Friday, November 17, 2006

Politely Saying No to Charitable Causes

Law firms are not alone in receiving many, many calls, emails, and letters asking for support of viable, deserving charitable efforts. At my firm we line up behind charities that my lawyers can relate to and champion. Unfortunately that leaves a lot of charities outside our giving, or ability to give. I believe that saying no should involve more than a quick trip to the round file. And I believe that the business community has some measure of social responsibility for helping community take care of itself. To that end, when a request crosses my desk here is what I do.


  • I take the time to look up the local chapter or presence of the organization on the Internet to see what they're doing and the community goal they're working towards. I also look at other individuals and corporations involved in volunteering, giving, and representing (trustees, advisory boards, etc.)
  • If there are connections to their people (i.e. client supported) to lawyers in my firm, or the cause is closely related to other causes that we've stepped up to I will approach the appropriate partners and let them know about the opportunity.
  • If an attorney wishes to support the cause then it will be presented to the business development committee to determine of the firm can provide support.
What I do iwhen the answer is no (whether at initial look or after further consideration):
  • Every rejected cause receives a posted letter from me (on behalf of the firm) stating that we are not able to support them this year.
  • The letter explains that our budgeted giving is reviewed once a year and they are welcome to re-submit at that time.
Community support is far too important to treat lightly. I myself sit on boards of two organizations and know how serious we take the activity of asking for support. At the firm I wish to acknowledge the seriousness of the request and handle it appropriately. Good people deserve diligent effort.

Of course that means that annually their requests are renewed but that seems to be hardly an inconvenience. Who knows when it may come that their cause is the perfect cause. Being a good corporate citizen has rewards at every level!

BTW, the image above is from the winter program at the United States Adaptive Recreation Center in Big Bear Lake, California.... One of the organizations I am passionate about (www.usarc.org).