily mean he doesn’t want to help underprivileged children. Maybe he doesn’t celebrate Christmas. Maybe the OP’s charity belongs to a religious organization he doesn’t believe in. Maybe it’s a charity with ethics and principles (other than donating toys to kids) he loathes; for example, this charity may organize the sponsorship of families but has also publicly denounced people of the Purple type, and the friend happens to support purples. Or maybe his donation dollars have gone to help the children of the Phillipines whose lives are in ruins (for example). Or perhaps he is simply broke and doesn’t want to say so. I think it’s admirable what you are doing but everyone has a different priority and I wouldn’t take it personally.

  • Lilya December 4, 2013, 2:53 am

    Was he blunt? Definitely.

    However, I’d stop speculating on his reasons, OP.

    Lately, it seems that if you don’t care about every single issue (especially about those the person you are talking to finds important), you are automatically a horrible person, which is both an interesting assumption and very disturbing.
    Trouble is, when you think about it, the list of things that need fixing in the world is enormous! A single person can’t possibly care about everything – or try and fix everything.
    Even if they selected one charity per issue (e.g. here’s a dollar for the animal rescue charity, here’s one for local families in need, here’s one for clean water in third world countries…),they’d quickly find themselves penniless! And if they were to volunteer for everything, a 48-hours day wouldn’t be enough!

    Every person has a limited amount of resources at their disposal, we should not judge how they decide to employ them. (Standard disclaimer for illegal activities applies)

  • The Elf December 4, 2013, 8:26 am

    There’s lies and then there’s “social lies”. Saying that you have plans when in fact nothing on your schedule conflicts with the event you don’t want to go to isn’t really a lie. It’s more of glossing over some information for the sake of politeness. After all – you do have plans. You have plans not to go to that event.

  • Mary December 4, 2013, 9:17 am

    I agree with many posters here. If OP wants to adopt a needy family, that is wonderful. However, she should pay for it herself. If that is not possible, there are organizations that provide Christmas for needy families by having donors donate individual items or cash instead of one person providing for an entire family.

  • Sorka Hanrahan December 4, 2013, 12:54 pm

    DH and I participated in an Angel Tree sort of thing once (we don’t celebrate Christmas, but it just seemed like the thing to do at this time of year and we were talked into it, “can’t you spend just a little to make sure the kids have a Merry xmas???!). When we went to deliver the toys it was to a house nicer than ours, the tree was piled about halfway up with gifts (more than either of us had ever seen when we were kids), there was a big screen tv, expensive artwork, basically this looked like an upper middle class household in a very nice neighborhood with very nice cards parked out front. We had been told by well-meaning friends that the kids on the tree wouldn’t have any presents or xmas without people like us. This left a really sour taste .

    We never donate to charities that are “give the kids a good xmas” anymore, because we think there are more important causes. We research, make sure the charity has religious beliefs in line with ours, and that the mission is something along the lines of water/lambs/rescuing kids from the sex trade/rebuilding after disasters/supporting adoption/orphanages/etc

    I would have give OP a similar response, may have maybe tried to word it more gently, but I also know that I get tired of the implication that I’m a horrible person for not donating to xmas causes.

  • penguin tummy December 4, 2013, 6:56 pm

    Many people, myself included, don’t like to donate to charities who push their religion on people or whose methods of operation are questionable. If i were invited to a fundraiser for a charity that I did not agree with, I would probably be honest and just tell the person. If I felt strongly about this, there is no point lying about it to make people feel better.

  • Angel December 4, 2013, 9:44 pm

    Sorka that is just awful! No wonder you no longer want to donate to needy kids around Christmas time. I donate to a giving tree where my kids go to school–but I know that a lot of those kids are far worse off than our family is–and most of the gifts are for gift cards to grocery stores and such. That to me is providing for necessities more than anything else. Which I have no problem doing at all.

    In the last few years I have started researching charities before I donate to them. I never used to do that but I do this now, especially around the holidays.

  • lakey December 5, 2013, 12:35 am

    I’ve been involved in adopting families for Christmas and always had positive experiences. The recipients were often single mothers with low income jobs, often with 3 generations living in the house. One family was a grandmother who was taking care of two of her grandchildren.

    However, I know people who have decided not to participate in these charities because they did them for some time and had experiences with people who were exploiting them. My understanding is that in our area there were families that were contacting multiple churches and agencies for help and then selling the stuff. Fortunately the churches and agencies dealt with this by communicating with each other, and working with social services to cut back on the possibility that a few people were scamming, resulting in others going without.

    Anyway, it’s possible that OP’s friend had had some experiences that were negative and has decided to do his charitable acts in different ways.

  • Alicia December 5, 2013, 2:24 am

    The friend was not rude you were by being mean to the friend over the decline. Honestly telling you that they do not support the charity is reasonable. It is a very tactful answer in many cases. If you were my friend I would have said the same. Even if I support the charity I would find it absolutely awful if instead of giving the money to say toys for tots who get toys at a discount my friend would expect my money to do her own toy shopping which is very likely to be a much higher price then a good shopper or at least one who is an actual charity (501c3) would pay.
    I’d consider this event run by a friend to be tacky and heavy handed and thus if not a good friend would decline but if a good friend would say that I did not support the charity as I declined

  • Daphne December 5, 2013, 9:21 am

    I would look at his decline as particularly gracious. By telling you flat out he doesn’t support your particular charity he is therefore freeing up your time and resources to solicit people who maybe would be interested.
    Now you won’t waste any more of your valuable time inviting him to these things–which is actually a small donation in itself.

  • Hemi December 5, 2013, 11:26 am

    I think previous posters pretty much said it all, but I wanted to share on the subject of “charitable giving using other people’s money”. The company I work for does a fundraiser/donate to specific-type cause every year but I have never encountered or heard of any other company doing this:

    First, my company is classified as a 501(c) 3 nonprofit. We have a parent company that donates money to help cover some of our costs, then any monies we collect goes to the operations fund to pay the other costs. A person from the corporate office sends out an email saying they have started collecting for the staff’s “Annual Christmas Gift to Boss, Boss’s Wife, Boss’s Daughter and Boss’s SIL”. Yes, that is exactly what it is called/titled. (Boss, wife, daughter & SIL are on the board) The email also reminds you to use the matching grants form to double your contribution. They collect this money for about a month, then give it to boss, wife, daughter & SIL, then it is donated to a scholarship fund. So, even though the employees are actually donating the money that the scholarship fund gets, the boss & family get credit for it.

    I’m glad that the money goes to help with education costs but what really gets me is that the staff hasn’t had a raise in years, yet we are expected to donate our money so that the boss & family can look good to the scholarship folks. If boss & family want to donate to the that, they should do so with their own money because, and I know this might upset some readers but it is the truth, they are *very* well-off, I would even dare say mega-rich. It’s the same principle I have seen repeated here in the comments- they should donate their own money to their cause and I should be able to choose or decline to contribute to their chosen cause without pressure and “reminders” for weeks.

  • OP December 5, 2013, 12:46 pm

    Hi all,

    I’m the OP in this situation and I really appreciate the feedback. It smarts a little, don’t get me wrong but I’m clearly in the wrong here and I appreciate the honesty. Ill definitely be more circumspect for the future.

    Just to answer a few of the questions you all had:

    1. I pay for the party out of my own pocket (well, me and my good friend and co-organizer). All the money raised goes to buying the gifts. I also save the receipts in case anyone wants accountability regarding the money raised.
    2. I also give money of my own towards buying the gifts.
    3. Half of the gifts are clothing and other needed items. The rest are usually fun gifts like toys.
    4. I definitely accept gifts in kind and some people bring the items requested by the families. Most are busy and prefer to give cash.

    Thank you again for the honest feedback. Happy holidays!

  • ALM December 5, 2013, 12:59 pm


    Are you sure the recipients lived at the fancy house? Could that have been a friend or relative’s house where the children were spending the holidays rather than where they actually lived?

    Also, with the recession, a lot of people across all classes lost their jobs. They might not have been able to afford presents or maybe they had empty boxes up for ‘appearances’ but they weren’t about to sell their cars for what they hoped was a temporary set back. (Though depending on the age of the kids, one lean Christmas is a good life lesson).

    If they were just scamming the system though, yes that’s disgusting.

  • Jen December 5, 2013, 4:40 pm

    OP, thank you for the clarification and the classy response to all the comments.

    Have a happy holiday season! 🙂

  • Ergala December 5, 2013, 11:35 pm

    @Sorka are you sure that was the home of the family for whom the gift was intended? We did those as well and it was always anonymous…we had no idea who the family was. Typically the gift was brought to church and placed under the tree and then it was collected. I am thinking perhaps the home you brought it to was the home of the person collecting them all to hand out. But I can’t imagine them giving out names and addresses to random people to show up at with presents. That is just plain bizarre.

  • Sorka Hanrahan December 8, 2013, 8:41 pm

    This was 15 years ago, so not during the recession. It was through our church at the time and the ladies who organized it wanted people to really make a connection with the needy families. I thought it was weird that we went to their house too, that’s why DH went with me. I suppose you guys could be right that it was someone else’s house, that never occurred to me, but I know other people had other addresses and had better experiences.

    But even without that experience, we still personally feel that we should donate our money in other ways, and I’m pretty sure we would have come to the same conclusion (although perhaps not so quickly!)

  • lena December 9, 2013, 2:54 am

    I have declined to participate in similar events, as I don’t support the charities. My office is having a drive for the Salvation Army, which I do not support, and so I said no thanks, I won’t be involved. It’s a personal choice.

  • DanaJ December 11, 2013, 5:22 pm

    Wow, Sorka Hanrahan, that’s heartbreaking, but take comfort in ALM’s advice. The delivery address may not have been the permanent residence of the recipients. My partner volunteered to make the deliveries one year for the YMCA’s program. One box was delivered to a nice house in a nice neighborhood, but the house belonged to the co-worker of the recipient family’s father. They were holding the gifts because the family’s situation had deteriorated and they were temporarily living in a shelter.

    My partner did the deliveries only ONCE because she found it heartbreaking for the opposite reason: at the very first house she went to for drop-off, the woman who answered the door burst into tears because she was overcome. Not all of the deliveries where that dramatic, but my partner was in tears herself by the end of the night and she decided she was too sensitive to do it again.