Some Japanese schools or individuals wish to capitalize on the ignorance of non-Japanese martial artists or gaijin (foreigner). If a Japanese 'koryu' is asking you for donations or money to support their endeavors, then you need to take a step back and ask yourself why.
The word gaijin 外人, as you might all ready know means 'outsider' or 'foreigner'. The more polite term in my opinion is a person of an outside country, gaikokujin 外国人 which is the polite way to say foreigner. We can say foreigner with and without contempt. This is a really touchy subject in martial arts in Japan. Racism exists, and the steamrolling of a non-Japanese by Japanese is a reality. It isnt done by all Japanese, but to think it doesnt happen is extremely naive. When youre an outsider, in any sense of the word, you can be treated in a very disposable and discourteous way. Be taken advantage of and even abused, both mentally and physically.
If a school located in Japan has a base of Japanese students then why are they asking foreigners for money? Specifically, why would that school only be asking for money from foreigners on their English site but have no such plea for cash on their Japanese site? Isn't that duplicitous? Even if there are some Japanese martial artists calling out the problems foreigners might not notice due to the language barrier. There is a very serious problem with the mouth watering foreigner and their desire to play samurai or learn martial arts. It's easy to take advantage of such a person.
You can be a made up school. You can teach without menkyo kaiden. You call yourself something silly like Hebi-ryu (school of the snake), but when people engage in this plea for money on one side and claim it costs money to run a martial arts school, well that's just pure nonsense. Be honest and sincere about what you do.
How much does it cost to operate a martial arts school in Tokyo? I will use Tokyo as its the most expensive city to do so in. Well, many schools use community dōjō. I certainly do. How much do they cost? Generally, you can rent space for about ¥1500 Yen to ¥3000 Yen for about 2 to 3 hours so if you have practice once a week for a month you're looking at ¥12000 Yen a month — That's about USD 115. My school is small. I don't have extra swords for visitors or even shinken. Those things get expensive. I rent a room four to six times a month. It's not proper to plead for money publically from certain nationalities but seemingly ignore those of your race.
People will complain about lineages etc. or certificates. The dishonesty in the procedures I mentioned before is worse than the arguments of documents and descent and is, in fact, a disgusting money grab based of some murky explanations. If you're someone outside of Japan and a school is asking for you to donate to them, please be extremely careful. It's not a usual thing for a budoka or sensei to do. If they are asking for specific funds to build a dojo or make a book or DVD, and you want to give then do so at your own risk. Unless you're a long time student of the school, then be prepared to lose your money.
There's nothing wrong with paying for budō lessons or giving a teacher money to support him while he is teaching, but a teacher that has 10-12 students can pay for their school's essential operation. Schools that are renting spaces do not have high overhead at all.
Teaching martial arts is generally a poor man's game. I understand the need for support and money. As someone looking to learn martial arts, I caution you to be very careful about donating for a 'good cause' in bujutsu. Check clearly what "activities" the money is going towards, and if it's being asked fairly of ALL students and fans of the school. Don't be fooled by cool moves and clothing and poses. There is more to martial arts and genuine learning starts with an honest teacher.