Mary Killen Mary Killen

Dear Mary: How do I choose who to sponsor for the London Marathon?

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Q. For the past couple of years, many of my sons’ friends have been gamely running the London Marathon for good causes. I received more than 15 emails this year, all asking for sponsorship. As much as I’d like to respond in the affirmative, I am not in a financial position to sponsor more than two at the most. They all know each other, so how do I go about choosing which ones to sponsor?

– R.B., London SW9

A. Send out a group email saying that, as you aren’t able to give generously to each one of them, you will put all their names into a hat and the first two that you pick out will benefit. This way everyone will know your intentions are good and their requests haven’t just been ignored. They will also note how many others are petitioning and how unfeasible it would be for you to comply with this form of crowdfunding in reverse.

Q. Last year my husband and I celebrated our ruby wedding anniversary. We had organised a dinner in London for 100 of our closest friends. We spent hours planning the seating but during the evening, as we were having drinks, an Australian couple whom we have known for years turned up as a surprise. They had flown over specially. We had not invited them as surely no one invites friends who live abroad on the off-chance they might be in the country? Obviously we were thrilled but we couldn’t be nice to them as all we could think about was where they were going to sit. The tables were round and seated ten so it was difficult to fit them in. What do you think we should have done?

– Name and address withheld

A. Dear Mary turned to her Australian culture expert, who insists: ‘Australians have a different approach to social life, thinking nothing of driving more than three hours to drop in on someone for a surprise drink. They are also thick-skinned. So if you had said it was lovely to see them and “You have a drink with us now and go out for supper and come back for the dancing later”, they would not have taken offence.’

Q. I work for a charity but when I ask friends to be on the committee to help raise money they say yes enthusiastically, only for me to discover they don’t turn up to meetings or help with the address list. They only want to get the best tickets for the event which committee members are entitled to. What do I do?

– Name and address withheld

A. Work with what you have. When an offender misses a meeting immediately schedule in a one-to-one telephone call with them. Extracting some names and favours this way is better than extracting nothing at all.