Adoption FundraisingEtiquette-compressed

Heaven help me—I really don’t know if I want to open up this adoption fundraising can of worms. Sigh. I’ve sat on this Dear Abby column for a while and debated whether to blog on it or let it slide. This is a no-win situation for me, with people on both sides of the adoption fundraising debate having strong opinions. (Plus, my blog and show last week on The Child Catchersa book critical of religion’s involvement in promoting adoption, drew enough controversy to last me for a while.) But, I’m nothing if not all for discussion, and while I don’t agree with Dear Abby’s response, I’m also uncomfortable with how adoption fundraising is so often playing out these days. Oh, what the heck—here goes nothing.

Dear Abby received the following question on fundraising to pay for adoption:

Some friends are in the process of adopting two children internationally. Early on, they had a garage sale with the proceeds going toward the adoption. I was excited for them and wanted to help.

However, this was soon followed by more requests — for yard sale donations, two more garage sales, the “opportunity” to buy expensive coffee online, a fundraising dinner and then a solicitation to provide a “virtual shower” of plane ticket money.

I have never been asked for money for the same thing in so many different ways in such a short time. I am increasingly disgusted and put off by their continued pleas for money. Am I wrong to be so upset about this? — A Little Ticked Off

Dear Abby’s response, as is so often the case, misses the mark:

DEAR TICKED OFF: It appears your “friends” are taking advantage of your generosity. It will continue for only as long as you permit it.

Are you absolutely sure this couple is really in the middle of the adoption process and not using the money for some other purpose? Before donating anything else, you should find out.

OK, first off, Dear Abby, wake up and smell the coffee: chances are exceptionally good that Ticked Off’s friends are really adopting. The cost of international adoptions (and US infant adoptions) is very high, and more and more people are fundraising to adopt. Welcome to the 21st century. However, much as it pains me to admit it, you may have a point on the part about taking advantage of friends’ generosity.

I don’t dispute that some people need to fundraise in order to afford the cost of adoption. I don’t inherently see anything wrong with this. However (and this is a big however), if you want to, or absolutely need to, raise money in order to adopt, I think you have to be very aware of fundraising fatigue, and I don’t mean your fatigue.

Most of us, regardless of how social we are, run in fairly small social circles. Unless you are careful, most fundraisers are aimed at our social circles, which means the same people are asked over and over again. This can soon become exhausting.  It’s easy to say that we are simply inviting them to a dinner, or giving them the opportunity to buy online coffee, baskets, cookware, or whatever, but many friends will feel an obligation to come to the dinner and buy the coffee, baskets, or cookware. And if we are being truly honest, we want them to feel this obligation because we want to raise money.

Affording Adoption Costs

Before you even consider fundraising, take a good look at all the ways you could pay for this adoption, including budgeting, working extra hours, adoption grants, and adoption loans.  Consider adopting a US waiting child from foster care, which costs you almost nothing, plus you will usually receive a monthly subsidy to help with expenses. Creating a Family has extensive resources on adopting from foster care, as well as on adoption grants, adoption loans, and other ways to help you pay for the cost of adoption. We did a terrific Creating a Family show on How to Afford Adoption, where we talked about all these options for how to pay for adoption. Our guests were Becky Fawcett , Executive Director of Help Us AdoptJulie Gumm, author of Adopt Without Debt: Creative Ways to Cover the Cost of Adoption; and Cherri Walrod, Director of Resources 4 Adoption. I personally don’t think you should fundraise unless you’ve exhausted all your other options for paying for the adoption, especially tightening your budget. I’m always amazed at how much money I fritter away on non-essentials such as a quick stop at Starbucks or The Dollar Store. This was a great show.


Develop an Adoption Expenses Fundraising Plan

If you decide to fundraise, I think it helps to set up a fundraising plan in advance. I realize this is problematic since at the beginning you don’t know how much fundraising will be necessary because you don’t know how much money you will raise with each event, but you can at least make a stab. The goal of fundraising is to raise money without becoming a pest.

Four Rules of Adoption Fundraising Etiquette

  1. You only have so many “bites at the fundraising apple” so focus on those with the greatest moneymaking potential.
  2. Don’t continually “hit up” the same folks—spread out your efforts. General rule of thumb—ask each person to no more than two fundraisers, preferably just one. Mix up your adoption fundraising to include fundraisers aimed at the general public, such as garage sales and selling baked goods at a town festival.
  3. Give real value for the money.
  4. Think twice before asking for outright donations.

Adoption Fundraiser Etiquette Rules in Action

Let’s apply my four rules of etiquette to Ticked Off’s friend’s fundraising approach.

Three Garage Sales: How much money you make on a garage sale is directly related to how much stuff you have to sell and location. The sale itself is for the general public, rather than just your circle of friends, but you often ask your friends to donate items and help with the sale. You should ask them only once. If you’ve got a really great location and if you like the process, go ahead and have all the sales you want, but usually your returns diminish with each subsequent sale. Your good friends will know you are having the second and third sale and can volunteer stuff or their time if they want to without your having to ask.

Online Coffee Sales: Most people are pretty attached to their particular brand of coffee, so for me, this isn’t a very good money making idea, but maybe my coffee snob tendencies are showing and it would work for others. You’ve already asked your local friends and family to donate items and help with your first garage sale and are going to ask them to a fundraising dinner, so use this fundraiser for only your out of town friends and family.

Fundraising Dinner: If it’s spaced fairly far apart from the garage sale, I don’t see any problem “hitting up” local family and friends for a dinner; however, you need to make it special. Knock yourself out to make it “an event” by serving food a cut above average, providing entertainment (dancing, music, talent show), and decorating the venue. In other words, make it fun and worth their contribution.

Virtual Shower: No matter what you call it or how cute you make the invitation, a virtual shower for adoption travel cost is a request for money. I think you should be extremely cautious about asking for outright donations of money. Many people find it offensive, and no matter what you say going in, it is hard not to be hurt when someone doesn’t give. It has the very real potential of doing permanent damage to a relationship.

P.S. #1 I’ve taken Dear Abby to task before in a much more forthright way in Dear Abby: You’re NUTS–Fostering Is Not A Solution For Infertility Or Adoption.

P.S. #2 You might also enjoy reading about how some adult adoptees feel about adoption fundraising in two posts at one of my favorite adoptee blogs, The Adopted Ones —Fundraising Thoughts and  My Comment to the Post “Fundraising thoughts”. Make sure to read all the comments. Really really insightful.

What rules of adoption fundraising etiquette would you add or do you think I’m completely off base.

Image credit:  _Dinkel_