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)

All devices off of the table


(A friend of mine introduced me to the term “topless meetings”. Before you forward this to your HR manager, the expression refers to a tabletop staying free of devices during meetings. No laptops. No iPhones. No iPads. No Blackberries. Nothing that requires a charge. The idea underpinning device-free meetings is that such gadgets can prove more distracting than helpful. Ever had to reiterate a point because it was lost on someone reading an email (or checking Twitter, or any other activity our handhelds gloriously afford)? Or worse, had to ask for clarification because you were more caught up in your iPhone than the discussion? Therein lays the case for banning devices from meetings.

How meetings are conducted varies widely by company, and drastically by sector. So before crafting a memo lobbying for (or against) topless meetings, take careful stock of how meetings go down in your office, and of course, how critical your device is to your role.

When you pack up for your next meeting and look longingly at your phone, consider…

Are you chairing the meeting?

Permissible to bring your device, but plan to talk. A lot. If you are easily tempted to check your phone to the point it may affect your ability to lead the meeting, perhaps leave it at your desk.

Are you responsible for taking notes and sending a follow up?

Your task requires full concentration, so take notes eagerly. Having a calendar might be handy for follow up scheduling purposes, so be ready to whip one (electronic or paper) out.

Room full of clients or a very serious meeting topic?

Writing notes by hand sends an obvious signal to those around the table that you’re fully present. If taking notes on a phone, they might (might!) wonder if you’re working or playing as you type away.

Is your name on the company plague out front?

By all means. Do whatever you like, boss.

Whether your phone stays on the table in front of you, or tucked away at your desk, be mindful of the chorus of rings and beeps it sends off. Silent or whisper quiet tones are office friendly. And check your settings to see whether your phone previews text that might not be ideal for the office.

(First published on She Does The City, October 2012)

Is it ever okay to tuck your napkin into the front of your shirt?


Yes, if you are eating a meal that you just ordered from the children’s menu, tuck away, otherwise, no. Napkins stay on your lap — if you have to leave the table, they go on the chair, not the table, as no one wants to see the physical evidence of what you’ve wiped off of your face.

The only other expectation to when it is ok to tuck a napkin into your shirt is if you are applying pressure to a wound. Which shouldn’t be done at the table, anyways.

(First published on She Does The City, August 2012)

Office attire for the dog days of summer

Office attire for the dog days of summer

The summer blazer of our dreams: Smythe Pajama Blazer in Cobalt. WANT!

Fall and winter in Canada beckon for wools and knits—dressing for the office is a cinch. And while my heart aches for the Bay Street gentlemen I pass on my morning commute, braving scorching days in head-to-toe wool while looking so handsome in those well cut suits, it is possible to feel comfortable and look pulled together during the warmer months.

  • If you are in an active job or walk to work, a pair of teetering heels don’t make sense. That doesn’t mean the same flips flops worn puttering around on the weekend are the answer, either.  A pretty pair of flats or loafers are both functional and chic for the office, or for commuting.
  • Work-worthy fabrics shouldn’t be too sheer or tight (check in natural lighting to see if your underthings are showing through). Ensure that the neckline and sleeve cut mitigate any rogue bra straps from peeking out and find a bra that has souped up straps you can move around.
  • Keep a basic blazer or cardigan at the office and toss it on when the A.C. is cranked, or when a meeting calls for it. In the same way that leggings are not pants (they aren’t), camisoles are not tops – they are lingerie.
  • Fewer things ruin an otherwise polished look more than seeing someone who can’t walk in her heels. Only buy shoes that you can comfortably get around in. Feet should be kept groomed and neat, otherwise, please, don’t show them. No gnarly calluses or chipped polish.
  • Open toe shoes are often verboten in very corporate environments, though an inventory around the office or a scan of your HR policy should confirm if they are welcome at yours. If there’s a green light on open toe shoes, they should still be office appropriate, so no flip flops, or strappy stilettos—nothing too beachy or cocktaily.
  • Skirts and dresses can sit differently without tights on underneath. Try them on to check they aren’t too sheer or too short to be worn with bare legs to the office. If you can sit comfortably in a skirt without having to tug at the hemline, then it is likely a good length—and that is usually an inch or so above the knee. If you are braving a hemline that is a bit shorter (please, not *too* much shorter at the office), keep the rest of your outfit and shoes more modest to balance the look.
  • If the idea of adding powder to your face on a hot day feels icky, try blotting papers instead to soak up grease and freshen up.

(First published on She Does The City, May 2012)

Keeping Peace on the Streets – Cycling Etiquette

Keeping Peace on the Streets – Cycling Etiquette

Keeping Peace on the Streets - Cycling Etiquette

Fresh air on a bike trumps a cramped subway commute any day, particularly when the weather warms and spring fever sets in. The rules of the road, whether for safety or for keeping the peace, apply to everyone, regardless of how many wheels they are riding on. Sadly, road rage isn’t limited to those in cars.

The tenets of being a civilized cyclist are more than just being courteous: they ensure safety. Andrea Garcia, Director of Advocacy at the Toronto Cyclists Union offers up some advice for sharing the streets.


  • Ring my beeeeeell! Unlike car horns, which are the audible equivalent of an expletive and a fist shake, bike bells sound gentle and friendly. Use bells gratuitously to let everyone know you are close by. (I hope this song is stuck in your head now, too.)
  • Move predictably. Pass on the left (just as you would when driving on the highway), merge gently with cars and other cyclists and always signal your intended direction.
  • Be smart. Follow up the rules by obeying traffic lights (ahem, red lights), and be wary of anything that stunts your awareness, like music cranked in your ear buds. If your bike tires are larger than 61cm (unless you are four years old and peddling like hell on your tricycle, this likely applies to you), stay off of the sidewalk.


  • Listen for those bells! People on bikes don’t have booming car horns, so keep your ears open for that cautionary ‘ding’.
  • Be mindful of making rights. When turning right, be sure to check your mirror and blind spot to ensure a cyclist is not in your path.
  • No one wants a door prize. Watch when opening your door and remind other passengers in your car to please do the same.

For more advice from Andrea, check this smart video.

~ Karen Cleveland | Photo from

(First published on She Does The City, May 2012)