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5 polite ways to say no to school fundraiser requests

Generosity is commendable. OK, we get that. Philanthropy, charity, and donating to worthwhile causes can be worthwhile. But what happens when school fundraisers become fund-drainers, especially for the most generous of folks?

Each new school season brings hosts of opportunities for people to participate financially in bake sales, citrus sales, cookie sales, holiday wrapping paper and wreath sales, magazine subscription sales, pizza sales, popcorn sales, raffle ticket sales, rummage sales, special event sponsorships, and other fundraisers.

These appeals may travel home in children’s backpacks. They may come in the form of telephone calls or emails from parent volunteers, or they may be made by students selling door to door. Throughout the school year, parents may field appeals from their own children, as well as those of extended family members, friends, neighbors, coworkers, and others.

Often, school fundraiser requests show up at the workplace. Even the most generous of coworkers may find their altruism (and bank accounts) overtaxed by the endless pleas. Who could possibly afford to sponsor so many causes and purchase such a host of items?

Boundaries may be beneficial, when it comes to school fundraisers.

How can anyone turn down a parade of youngsters with their steady stream of well-minded solicitations? And what if the donation or fundraiser purchase requests come from colleagues or even bosses at work?

Try these five tips for setting courteous boundaries for the virtually unlimited amount of fundraising requests that come along. 

Public domain artwork

NOTE: Written by this author, this copyrighted material originally appeared on another publisher’s site. That site no longer exists. This author holds all rights to this content. No republication is allowed without permission.

1. Tell the truth.

You don't have to shut your window shades or try to hide when youngsters show up with those telltale school fundraising flyers. And there’s no need to duck under your desk or cower behind the counter at work. Try not to be offended when children or teens (or their parents) approach you with requests, but don't lie or make up excuses about turning them down, either. Just be honest.

And, if you're already supporting the same cause, why not say so?

"Thanks, but not this time" works too.

2. Be direct, but polite.

No one needs an excuse for non-participation, when it comes to school fundraisers. It’s not necessary to discuss personal finances or financial woes when declining donation or sales appeals.

A simple "No, thank you" is sufficient, if you choose not to buy anything from a young fundraiser or pitch in financially, particularly if you are unfamiliar with the sellers or their causes.

In fact, it’s not even essential to leaf through the fundraising catalog. It's easier to bow out before you have the promotional packet in your hands and have to give it back to the earnest sellers. Why waste young people's time, as well as your own, when you truly are not interested?

Just wish them well with their endeavors, and send them on their way.

3. Consider offering a small donation, rather than a purchase.

If you personally care about the fundraising cause or want to pitch in somehow, you can usually make a modest gift, instead of buying overpriced items you don't really need. Besides, direct gifts to reputable charities are tax-deductible, which may be worth more to you than costly candles, pricey popcorn, or cookie dough. Just be sure to ask for a receipt.

4. Team up with other parents.

This strategy works like a charm, but it requires complete cooperation. Plenty of families form pacts over this issue. Each supports its own schools, teams, extracurricular activities, and causes. Every family has its own pursuits, which generally include fundraisers. Rather than trading checks every month or two, they might choose to rally around their own kids’ interests.

This tactic eliminates plenty of awkwardness and removes any sense of obligation.

Of course, if your own kid frequently solicits fundraising sales from others, then it is common courtesy to reciprocate as much as possible when their kids come calling.

5. Ask your employer to post a fundraising policy.

Workplace solicitations can be awkward, particularly if bosses or other influential folks are circulating pleas on behalf of their own kids. Many employers have clearly worded fundraising policies to guard against this potentially sticky situation. Posted notices can eliminate plenty of unnecessary pressure for everyone.

Remember, fundraising participation is voluntary.

Times are tough. Many families simply can't afford to shell out big bucks for a tiny tub of processed cheese or a compact can of cashews. Even those who welcomed fundraising pleas in the past, may choose not to do so now.

School and club fundraisers can offer excellent opportunities for young people to defray activity expenses and learn money management skills. Still, adults need not feel that their participation is mandatory. A polite decline is perfectly acceptable, when it fits the bill.

Adapted from public domain image.

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  1. You know there are fundraisers that are worth saying yes to like or some of the ideas at

    So you don't always have to say no.

    1. Good point. These tips apply when the requests at work become so plentiful as to be problematic (or to prevent that from occurring).


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