Is it really an invitation?

Q. Is it acceptable to ignore RSVP instructions on political fundraiser invitations? These invitations are not personalized but printed, sent to a mailing list and a donation is suggested or required.

B. H., Louisville, KY

A. Normally, I would counsel you to answer an invitation which included an RSVP. The RSVP’s purpose is to let the host of the party know how many people will be attending. Therefore, the point of answering is to indicate whether you will attend or not. However, when a campaign solicitation is disguised as an “invitation” and is clearly sent to a mass mailing list, then it’s acceptable to ignore it. The key here is to determine whether it’s a bona fide invitation or a solicitation piece I have received invitations to fundraising events that were being held at a person’s home. If I know the host personally, then I do the courteous thing and reply.

RSVP is an abbreviation for “répondez, s’il vous plaît” which translates to “Please respond.” The RSVP can be followed by a phone number or other information indicating how to make your response. Whether for a social occasion or a business one such as a retirement or holiday party, one of the most frustrating aspects to the host of a party or event is the failure of guests to RSVP. Recipients often justify their failure to respond by thinking, “I don’t know if we can go or not, so I’ll wait until I can be sure before answering.” Of course, what happens next is that the invitation and the need to respond are forgotten. Meanwhile, the host or organizer is stuck not knowing if the invitee is attending or even if he received the invitation. The best solution is to follow the 24-hour rule. Answer any invitation within 24-hours, even if you don’t know if you can attend. “Hi, this is Sam Jones. I wanted to let you know I received your kind invitation. I can’t let you know today, but I’ll call by next Wednesday with a firm answer. Thanks so much for thinking of me.” Then be sure to set yourself a reminder to follow up.


Unfortunately, for the host or planner of a party or event, the problems caused by non-responders aren’t easy to fix. It may be necessary for them to call the negligent invitee and ask directly “MaryBeth, I’m calling because I’m concerned you night not have received the invitation to my event next Saturday night. I’m so hoping you’ll be able to attend.”

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