Saturday, August 13, 2016

If I support my friends' charities, shouldn't they support mine?

Does regularly donating to someone's charitable efforts entitle the donor to expect anything in return?

For several years, K.T., a reader in New England, was one of many who received emails from C.V., a former colleague, asking him to sponsor his walk for charity. K.T. did not know anyone suffering from the disease for which the walk was designed to raise funds, but K.T. regularly gave to charities and liked the idea of helping out a former colleague with his efforts.

It became fairly routine each summer to expect the group email from C.V. asking for another pledge, and K.T. obliged.

Earlier this year, one of K.T.'s children decided to take part in a similar fundraising effort, although for a different cause. Rather than send out emails to everyone in his address book, K.T. decided to specifically email those friends whose charitable efforts he'd supported in the past. He also posted a link to his child's fundraising page on his own Facebook page so his Facebook friends could donate if they wanted to.

Many of K.T.'s friends pledged funds to help his child meet his goal. One notable exception was C.V. He didn't respond to or acknowledge K.T.'s email, nor did he like or comment on K.T.'s Facebook post. Even without his support, however, K.T.'s child was able to meet his fundraising goal. Several months passed and K.T. thought little of C.V.'s lack of response.

Then, a few weeks ago, as summer got into full swing, K.T. received the annual email from C.V., asking him once again to pledge funds for his charitable walk. It was pretty much the same group email he'd been receiving for years to which he had responded by donating some money on C.V.'s fundraising page on the charity's website and getting an automatically generated thank you in response.

This time around, however, K.T. is not so sure he wants to donate to C.V.

"After all the years I supported him and his cause, shouldn't he at least have acknowledged the email about my child's fundraiser?" K.T asked. "Wouldn't it be appropriate for him to make a donation after I supported his cause all these years?"

K.T. also asked if it was wrong for him to decide to no longer give to C.V.'s charity simply because C.V. didn't give to his child's charity.

While it would be nice for C.V. to have reciprocated and made a donation to K.T.'s child's charitable efforts, he is under no obligation to do so. Just because K.T. supported his colleague's charity does not mean he should expect anything in return -- other than supporting that charity.

There's also nothing wrong with K.T. choosing not to support C.V.'s charitable efforts any longer, regardless of the reason. If he still believes in the cause -- although it's not clear it was ever a cause close to his heart -- then he should consider giving. But he's not obligated to do so.

While it would be nice to help out friends who have supported you and your causes in the past, it's not required. The right thing with any donation to a charitable cause is to give to support the cause without expecting anything in return. 

Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Simple Art of Business Etiquette: How to Rise to the Top by Playing Nice, is a lecturer in public policy and director of the communications program at Harvard's Kennedy School. He is also the administrator of, a blog focused on ethical issues. 

Do you have ethical questions that you need answered? Send them to 

Follow him on Twitter: @jseglin 


No comments:

"Everyone is doing it" is no basis for doing it yourself

Years ago, after I had left my job as a magazine editor and took a significant cut in pay to become an assistant professor at a liberal ...