Guest post – Because I am a Girl

I am thrilled to be part of Plan Canada’s Because I am a Girl program. I am currently fundraising for this incredible cause and shared my tips on how to raise funds (without ruffling feathers).

The etiquette of fundraising: How to ask your friends and family to raise money for a good cause

Karen Cleveland

Karen Cleveland tackles all things etiquette from the traditional to the taboo on her blog, Finishing School.

When it comes to fundraising, we often get asked the same question: “what’s the best way to ask friends and family to donate?”  That’s why we’re honoured to have today’s blog written by Karen Cleveland, who tackles all things etiquette from the traditional to the taboo on her blog, Finishing School. She sincerely believes good manners make the world a better place.


There is no shortage of great causes to support—though we can all sometimes feel like our philanthropic interests may outpace our social circles. Feel sheepish about asking for money? Worried about repeatedly hitting up the same folks? Where there is a will, there is a way. And you can continue to fundraise without becoming a social pariah.

Here are my 7 etiquette tips on asking your friends and family for a donation:

  1. Be knowledgeable about the cause you’re supporting. If you can speak with conviction  about it and your friends see how fired up you get, they will be more motivated to support you. Being able to answer their questions with ease, instills a sense of faith in those you’re approaching for donations.
  2. Get comfortable asking, and comfortable being told no. Maintain a ‘no hard feelings’ policy and never put people on the spot. If your request is declined, thank them anyway and move right along in the conversation.
  3. Mass emails or Facebook blasts get lost in the clutter. When we see we’re one of 150 people on a message thread, it begets apathy, as we assume the other 149 will give generously. Small group settings or face-to-face forums are great to tell people about what you are up to and gauge their interest.
  4. Use your discretion about what elements of your cause fit your audience. Your parents’ friends might not be the intended audience for a raucous cocktail party fundraiser – but they might jump to support the book swap you are organizing.
  5. Take varied approaches and respect the boundaries. If your company has a bulletin board for such purposes, use it to spread the word. Tweeting from your company’s twitter account? Not so good. Soliciting from someone who reports to you might be construed as bullish, so best to avoid.
  6. Understand the fine print. Is there a tax receipt available for donations? Are you asking your friend to sponsor you, or are you asking her to run 10km along with you? Anticipate the logistical concerns of those you’re speaking to and be able to address them.
  7. Thank people like it is your job. By supporting your charitable interests, someone has gone above and beyond for you, and that deserves a heartfelt thank you, in writing. Here’s a sample thank you message that you can modify.

Sample thank you message

Dear [generous donour],

Thank you so much for your support of the [amazing cause]. I’m pleased to share that, with your help, I was able to raise [an outrageous amount of money] last month. The funds raised help support [details of impressive project] in [location].

You can check out more about [impressive project] at [].

In gratitude,


How to pick which charitable fundraisers to attend when you’ve only got so much money to give

Q: My friends are really active in the charity sector and sit on fundraising committees. Inevitably, one of them is always hitting me up to buy a ticket to a fundraiser, to the tune of $100 to $200. I wish I could afford to go to them all, but it gets really expensive—and I’m not even really interested in some of their causes. Can I pick which ones to support or do I have to go to them all?

-Cash broke, karma rich


There are no shortage of great causes to support—and good on the intrepid hustlers out there raising money for them! But it’s not realistic to support every charity in your city. In fact, you might actually feel like you’re making more of an impact if you focus your donations on the charities you really care about.

Your friends’ philanthropic interests aren’t mouths around a table that you have to dole out equal portions to. If the request is by email (or, cringe, Facebook), respond in that same medium explaining that you’d love to support their worthy cause, but that your charitable budget has been allocated elsewhere. And then do just that: allocate your budget however you like, towards the causes that you get really excited about supporting.

As an addendum, if there is a cause that you are particularly keen on, why not consider getting involved with it yourself? Supporting your friend is an excellent way to start, but perhaps it’s just the beginning.

(First published on She Does The City, March 2013)