By Callie Gordon, Lillie-Beth Brinkman, Helen Ford Wallace
QUESTION: I was on a fundraising committee for a local nonprofit organization. My neighbor knew I was fundraising and told me she really liked the cause. She voluntarily pledged $1,000 to the group. I turned my results in to the committee and bills were sent out. When it came time to pay, she did not respond to any letters or phone calls from the treasurer, president or me. Should I ask her again? Should I ignore it when I see her or keep mentioning it?
Has that ever happened before?
CALLIE’S ANSWER: I am sure this happens a lot. Quit calling and sending bills, I’m sorry to break it to you but she isn’t paying you. Maybe she realized she couldn’t pledge as much or something. Fundraising is hard for this very circumstance. Be sure to count for issues like this to come up next time.
LILLIE-BETH’S ANSWER: That’s a tough one. You were counting on her pledge, and so was the nonprofit that you support and thought she did, too. I think you have to let this go. I am not sure your agreement is legally binding, but even if it is, it sounds like you would have to seek relief in the court system to attain it, a move that would likely signal the end of any neighborly friendliness. Her circumstances may have changed, or maybe she intended to follow through but couldn’t or wouldn’t. Next time, get it in writing if you can, or let the charity handle as much interaction as possible with your donor friends so it doesn’t seem so personal.
HELEN’S ANSWER: It sounds like circumstances changed from when you asked her to when it was time to collect. So, probably, she is unable to follow through with her promise. Chalk up that one to experience and next time get the contribution up front.
GUEST’S ANSWER: Yvette Walker, The Oklahoman night news director and University of Central Oklahoma Media Ethics Chair: Your neighbor probably had good intentions, but if she didn’t sign a pledge form in person or online, you can’t hold her to her offhand comment. I’m sure these things have happened before, because people can say things they really don’t mean.
When it comes to money, agreements always must be put in writing or through a third party, such as a pledge drive phone-a-thon. Good luck getting the money from her, but I wouldn’t count on her contribution.
Callie Gordon is twenty-something, Lillie-Beth Brinkman is in her 40s, and social columnist Helen Ford Wallace is 60-plus. To ask an etiquette question, email email@example.com.