You’re a great person with a big heart, but that doesn’t mean you’re willing and able to contribute to every charity you come across. Of course, it’s not always easy to turn down donation requests, which can be frustrating.
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Jodi RR. Smith, president of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting, said a lot of turning down a request to support a charitable cause depends on who’s asking and how.
“When someone posts on social media asking for a cause, if you support the cause, or the person, you can donate,” he said. “If you want to pass, you can literally do nothing. Just scroll through it.”
There is also no obligation to donate if you are not close to the person requesting contributions. Instead, she recommended offering polite words of encouragement, without providing financial support.
“So a high school student from two streets over rings your doorbell asking for money for new uniforms,” Smith said. “If you don’t want to contribute, you just say, ‘No thanks, but I hope your team has a great season.’”
Things can get a little more complicated when someone in your social circle asks you to donate to a cause you don’t want to support.
“It’s up to you to simply decline or decide if you want to share why you don’t support this cause,” he said. “Remember, no explanation is necessary or required.”
When you choose not to donate to a cause, Smith said you have nothing to feel guilty about.
“Your financial health and charitable giving are your private affairs,” he said. “If others are actively pressuring you, that says a lot more about them than it does about your generosity. A vague ‘sorry, not now’ is all you need to say.”
Even if the person asking for a donation is very close to you, Smith said you can still refuse without guilt.
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“If you have any guidelines to give and want to share them, please do,” he said. “But then again, it’s not necessary.”
Emilie Dulles, etiquette expert and owner of Dulles Designs, a custom stationery company, agreed that managing charitable donations can be complicated.
“Charitable giving and giving back to our communities, alma matters and charitable causes can be a daunting and difficult landscape and social landscape to navigate these days,” he said. “Especially given how public any evidence of return can become online or through social gossip.”
Refusing to contribute to a charitable cause should be pretty dry, but Dulles said it’s not always as easy as it seems.
“Choosing one charity over another can strain friendships, create social divisions and in some cases make us feel worse, which is sadly often by design,” he said. “As charities become more professional, more aggressive in their tactics and more technology-driven, ‘Thanks, but no thanks’ is often not enough in terms of proper etiquette.”
If you find yourself in a situation where you feel you can’t refuse a request, but don’t yet plan to donate, Dulles said there are a series of three etiquette steps and progressive strategies to consider. He said it all boils down to being honest, direct and polite.
“The first etiquette strategy is to establish a standard written policy and a verbally practiced charitable donation response—that is, your polite response to their elevator pitch,” he said. “The second-kindest ‘thanks, but no thanks’ to unsolicited charity requests can be explained in terms of privacy and identity reasons.”
For example, he said, you might explain that you prefer to keep your charitable contributions anonymous, so you only donate to organizations you’ve properly vetted.
“The third way is to politely explain that you and your family are simply more committed to a favorite charity, alma mater or cause, which is usually the case and truthfully,” Dulles said.
If the person continues to press you for a donation, she said, compliment her passion for her charity and reiterate your commitment to your philanthropic causes.
When you put yourself in this position, keep in mind that there is no shortage of great causes. You can’t give them all, so don’t feel guilty about picking a few that are close to your heart and sticking with them.
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This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: How do you turn down support for a charity?