DEAR MISS MANNERS: Perhaps you know the drill that charity organizations use to rate their donors: Large donors are "Patrons" and "Benefactors," while smaller donors are merely "Associates."
Although I believe in giving to charity, I was recently between jobs and could not give that much. A $15 check was a real sacrifice for me at that time. I felt slighted when I had to check off the "Associate" box when I had stretched my budget to include charitable giving.
I am not asking whether this fundraising practice is rude; I know that it's always rude to slight or demean people because they have less money. My question is, how much slack do these organizations deserve (because their cause is good) before I decide to stop having anything to do with them? Is there any hope for etiquette in nonprofit fundraising?
GENTLE READER: Not as long as they can succeed in getting donors like you to take this gimmick seriously.
Miss Manners is afraid that it is as common in the nonprofit organizations as it is in business to look only at the bottom line, giving scant consideration to the feelings of the customers -- or even to the possibility of driving away small donors before they are in a position to give more. Doing good is never an excuse for behaving badly, but it is particularly unwise in an organization that depends on appealing to people's own good nature.
Unfortunately, they have discovered that appealing to baser instincts also works. Miss Manners can't imagine why you are insulted to be called an "associate," but if they can make you feel shamed at this rating, perhaps to the extent of giving more than you can afford, they will continue it.
Sensibly, irritating fund-raising practices should have no more effect on what charities you support than objectionable advertising should steer you away from good products. But they both do. If the listings annoy you, you can escape them by asking that your donation remain anonymous.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am currently unemployed, single, with no children. I would like to be employed again. What do I say to people when they ask, "What do you do?" In this society, it is what you do that matters, and not much else. When appropriate, I tell people I'm unemployed, and I will also ask them if they know of any jobs. However, there are times when I feel it is inappropriate to answer the question with "I'm unemployed." Some people subsequently treat me like pond scum once they find out I'm unemployed. (You'd be surprised how often this happens.) I would like to have an appropriate response to "What do you do?"
GENTLE READER: Even when this question is posed as an innocuous conversation-opener, and not by one of those dreadful people who uses social occasions to angle for professional advantage, Miss Manners finds it tedious. She was about to sympathize with you and advise you to treat it as if it were the more general question, "Tell me about yourself."
But hold on. You want to use social occasions to angle for a professional advantage. If you want to hear about job opportunities, you are going to have to tell people what kinds of jobs you can do. The upbeat way of saying "I'm unemployed and desperate" is "As a matter of fact, I'm just now looking for something challenging."