THE BLOG
11/20/2012 10:30 am ET | Updated Jan 20, 2013

Donor Etiquette 101

Despite the old adage "beggars can't be choosers," no one should ever have to choose between maintaining their dignity and receiving help. Although the majority of us mean well when we attempt to help those in need, at times we go about it in a way that can be insensitive or even rude. Regardless of someone's unfortunate circumstances, no one receiving help wants to be viewed or treated as a poor, helpless soul. Therefore, during this year's season of giving, remember the following dos:

Do ask lots of questions from the experts and be open-minded to their suggestions. Although, our hearts are in the right place, we don't always know what's best for someone else; especially when it's someone we've never met. If you're interested in learning how you can be the most helpful to a cause, a good place to start is by contacting your favorite local non-profit organization and asking what their current needs are.

Do avoid referring to someone in need as "disadvantaged" when introducing them to others. The person you're helping is more aware of their circumstances than anyone else, therefore no need to remind them of their misfortunate by referring to them as "disadvantaged." As much as you may want to pull at the heart strings of potential donors for financial support, be sensitive to the way in which you are describing the people you are serving.

Do give the person you're helping the benefit of the doubt and not assume they're in their situation because they're too lazy or ignorant to get out of it. As we all know, life throws us curveballs that have nothing to do with how hard we work or how smart we are, therefore, don't draw your own conclusions when it comes to the circumstances that have lead to someone's situation. Try to be as open-minded and non-judgmental as possible during the giving process.

Do remember to maintain respectful body language when interacting with the person you're helping. People in need benefit most from our support, and not our sympathy, therefore refrain from making puppy dog eyes and pouty lips. Remember to use the same type of body language you would with an acquaintance or co-worker.

Do keep it in perspective. Although your act of kindness will most likely be appreciated, it may not warrant the dramatic reaction you're hoping for. Since it's very difficult for any of us to have to ask for help, be sure not to interpret someone's unenthusiastic response to your kind gesture as their being ungrateful. It can simply be a result of their being shy or even embarrassed.

Do leave the red cape at home. Even though your donation of time or money will most likely have a positive impact on the person(s) you're helping, it's important to keep things in perspective and maintain a level of humility throughout the giving process. Your contribution maybe one of the many reasons someone else's life is better, but it certainly won't be the only reason.

And when in doubt on proper donor etiquette, simply remember to practice the most important rule of them all, "Treat others as you would like others to treat you."