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My Friend's Charity Is Breaking My Bank

Sep 04, 2007

by JEANNE FLEMING, PH.D. and LEONARD SCHWARZ

Question: When I told my new neighbor I was participating in a triathlon to raise money for a charity, he volunteered to send in a check for $50. I was very appreciative at the time. But since then, he’s asked me to support him in three different runs for worthy causes. I’ve said yes each time, but this is starting to get expensive. At what point can I say no, and what should I tell him?

Our answer: Here’s what you do: The next time your neighbor asks you for money, tell him that you wish him well, but unfortunately you can’t help out this time. And keep telling him that until he gives up.

Then here’s the next thing you do: Swear to yourself you’ll never put anyone else in the unpleasant position you’re now in.

There’s just one rule when it comes to soliciting this kind of donation: Unless you’re reasonably certain the person will be happy to make one, don’t ask. Your neighbor has been breaking that rule - and we’re not so sure you didn’t as well when you told him about the triathlon.

Americans are by and large an unusually charitable people. But most of us prefer to devote the lion’s share of our charitable giving budget to the causes that matter to us, not the ones that interest our neighbors. So when you ask someone to support you in an event like the triathlon or to buy a box of candy to help fund your child’s class trip, you’re asking them to put their friendship with you ahead of their own favorite charities. That’s asking for a substantial favor - a favor that shouldn’t be sought lightly or, as your neighbor has, repeatedly.

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