Advice Columns

Miss Manners: School seeks donations from unsuspecting grandparents

Q: Early in the school year, we received a request from the advancement director of the parochial school where our son attends kindergarten, requesting the addresses of his grandparents. The initial correspondence suggested that the school was looking to “build relationships” and hoping to invite grandparents into the school for various activities with the students.

With the grandparents’ permission, I provided the school with their addresses, and the grandparents subsequently received an invitation for a Grandparents Day event months ago. Now, long after that event, the grandparents report that they received a letter from the school requesting donations.

Does this qualify as “building relationships”? Isn’t this more or less a tacky bait-and-hook scheme? Am I wrong to be offended?

When I request that the grandparents’ contact information be removed from the school’s database, should I explain why?

A: Unfortunately, Miss Manners has found that people are reluctant to define a relationship as anything but a financial transaction. (Look at how many people don’t consider themselves married unless they spend thousands on an over-the-top wedding reception.)

By all means, let the school know why you are requesting that your parents’ information be removed. They should be aware that when you provide contact information for specific events, those are not blanket invitations to ask for money:

“I’m afraid my parents were not expecting to be solicited for fundraising. If it is possible to keep them only on the grandparent social events list, then they are happy to remain there. But if there are not separate lists, kindly remove them, and I will let them know about any pertinent social events for the school.”

Q: Is it rude to scream in a shrill voice in crowds? I am so tired of having my eardrum ruptured by screaming girls and women at social events.

A: Yes, but it is also presumptuous to assume that those shrill voices are limited to one gender.

Q: My husband and I have lived in this neighborhood for over 30 years, and many of our neighbors have lived here for over 40 years. As you have surmised, we are all older than dirt.

Over the years we have done many favors for the neighbors, like taking in mail or feeding cats when they are out of town, and were glad to do these favors.

Now some people are getting to the point that they cannot stay in their houses without sustained weekly help, and they expect us to provide this help. I feel that I created this expectation by gladly doing so much in the past, and their feelings will be hurt if I draw the line.

But I want to draw the line. How do I handle this?

A: By stating that you are similarly older than dirt and don’t have the energy or means. As a kinder way to do this, Miss Manners suggests: “Oh, I’m afraid we don’t feel properly equipped to help you with the frequency and manner you require. Perhaps we can help you look into a service that checks in on you and does errands on a weekly basis. We may need the same service ourselves someday soon, so we would be happy to help do the research.”

Judith Martin writes the Miss Manners column with help from her son, Nicholas Ivor Martin, and her daughter, Jacobina Martin. Send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, MissManners.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.

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