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Charitable Race Donations: How to Politely Ask (And Decline)

We asked a few etiquette experts to share advice on how to handle these potentially sticky situations.

The running community is phenomenal when raising money for those in need with charitable donations.

Not only are there countless races dedicated to charities, but many runners also use their own goal races as a way to draw attention and collect contributions to causes that are personally important to them.

Still, it can be uncomfortable asking family, friends and colleagues to support a fundraising goal. It can also be awkward on the other end: what if you need or want to say no?

We asked a few etiquette experts to share advice on how to handle these potentially sticky situations.

Be selective with whom you ask

“If you don’t know the names of their kids or the colleges they went to, or the names of their pets, don’t ask,” says Patricia Rossi, an etiquette coach and author of Everyday Etiquette: How to Navigate 101 Common and Uncommon Social Situations. “You want to be fairly close with people.”

But it is okay to ask running acquaintances if you know they have a particular interest in that cause or organization.

What about your bosses? Assuming you are on good terms and know a few personal details about them, it’s fine to ask.

But Rossi says, “Ask the boss last in case he/she tells you can’t ask other people” in the office.

It’s not always about what you say but how you say it

Approaching people in person, or by phone, email or through social media is acceptable, experts say. If you are sending an email or posting to social media, choose your words carefully.

“The tone should be upbeat and positive with a brief, yet moving explanation about the organization and why you are supporting it,” says Lisa Gaché, founder of Beverly Hills Manners, an etiquette coaching company. “Let your recipients know that even the smallest donation makes a significant difference.”

Even if you haven’t received donations yet, express gratitude for people’s consideration of your request.

Rossi says if you are posting to Facebook, address your message to family and friends and avoid using the word “money.” Requesting a “contribution” or “donation” is more appropriate, she says.

RELATED: Charity Running: Follow The Rule of Thirds To The Finish Line

Set limits

Don’t approach friends or relatives who may be struggling financially. You also shouldn’t hit up the same people for contributions more than once a year, Rossi says.

“Not unless it’s your sister, brother, parents or your three best friends,” she says.

If you are raising money for more than one cause in a year, Gaché suggests having separate contact lists for each.

“Never double dip your requests,” she says.

Say “no” politely

If you receive a request, it’s acceptable to decline, but do it gently. You don’t necessarily have to provide a reason, but a sincere explanation could prevent the person from feeling offended, experts say.

Rossi notes that it takes a lot of courage for some people to seek donations, so be kind.

“You could say, ‘I’ve already made a commitment to that charity or cause, but thank you for asking,’” she says. “You want to end with, ‘Thank you for including me.’’’

You could also politely decline by saying you already gave to your charitable causes this year.

If you don’t have money to give, take a light-hearted approach, Rossi suggests.

“You can just say: ‘Times are tight. I shouldn’t have gone to that Drake concert or that wine tasting,’” she says. “Humor levels everything.”

Gaché says if you can’t contribute financially, you may want to offer to be a race volunteer or show your support in another way.

RELATED: Don’t Even Think About Crowdfunding Your Race Costs