How To Handle Tricky Matters That Come Up When Kids Ask You for Charity Donations

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You’re a giving person, but that doesn’t mean you have to open your pocketbook every time you’re asked to contribute to a charitable cause — even when the solicitor is a child. While turning down a donation request from a sweet kid can be tough, doing so is perfectly acceptable.

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Whether you’ve just given money to several causes, don’t currently have the extra funds or simply aren’t interested in giving to the charity, how you choose to spend your hard-earned money is your business. However, this can be easier said than done in the moment.

Jodi RR Smith, president of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting based in Marblehead, Massachusetts, said while children fundraising is a classic right of passage, the modern version has taken a tragic turn.

“Nowadays parents upload the email addresses of their unsuspecting friends and family who then receive weekly shakedown messages begging for straight up cash,” she said. “You need not be swayed by electronic or emotional blackmail.”

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She said it’s important to know your charitable giving limits, as you’re the one in charge of your budget.

“Decide how much goes to national [and/or] local charities and which types of causes you prefer to support,” she said. “Then when someone asks, if you have exhausted your budget or it is not a preferred cause, simply decline.”

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Smith also advised knowing your connections and setting personal criteria for who you will donate to. For example, you might only give to nieces and nephews, kids who reach out in person or by phone or those who don’t just contact you when they want money — or whose parents you speak with on a regular basis.

While you know what causes you support, Smith said it can be best to tread lightly when explaining this to a child, especially one you don’t know well.

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“A doorway request may not be the best time or place to explain your particular point of view,” she said. “But again, you can decline without deflating the child’s ego.”

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Smith also said it’s important to decide your giving strategy in advance. Will it be one donation per team or individual per year or something else?

For example, she said if the local field hockey team is having a fundraiser, you don’t need to donate to every player who knocks on your door. Additionally, if your nieces and nephews have multiple fundraisers per year, you might decide to only support one cause for each kid annually.

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Joyce Marter, a licensed psychotherapist and author of “The Financial Mindset Fix: A Mental Fitness Program for an Abundant Life,” recommended preparing a short and sweet response to have on hand for these situations, so you aren’t caught off guard.

“Avoid long-winded excuses that can inadvertently cause a window for you to feel pressured to give — i.e. ‘Oh, that was for a different organization, so maybe you could also donate through me.’  — or cause the child more feelings of rejection — such as saying you only support kids you know.”

She suggested using a compliment sandwich — i.e., compliment, rejection, compliment — to soften your ‘no’ response.

For example, she said you might say, “That’s fantastic that you are raising money for your school. I’m so sorry, but I’m not able to [give] at this time. I wish you the best of luck! I’m sure you’ll do great.”

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Turning down a charitable donation request from a kid isn’t always easy, but Marter said to let go of the undue guilt and anxiety.

“You have the right to choose which causes you wish to support, through the people you feel closest to and in a way that works for your budget,” she said. “Remember, you are modeling to these kids how they can say no and set healthy financial boundaries for themselves in the future.”

It’s important to remember you won’t be the only one who turns the child’s donation request down. In fact, they probably won’t spend much time thinking about it, so cut yourself some slack.

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Last updated: Sept. 7, 2021

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