Is It Right for Businesses to Ask Customers for Contributions to Charities?

Stewardship

At a store checkout the clerk asked if I’d like to contribute to a charity by adding a dollar or two onto the bill. I found it awkward saying no, especially in front of other customers. I wanted to say that my husband and I are thoughtful givers and we decide together where our contributions will go. Is it right for businesses to ask customers for contributions to charities?

I’ve encountered the same situation, and, like you, find it awkward. In part, it’s that we try to be thoughtful and conscientious in giving; being asked for a spur-of-the-moment decision doesn’t fit that pattern even though the amount is small. It’s also that we may not be familiar with the cause being collected for and haven’t had an opportunity to do due diligence to make sure that the organization handles contributions well. Are the contributions being applied to the need rather than to overhead costs of the organization or simply to support fundraising activities? Checking with charity watchdog organizations like Charity Navigator or the Better Business Bureau is always a smart idea.

Another part of our discomfort is concern over how we appear to others even if we are standing in line with people we don’t know and may never see again. Let me make a confession: The temptation for me is to reply “Not today!” to try to leave the impression that I really am a generous person and if only it were a different day I would contribute. We humans really are a silly bunch when it comes to projecting and protecting our public images!

Let me encourage you to continue doing what you are doing. Be thoughtful. Evaluate the ministries and causes that you support. Be thankful that Christian Reformed ministries such as Resonate Global Mission and World Renew have excellent track records and use support wisely and efficiently. And when asked for contributions, feel free either to contribute or to say no. If you feel the need to say more than that, simply say, “Our family plans all its giving through our church and gives to causes we decide on together.”

About the Author

Rolf Bouma is interim pastor at Dearborn Christian Fellowship, Dearborn, Mich., and teaches in the University of Michigan’s Program in the Environment in Ann Arbor.

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Comments

Whether it is right or wrong for local businesses to ask for charitable donations doesn’t really matter.  They will continue to ask.  It is our response that we are responsible for.  If I don’t want to contribute, I find it easy to simply say, “Thank you for asking, but I’ll take a pass.”  No explanations are necessary.  I do the same for telephone solicitations.

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