Miss Manners: Friends’ charitable causes do not have to be your own

December 20, 2012

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am inundated with holiday season requests from friends and colleagues to make charitable donations to one cause or another. I read the stories associated with each of these causes, and they all appear to be fine organizations worthy of support.

However, I have my own special foundation (it supports cures for a physical disability I have) that is also quite worthy of support. My charitable giving budget, such as it is, is consumed between donations to this group along with the universities that I attended.

I would not dream of asking friends to make donations to support my cause and somewhat resent that they ask me to support theirs. However, I know they mean well and am wondering how I can respond to them with a nice, but firm “No, thanks.” Up to now, my typical response has been no response, which doesn’t seem appropriate.

GENTLE READER: Written solicitations need be answered only by those who want to comply with the requests for money, and Miss Manners presumes that you are not silent when friends approach you face to face.

It is the latter situation that is awkward, and intentionally so. Friends figure that you will be embarrassed to turn them down; that is why they ask. That you are philanthropic without using such tactics is as rare as it is commendable.

Your response should be, “These are certainly worthy causes, but my charity budget is committed elsewhere.” Should anyone be so rude as to argue, Miss Manners gives you leave to say, “Why, are you interested in contributing to my causes?”

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I recently hired a cleaning lady to do some basic cleaning around my condo. She comes biweekly and has visited four or five times so far. I have probably seen her face to face for about 30 minutes total; she visits while I’m at work.

When I got home after her last visit, I was surprised to find a holiday card with a $25 restaurant gift card on my counter wishing me happy holidays. While I very much appreciate the sentiment and gesture, I find myself very uncomfortable.

I moved to this country 10 years ago and am not Christian, so buying gifts for people, let alone for people I hardly know, is not part of my cultural makeup. Besides this, I have fairly strong feelings about consumerism, etc., which I will not belabor.

Must I bite the bullet and get her a gift, potentially setting up an annual cycle as long as I employ her, or is there any other way to delicately nip this in the bud?

GENTLE READER: Putting the religious and pseudo-social aspects aside, there is still a reason to respond. It is, in fact, a reason that would prevail even if your employee had not left you a gift card (which is not customary from an employee, and which Miss Manners therefore cannot help interpreting as a hint).

That is to give her a year-end bonus. This is customary for domestic employees, and usually consists of an extra week’s pay. It need not be related to religion, and it does not carry the pretense of friendship.

Visit Miss Manners at her Web site, www.missmanners.com, where you can send her your questions.

2012, by Judith Martin

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