You support a charity, and we're friends. But do I really have to donate?

Chris Pace for Bundle
My sister-in-law works for a nonprofit dedicated to the protection of marine life. It's a great cause, but not one I'd contribute to if she didn't work there. We go to their benefit every year, but beyond that, haven't given. Lately, they've been dropping hints, even about "small contributions." Is there a nice way to decline, or should we just pony up?

These are hard times for bluefin tuna. To a lesser but significant extent, they're also hard times for nonprofits-drumming up donors amid 10 percent (and higher) unemployment is only slightly more pleasant than becoming sashimi. Let's assume that your brother and sister-in-law's nagging arises from genuine concern about the collapse of marine life, rather than the opportunity to guilt-trip you.

It's reasonable for them keep you abreast of news and opportunities to contribute-to invite you to the annual benefit, for example, which you seem happy enough to attend. Apart from that, however, they should remember that their work is their work, not yours. Your sister-in-law's job shouldn't mean 24-7 charitable solicitation for you, no matter how worthy the cause. (If she worked for QVC, you'd probably be under constant pressure to buy appliqued sweaters.)

Meanwhile, how can you respond? One way out is to take the opportunity to think about how you want to handle charitable giving for the year. You're already making a donation to this cause through the benefit. Would you feel comfortable adding, say, $25 to this amount, knowing that on top of its global value it would delight your brother and his wife? Or do you want to donate it somewhere else? Or do you just plain need to keep the cash? It's your money; you get to decide. Either way, it's a good year to consider how and where you want to help out.

Do that, and you can reply to your family development officers honestly. Either tell them that you'll make a further small donation in their honor, or say that you've apportioned your giving for the year and have already carved out as much as you can for the fish. Then make good on your commitments. That should end the conversation — at least until next year.

Feeling short-changed, slighted, or just uncomfortable? Email your questions about money and etiquette to, or submit via

Related Links:

Awkward Dollar: On vacation with friends, does sleeping on an Aerobed merit a discount?

Do I have to go to your school auction because you sponsored my marathon?

How to donate to charity