Charity Solicitations Policy

I’ve been getting a fair number of requests for charity donations recently, in the form of signed books and other considerations, so I’m going to post this now so people can refer to it later:

I am a big proponent of charity and charitable giving but I typically restrict my involvement in charitable giving into two categories:

1. Initiatives I begin and oversee myself (including auctions, pledge drives, etc);

2. Initiatives that people I know well directly oversee or play an active role in (Child’s Play, Worldbuilders and Con or Bust are examples of these).

The reason I tend to restrict my involvement to these two categories is simple: I don’t typically engage with charities I don’t know about, I don’t have a huge amount of time to research, and thus I prefer to focus on charitable initiatives I already know about and/or have someone I know and trust vouching for. Likewise, I have a limited amount of material to give away for charitable purposes, and I am legendarily scatterbrained when it comes to fulfillment.

For those reasons, if you solicit me for goods/participation for your charitable event, if I do not know you and/or your charity well the answer is very likely to be no. Indeed, assume that the answer is “no,” unless you hear otherwise from me, within a couple of days. This is entirely due to me, and not you; please don’t take it personally (although if you do take it personally, I’m not sure how you think that will convince me to want to have anything else to do with you).

If you are determined to get something from me for your charitable event/fund drive, the simplest way to do this is to come up to me during a public appearance and have me sign whatever thing it is that you want me to sign during the appropriate time of the appearance (for example, during the signing period would be fine). I typically have no problem signing whatever you might have for me then (although please don’t over do it — respect any signing limits we impose at the particular event).

Please be aware that if I sign something for your intended charity in this manner, it does not imply an endorsement of your particular charity. It means I signed something you put in front of me, which you then donated to the charity of your choice.

I recognize that this all sounds a little harsh but please recognize I do get a fairly high number of solicitations for signed books/objects, autographs and personal involvement in various charitable initiatives. I could not accommodate all of them in any event, even if I had the time to vet them all and decide which ones I am interested in supporting. Also — and please understand this is not meant to cast doubt on your request– I have been solicited before by people who claim to be doing something for charity who have then turned out to be scammers of some sort or another. This has made me doubly careful of who I am seen associating with, charity-wise. This is even the case with people who claim to be supporting a charity I have on my own personal “support” list; if I don’t know you, I don’t know that the money accrued from the donation I provide will go where you say you will. Again, this is about me, not you.


24 Comments on “Charity Solicitations Policy”

  1. Makes sense to me. I don’t ask people to donate to my chosen charities unless I’m making a direct appeal, or you’re running one of your annual “good cause” posts.

  2. Donating to organizations you trust and in a way will help is a LOT of work. That’s why I jumped on the recent spontaneous donations bandwagon here on Whatever — a great way to give to charities because of your implied endorsement. Plus using Vox & Co’s vituperation as motivation is a brilliant bit of icing on the cake.

  3. Totally agree, and it’s not just you. I think George R.R. Martin recently changed his policy on sending backed signed copies of books that people mailed him because a bunch of people were trying to send him books to sign in order to then sell the signed books.

  4. @John Scalzi We’ll add ‘delusions of grandeur” to your list of faults, too. LOL.

    Having been on the receiving end of your charity, I find none of those adjectives to apply. It’s possible you are, in fact, an asshole. But you don’t seem to be a stingy one.

  5. I’ve seen many employees strong-arm their employees into supporting the company’s choice of charity. I find it extremely distasteful for a company to attempt to steer the giving of their employees, employees that may not have much to give. I’ve seen companies enforce expectations through shaming; keeping track of who gives and seeking ‘full participation’. They put their people in a tough spot. Some of those employees are rightfully afraid of not making the payoff.

  6. I can imagine! One morning per month, I do some fiscal bookkeeping and filing for an elderly friend who has always been involved in philanthropy. IN addition to doing a lot of volunteer work (less now that age and health have interfered), she gives what she can. Actually, no, she gives MORE than she can, which is a sore point with her financial advisors; but she believes strongly in charitable giving.

    Speaking as the person who tallies her fiscal and physical gifts each month (she sometimes donates works of art, for example), empties her inbox of requests for more, and files away the requests she wants to accommodate but can’t just now… Even when you limit your giving to JUST the people and causes you know, which is a guideline she had to set, too…. it’s =extraordinary= how many requests come in each week.

  7. Oh, yeah!
    Some of the charities that my mother* gave to called until I blocked the
    I blocked those numbers because they wouldn’t tell me who/what the
    donation was gunna be for (or maybe because the call annoyed me).
    Oh, the letters.
    Oh, So many dead trees.
    I keep up with the ones that said what they were for and didn’t tick
    me off by calling to often or doing a high pressure sales pitch.
    Some “charities” share info about donors.
    They need a rather harsh kicking.

    * My mother is alive and old and informed me that I was now dealing with
    her finances and etc. and that I should bring her vanilla wafers and milk.

  8. So… I guess I won’t mail my request for donations for The Human Fund?

    Back to the woodshed…

  9. @ Laura Resnick:

    What amazes me is not the 95% who ask you to give to their cause once they know you’ve given to others. And, as with amorous attentions, as long as they’re okay with being politely shot down, I’m fine with being asked, though were I high profile like John I’d go the kill-lots-of-birds-with-one-post route. What does kind of amaze me is the 5% who get aggressively antagonistic and, on rare occasion, even vaguely threatening, as if their goal was not only to get shot down but to make sure I’ll have nothing to to with them ever again in the future. I can only assume they either regard insults and threats as a consolation prize or that tactic occasionally works on some people. Probably both.

    I moreover recognize this is one area where I enjoy the privilege afforded by being a non-meek middle-aged man, as people are rather less likely to cow me than someone resisting from a position of less social capital. This also contributes to my empathy for women who deal with the 5% of men who react to having their amorous advances shot down with the same sort of skeezy switch from solicitous to domineering. The thought of dealing with the same sort of entitlement a minority of charitable solicitors evince, but over my body, is puke-worthy.

  10. Well, there goes my brilliant plan for the “Frankly goes to Hawaii” charity fund raiser you cheap bustert! Apparently now that you are a big time author you think you should be allowed to control your image and dictate terms as to how you can be used.


    Seriously, its reading stuff like this that makes me happy for my obscurity. Its sad that this even needs to be put so bluntly (and I bet it will still be ignored by some). Yes, you ‘know’ me but I don’t know you or your intentions so why should I be in your debt?

  11. Even if John could assume that every request is one he would be willing to support, surely he receives vastly more than he possibly could support.

    I have had enough trouble with charities that I do support calling me with special request to reach a certain goal during a seasonal push.

  12. @ Gulliver
    Perhaps some of those are legitimate charities.
    If so they are stupid ones because IMO it is a bad idea for
    a con artist/legitimate charity to share the names of donors.
    A real charity would understand that nobody has a money
    tree (In fact, several real charities have demonstrated to me
    that they do so understand) or a truly awesome goose and
    would understand that they will reduce their income by
    sharing donor data.
    A fake charity that is smart would only sell data for non
    productive clients, as would
    Ok, I don’t want to follow /this/ logic tree!
    Thing with catalogs from the same people who were doing
    business with different names.
    What they did was advertising.
    The first catalog overcharged by, say, 500%.
    The fourth, only 150%.
    And the sixth only doubled the price.
    IIRC, they did quite well.

  13. Well, I didn’t know you had a charity-solicitations policy, and I wouldn’t have asked if I knew. There are some things you just do NOT ask for from writers, unless they know you and you know them. One of those things is free books, whether signed or not. I don’t care if the publisher has given you 15 boxes full of those books at no charge to you, they are still the product of your labors, and as such, should be profitable to you. If you choose to make them gifts, that’s your choice. (Cainen to Dirac? Cainen to Sagan?) I happen to be collecting for one charity, and I find it hard enough to ask businesses that have a very generous policy toward charities. One thing I stress to these people is that I do not touch the money. It is sent by the donor to the regional office in Dayton, and the only benefit that I receive from the donation is knowing that it’s going to a good cause and not into some scammer’s pockets. I’m working for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s, and I think that’s a worthy cause, as my family has been affected on both sides by this disease. I have aunts and uncles that don’t know who I am, much less who they are. Anyway, thanks for sharing the policy, John. Would you be willing to contribute to a charity that would do research to take away the Obin consciousness?

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