Dear Miss Manners:
I would appreciate your advice on how to respond to requests from nonprofit organizations with which I am associated that ask me to ask my friends for money for the organization.
If a friend were to ask me for the name of an organization that I believe is worthy, I would of course endorse these organizations and explain why I support them. But I don’t believe I should presume on a friendship to solicit donations.
Recently, a group I am involved with began a campaign they called “friend-raising.” They suggested that members host events such as dinners, movie nights or other get-togethers and charge an admission that would be donated to the charitable group. The admission and purpose would be announced in advance, of course. The group likened it to a smaller version of a charitable gala.
What is your thought on this? As a board member, I was asked to participate, but was able to offer an alternative. (I am selling artwork at a craft fair, and have pledged the proceeds to this organization.) However, I was unable to articulate to the board why this proposal made me uncomfortable.
Perhaps there is something that I am missing. I would very much appreciate your perspective.
Although Miss Manners does indeed know what is bothering you, she is not sure it would be a good idea to tell the board.
Presuming on friendship to get into other people’s money — including posted gift registries and personally targeted sales campaigns — is so commonplace that doing it for good works seems benign by comparison.
But it seems even odder to you, and certainly to Miss Manners, that people should be willing to embarrass their own friends into spending money in ways that those friends may not have wanted to do. Really? Is it all right, or even virtuous in a good cause, to embarrass your friends?
The rejoinder is always the worthiness of the result and the supposed impossibility of accomplishing it in any other way. Children whose school activities are in need of funds are now routinely instructed to accost their neighbors and parents’ friends with commercial trinkets for sale and even to write fundraising letters to strangers.
Didn’t they used to organize car washes, bake sales, band performances and other activities of their own? Isn’t it more self-respecting to charge for real services than to wheedle friends?
You have proposed doing so, and Miss Manners congratulates you for that and for shrinking at charging admission for entertaining your friends. The only hope she can offer in explaining this to others is to point out to them that so very many demands are now made on people by their friends that it might be practical to think of offering desirable alternatives.
Dear Miss Manners:
We are having a surprise 50th birthday party for my mother. We would like to do just appetizers and bite-size desserts. The party starts at 7 p.m. Is this okay, or should we serve a buffet-style dinner?
What you have proposed serving is the menu for a tea party. Serve it at 7 and your guests will think it paltry. Serve it at 4 and Miss Manners assures you that they will think it lavish.