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Miss Manners: Asking for money a delicate task

Judith Martin

Dear Miss Manners: My husband and I serve on the Board of Directors of a nonprofit YMCA Camp, which was founded decades ago by my husband’s father and bears his name. It is dear to our family and does wonderful things for children, including providing “camperships” for children not able to afford camp tuition on their own.

This year, our board sent out personalized letters to friends and family members soliciting donations to the Camp’s Annual Fund Campaign. My letter made it abundantly clear that no amount was too small to make a difference to this camp, which is struggling to survive in a difficult economic time.

I chose the recipients of my letters carefully and sent only to long-established friends

a) who I felt could easily afford to give something

b) who have been guests at our home for lavish dinners and parties many times, at least once in 2008.

c) for whom we have often done personal favors – for them or their children.

A few were friends who have solicited us for donations to their favorite charities, and we have responded with gifts each time, sometimes generously.

Most responded with donations. Some wrote that they were not able to give at this time but wanted to be kept on a list for next year’s campaign. Some said they already had charities to whom they donated to the limit of their abilities.

What do I do or say to the few who failed to respond in any way, not even the courtesy of a reply? One friend advised that it is incumbent on me to call to assure that they received the letter. If it didn’t reach them, then my disappointment in them is unfounded. On the other hand, if I call or write and they either don’t respond at all or are discomfited by my importunity, what then?

This is really disturbing to me. Two of these people are very good friends, and I feel awkward even seeing them at this point.

Gentle Reader: It is not surprising that you feel awkward. You are harboring an improper expectation that puts you on the verge of embarrassing your friends, possibly to the extent of terminating your friendships.

It is one thing to solicit charity funds from your friends, although Miss Manners does not care for your selection B, which suggests a payback for your hospitality. It is quite another to demand that those who do not donate provide you with an excuse.

Solicitations do not require “the courtesy of a response.” Courtesy, in this case, consists of not prying into how people budget their money.

Dear Miss Manners: We have invited a couple to a game evening and dinner party that requires a certain number of roleplaying participants. At the time of the invitation, we asked for a prompt response so that we could invite another couple if they couldn’t make it.

Despite several requests, and reminders that we need a prompt response, it is now two days before the party and they have still not given a straight answer as to whether or not they will come. We would normally never dream of rescinding an invitation, but how can a situation like this be properly handled without ruining the party for everyone else?

Gentle Reader: By inviting politer guests. You are not rescinding an invitation, Miss Manners assures you; you are politely assuming that if they had wanted to attend, they would have let you know.

Readers may write to Miss Manners at MissManners@unitedmedia. com, or via postal mail at United Media, 200 Madison Ave., 4th Floor, New York, NY 10016.
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