Polite Ways to Say 'No' to Donation and Fundraising Requests

Overwhelmed by school fundraisers and can't contribute? Here are ways to politely decline requests that don't align with your family's financial priorities at the moment.

Using your dollars to make an impact by giving to important causes is definitely a good thing—but it can sometimes get overwhelming, especially if you have kids; there seems to be a constant string of school fundraisers to give to. While it's great if you can contribute, some families might not have the means to donate at every opportunity, and it might be difficult to say "no." As a parent, you're likely juggling many different commitments and responsibilities. Giving to another fundraiser at your kid's school might not fit your priorities at the moment—and that's OK.

"Saying 'no' to a donation or fundraising request typically occurs after I have already accounted for the most immediate needs concerning our personal, professional, and parental responsibilities, therefore determining that the timing is not the most convenient," Dominique Kennedy, communication expert and speech therapist, tells Parents.

4 Scripts for Saying 'No'

Though it may be a little uncomfortable at the moment to decline a fundraising opportunity, knowing your financial limits and honoring your boundaries will save you from spending money out of obligation—and going over budget. Here are polite ways to turn down fundraising and donation requests when you cannot contribute.

An image of two piggy banks.
Getty Images.

"We're focusing on a specific cause this year."

Come up with a few important causes to you as a family, and set aside an amount to give. This way, when you're asked to donate, you can say that you're focused on a particular cause this year as a family.

"For example, if your family is passionate about foster care, then when asked for additional contributions, it's then easy to say, 'As a family, we have decided to focus on supporting foster care charities this year. Thank you for asking'," says Erica McCurdy, a credentialed coach, and parenting coordinator.

McCurdy says focused giving is a great learning opportunity for kids, similar to learning how to budget. "Sharing a giving strategy with the whole family is one way to help teach your children the value and the power of each dollar earned, saved, spent, and given," explains McCurdy.

Focusing your giving allows you and your family to give to causes that are important to you in a way that makes sense for your budget so that when you are asked, you don't feel obligated to give because you have donated to other causes that are more in line with your values. Kennedy suggests a phrase such as, "I have a series of charitable donations that I commit to every year, and I'd like to remain focused on my ongoing commitment."

"We have contributed to several fundraisers already and are unable to participate."

If you have reached your limit on how much money (and time) you can give to fundraising at the moment, simply say you and your family cannot participate right now.

"Sometimes people aren't interested in the cause, the item, or prefer not to attend an event and deal with all the collateral expenses, i.e., the babysitter, new outfit, and fundraising pressures at the event," Alissa Krasner Maizes, financial planner and founder of Amplify My Wealth, tells Parents. You can just say you are unable to make contributions at this time or that you have already completed your charitable giving for the year and cannot commit right now, suggests Maizes.

She also suggests starting off by showing gratitude that they thought of you. "This approach sets a pleasant tone and makes it more enjoyable for everyone," says Maizes.

Offer to spread the word or if ask if there are any volunteer opportunities.

See if you can offer time instead of money. Offer to spread the word to family or friends who you think might be interested in donating, or ask if there are opportunities to volunteer. Maizes suggests trying something like, "Although I cannot contribute at this time, please let me know if you have any volunteer opportunities."

Of course, if this doesn't make sense for you as a parent, it's OK to say "no" to both. Don't feel like you have to say "yes" to something just because you can't give a monetary donation.

Be firm in your financial boundaries and stick to your budget.

If giving is important for your family, come up with a charitable giving budget so when you are asked to donate, you can be more sure of your answer. "Creating this annual amount enables the parent to set aside money each month to meet those charitable donation needs that they prioritize. It also allows them to confidently say 'no' when it doesn't align with their plan," explains Maizes.

It's not always an easy conversation to have, so having a budget helps you spend within your means and manage household expenses while also making room to contribute to important causes for your family.

"Most importantly, this plan empowers parents not to derail their goals at that moment when it is hard to say 'no'...especially when it is your adorable child or their friend," says Maizes. Including your kids when coming up with this budget can also help them better understand your family's financial priorities when you have to say "no."

Whatever your reasons are, it's OK not to participate in every school fundraiser or charitable event—and to put your family's financial goals first.

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