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The Moneyist: My friend emailed to say she had intended to wish me ‘Happy New Year,’ but she was upset I didn’t respond to her email requesting a charitable donation

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Dear Quentin,

My “friend” sent a donation request at Christmastime to a charity of which she is the president.  

I get a lot of requests for donations this time of year, and I tend to support organizations that provide service in my community or that I get direct benefit from, so I ignored the request.

Yesterday, I received an email saying she was going to call and wish me a Happy New Year, but decided not to since I did not respond to her donation email.

She’s always been a close friend, and extended family member. We’ve never had the slightest discourse in the past. Should I bite my lip and send a token donation, or tell her how I really feel, and risk losing a good friend?

John in Palm Springs

Dear John,

Happy New Year! It does feel good to say it, because it’s nice to make someone feel good at the start of a New Year, especially given what we’ve all been through this past year. Omicron has really done a number on the holidays.

Let’s break down the “Happy New Year” greeting, and then the request for a donation. Your friend wrote you a very passive aggressive email. The subtext: “I’m a giving person, yet my righteousness compels me to withhold my good wishes.”

Charity starts at home. If she uses her charitable endeavors to pick fights with friends and find fault with them, and actually sends emails dripping with resentment then something ain’t working in the land of goodwill.

A “Happy New Year” greeting should be expressed without reservations, or not expressed at all. If your friend felt the need to voice her displeasure, she should have waited and done so separately. It’s a petty way to start the New Year.

It’s great that she takes pride in raising money, and helping people. As you say, we all try to play our part in helping others. It doesn’t give her special dispensation to get on her high horse, and dump on her friends right before the New Year.

As for the financial request: People are inundated with requests from people for charities, creative endeavors, birthday fundraisers on Facebook, and GoFundMe appeals for everything from medical emergencies to vacations.

That’s the beauty of living in a democracy. People can ask and you can either donate something, or choose not to. I don’t believe that we are obliged to reply to every request, or explain why we don’t feel like donating to every one that comes our way.

“‘It’s a fatal error to commercialize a friendship.’”

It’s easy to “virtue signal” and lord it over others. Your friend misunderstands the meaning of friendship if she leverages that friendship with an extra dose of “almost a family member” for donations. It’s a fatal error to commercialize a friendship.

You can always send a polite reply — sometimes people just need to be heard — without being guilt-tripped into giving her money. Of course, you could just give her $50 or $100, but no one likes to be manipulated, especially by a friend.

Don’t expect her to like your reply, but a response could go something like this: “Happy New Year! I don’t reply to individual requests for donations, as I make a set amount to my chosen charities during the year. I commend you on your good work!”

Keep it short and sweet. Be warned: If she lacks enough self-awareness to send such an email in the first place, it’s not likely that she will suddenly feel humbled or enlightened by your reply. She may be jonseing for her first fight of the New Year.

The main thing to remember is it’s that this is her stuff that she’s unpacking. Her frustration with you — and, likely, other friends who I’m guessing did not respond to her requests for donations — are her responsibility to process, not yours.

Ultimately, we should always do what we believe is right and not feel strong-armed into doing something that makes us uncomfortable. We can’t base our actions on whether it will make other people mad at us, or not.

It’s her choice to be your friend or not. But I will leave you with a question: Would a “good friend” stop being a friend just because you didn’t make a donation to their charity? If she does, she is setting a low bar for her definition of friendship.

Yocan email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at [email protected], and follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitter.

Check out the Moneyist private Facebook group, where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Readers write in to me with all sorts of dilemmas. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.

The Moneyist regrets he cannot reply to questions individually.

More from Quentin Fottrell:

• ‘Our friends always yearned for a relationship like ours’: My husband of 16 years left me for another man. I don’t want them to live in our properties. What can I do?
• ‘She trusts me completely’: My sister offered to pay off my credit-card bill. I’ll repay her over the next 4 years. Am I taking advantage of our relationship?
• ‘He is the most computer-illiterate person I know’: I was my husband’s research analyst, caregiver, cook and housekeeper. Now he wants a divorce after 38 years.

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