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Sticky Situations: Saying No to Charity

Quite a few of my colleagues are eager volunteers who often collect charitable donations. I value their contributions to our community but my spouse was told, right after the holiday break, that his position would be abolished. What is the appropriate way of declining all of the upcoming requests?

Sticky Situation:

I am writing in anticipation of charity season in our office. I am a mid-level manager in a very dynamic work environment. Quite a few of my colleagues are eager volunteers. They run, they bake goods, and they organize galas. Their children skate, sing, and dance for causes too. There is also their school, the arts, the park renos...the list goes on and on. I value their contributions to our community but am getting tired of giving to one after the other. A loonie per lap, a toonie for chocolates, five bucks for a draw, a $20 ticket for the all adds up.

Now my spouse has been told, right after the holiday break, that his position would be abolished. This will be effective at the end of March. I have not informed my team members yet. I am still hoping that he will soon find a job. In which case, I won't have to say anything at the office.

He has been a public servant for 15 years. While living up to the expectations of his current position, he is actively pursuing employment. With the government's freeze on many initiatives, the possibilities of him finding another job right away are looking slimmer and slimmer every day. I am feeling quite insecure about his job prospects and am dreading all of the requests for funds from my fellow workers.

What is the appropriate way of declining all the upcoming requests for charitable donations?


In our tough economy, it is bad enough being insecure about one's future, without worrying about what to say when you just can't give anymore. Nowadays, many people like you are concerned about recession etiquette and want to know how to answer to money asks Sticky Situations. Nobody wants to make anyone feel bad by refusing contributions -- and you are also naturally afraid to admit that they simply can no longer afford to give for the betterment of our worlds.

Here are a few guidelines:

  • In times like this, and actually at all times, you should respect yourself and be true to your budget foremost. Set your own limits. Make them annual, seasonal, or monthly, as you wish.
  • Define your charitable objectives and have a clear set of giving rules. Pick a charity of choice or make a prioritized list of favourites. This way, when you allocate within your budget, you will have a personal code of giving for the causes that you identify and empathize with. Should your financial situation change, you will be able to refer back to your objectives and adjust accordingly.
  • Remember, it is always appropriate to say that you have an annual charity budget and that you have already allocated it to your charity of choice. Businesses do this all the time. Use the same principle for your donations.
  • You may add that you would be happy to consider them next year. If you so wish, you may even want to ask your colleague to remind you in advance.
  • You can always offer to contribute your talents and your time, in lieu of money.
  • Honesty also works. When, and if you ever choose to go that route, in the case of a charity that you had supported for many years and simply cannot afford to donate to this year, simply say: "I really believe in your cause and was always proud to support it. Unfortunately, this year I will have to decline but, I do hope to continue to support it next year."
  • Don't feel guilty. Philanthropic giving is a personal choice, so no guilt should be associated when declining to give.
  • Speak to HR and inform them privately of your situation. They may be aware of similar situations within your team and may, as a result, implement a "No solicitation at work" policy.

In conclusion, I wish to acknowledge your honesty. I am certain that many readers are going through similar situations and will be happy to read how to handle this Sticky Situation.

Have a Sticky Situation yourself? Write to and Julie will reply promptly. If you wish she can share your Sticky Situations to guide other readers.

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