Ask Abbie: Reader trying to find nice way to say no to fundraisers

Published 11:13 am Saturday, April 13, 2013

Question: I am constantly approached at home and at work by neighborhood kids and parents to buy various fundraising items. I hate to say no but I really don’t want most of what they are selling and it’s not like I have a lot of extra money to spend. I have tried to say no nicely but after a little bit of pressure from the parents or from the sad looks I see on the kids’ faces I feel guilty for not buying and usually end up getting something.

It’s gotten to where I try to avoid the kids and parents when I see them coming. Do you have a better way for me to say no so I don’t end up caving in? 

Hates to say no

Answer: The year was 1917. The place was a school cafeteria in Muskogee, Oklahoma. The event was the earliest recorded Girl Scout Cookie sale. The cookies were baked and sold in that cafeteria by the girl members and their mothers. Almost 100 years later the Girl Scouts are still selling cookies but some things have changed; no longer do the girl members and their mothers bake the cookies nor do those who want to buy cookies have to go pick them up. Those “can’t-eat-just-one” delights are now brought to the customer and are often found waiting for purchase on the way in and out of many popular establishments.

I am certain neither The Girl Scouts, nor any of the other non-profits who have followed suit, feel the slightest amount of guilt for having adapted their sales efforts in response to the increased pace of today’s society. Instead they are likely to recognize the change as a smart and appropriate reaction. Once you alter your response to their fundraising efforts you must also begin to see your reaction as smart and appropriate based upon today’s increasing economic pressures. By doing so you will avoid any possible feelings of guilt likely to arise in the future if you become unable or unwilling to contribute directly to every single request brought to your doorstep.

As a way to implement your new change, commit to making a once a year contribution to each of the organizations from which the solicitation efforts in question originate. For instance, suppose you are asked to participate in fifteen different fundraisers from six different organizations. Since you will have made your yearly donation to each of the six you will be free from having to give to all fifteen and from being seen as showing favoritism amongst those who ask you to contribute.

Regardless of how much you decide to give to each of the six you will have earned the right to say “Thank you for thinking about me but I have already given my yearly allowance to your organization.” Keep in mind no one has to know how much you give. Should you feel the need or desire to give more than your yearly donation suggest, to the parents or to the non-profit administrators, a couple of innovative fundraising ideas such as auctions or run/walk sponsored events and then volunteer your time to help make them happen.

The next time you see an approaching parent or child with that “don’t-you-want-to-buy-something” look in their eyes, rather than dread and try to avoid the confrontation, embrace and welcome them with a warm smile. Never underestimate the power you have to set the tone of any meeting or conversation. Make a decision to exude positive rather than negative energy so all those with whom you come in contact will respond in support instead of with resistance. Yes your freezer may not be quite as full this year of cookies but the organization using these temptations to generate funds will still benefit from your generosity. In the long-run not only will your pocketbook thank you but so will your waistline as you become increasingly able to tighten the belt around each.