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It's okay to say no to charities

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

It's okay to say no to charities, but be prepared and be gracious

Anonymous: This may create a lot of backlash, but here goes: I know last month was Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but I am really tired of all the pink ribbons and fundraisers. Yes, I know breast cancer is terrible. I know people who have survived and one who hasn't.

When the fundraisers were coming around at work, I didn't give anything because I donate my money to charities that support other causes (like pancreatic cancer, of which four people I know have died in the last two years). I then get dirty looks and comments like, "You're a woman, how can you not support breast cancer?" But I don't wish to go into a lot of personal details to explain.

It's hard not to be bitter about how one thing gets all the attention, when there is so much more out there that needs focus and donations too. How do I not feel like a horrible person?

Carolyn: I think the issue of causes demands the long view, both from the hitters-up and the hittees. Every one of us is entitled to our causes, and there are more legitimate causes than any one person can support. So, the people with the cause have to recognize that by embracing this cause, they are at the top of the pyramid of people who care.

That means just about everyone they solicit will, most likely, care less than they do — maybe a little bit less, and maybe a lot less. That's both normal and appropriate.

It is absolutely essential that solicitors recognize that people can care less than they do without being bad people. Anyone who gives dirty looks to nonparticipants is actually hurting the cause and should get out of the fundraising business.

The solicited, meanwhile, have an obligation to be polite, and they too need to recognize that the people who solicit them are at the top of the caring pyramid — often people who've lost someone close, or who themselves have suffered.

No one has an obligation to give, however. If you have a stock rejection phrase handy, that might make it easier to say no when you need to: "I know yours is a good cause, but my money is pledged to other causes."

You may be in pain, but that is secondary to the pain she feels

St. Paul: So I had an affair with a married man. Wrong I know. He and I were best friends for years prior to the affair (I actually was his "best woman" in his wedding), and after. He eventually had a guilty conscience, and told his wife, which I understand. One of her conditions for taking him back was that he end all contact with me — understandable. I lost a best friend, but still I know what I did was wrong. Haven't spoken to him for around eight months.

Found out he is being deployed to Iraq soon. Is it wrong of me to request a moment to say goodbye? How should I go about this?

Carolyn: Don't. The wife is in enough hell, capping off an effort to save her marriage by sending her husband to war. You have feelings too, of course, but they are distant-secondary, and the consequences of the affair are that you lost the right for those feelings to be considered.

It's okay to say no to charities 11/21/08 [Last modified: Thursday, November 4, 2010 10:05am]

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