how to handle pressure to donate money at work

It’s the topic that never dies — people pressuring you to donate money in the workplace. Two recent letters raise similar questions:

letter #1– birthdays and charity drives in the office

I work in a small office (fewer than 10 people), and there have been two occasions now where people have been asked to donate money: once for an office birthday party, once for charity. In the first instance, I found out after the fact that people were asked to contribute for food and gifts, but “only if you want to.” As for the second one, my boss informed me and another coworker that she had covered our donations. My coworker promptly reimbursed her. I felt really awkward and didn’t know what to do, so I just kept quiet.

I don’t generally buy birthday presents for people in my family, let alone coworkers I barely know, and I feel REALLY odd about my boss giving money to this charity for me. We are not talking about large sums of money in either case, but I’ve only worked there a couple months and I don’t make that much… do I just suck it up and chip in, or is there some way I can bow out gracefully from these types of things without being labeled a cheapskate?

letter #2 — when a manager is the one soliciting donations

I see you have some articles on coworkers soliciting donations at work. What is your recommendation when you have a superior and/or manager asking you for donations, to buy cookies, wrapping paper, or books? It’s a bit uncomfortable.

I am also a long-time consultant at a large tech company, so I don’t always feel as entitled as employees do and it’s hard to say “no.”

I recently received an email soliciting donations in honor of my manager’s son’s 16th birthday. He passed 3 years ago. It was awkward and I felt pressured to donate. Not to mention, I worked with him when it happened and I donated $100 3 years ago to his family and charity of choice. But now under a new manager, we get an email saying she wants to give him a check in honor of his son’s 16th birthday. Is this appropriate?

At that, one email would have been enough. But I received about 5 in the last 2 days on the subject. I feel like I’m a big jerk if I don’t donate any money.

You are not a cheapskate or a jerk if you don’t contribute in these situations. You are in charge of your own financial decisions, and it’s not okay for offices — let alone managers — to pressure you into donating your personal money to anything.

That’s your money, and you decide how to use it. That’s a principle that people should be sensitive to in any context, but it’s especially important at work, because (a) you’re a captive audience, and (b) the dynamics of the workplace can create worse types of pressure than if, say, one friend asks another to donate to something.

So, first, to people who are making these requests at work: Stop and think about how you’re presenting them. Any request for someone to donate their personal money to something should be fully opt-in, not opt-out — meaning that you can present an opportunity to people to help fund something en masse: end a group email, post something on a bulletin board, whatever is appropriate in your office — but do not stop by people’s desks, do not send individual emails to follow up with specific people, and do not report on who gave what. That’s too much pressure in a context where people can’t help but wonder if they’re expected/obligated to participate.

Next, to the people on the receiving end of these requests and feeling uncomfortable about them: When faced with these requests, it’s fine to simply ignore them. If you feel an answer is required, say, “My budget won’t allow me to contribute right now.” Repeat as needed.

Other alternatives:

“I already allocated my charity budget for the year.”

“It’s a great cause, but I can’t.”

“No, thank you.”

That said, if you’re working in a culture where you’re convinced opting out will affect you professionally, then you can always donate $5, consider it the price you pay to work at an annoying company, and move on. Sometimes that’s the sensible option, even if it’s not the stand-on-principle option.

In general, though, if more people felt comfortable saying “no, thank you” and more people felt comfortable accepting “no, thank you” — in all contexts, not just this one — the world would be a much improved place.

{ 320 comments… read them below }

  1. VictoriaHR*

    Jeez, I remember being fresh out of college and working in a call center, and breaking down in my boss’s cubicle because of all the high pressure from coworkers to donate for birthdays, babies, and then a Boss’s Day gift. She was aghast.

      1. Jazzy Red*

        I once gave a boss a boss’ day card, and he looked at the envelope and asked if there was a pink slip in it. Paranoia is everywhere!

  2. Joey*

    Is it really a big deal to donate say $1 to united way campaigns. I don’t think that makes you a bad employer of you strongly encourage. I totally get employers wanting to show the community that their employees step up. A lot of times these campaigns focus on how many employees donate, not how much is donated.

    1. Runon*

      I do not like the United Way and those horrible campaigns at all. I do in fact think it is a bad employer who “strongly encourage”s employees to pay out of their own pockets. If an employer wants to match funds, fine. If they want to give paid time to volunteer, fine. But if you are going to shame, harass, and even penalize staff because they don’t support the UW you are a bad employer.

      1. Joey*

        For $1? Really? And of the ones I’ve dealt with employers match what employees contribute.

        1. Runon*

          Yes for $1. I don’t want my $1 to go to an organization that will use that money to support things I oppose. That’s just absurd. Would you pay someone a dollar to insult you? And even better now my company is paying someone a dollar to insult me too.

          No, they can’t have my money.

          1. Loose Seal*

            I agree with you, Runon. There are some things that the United Way supports that I would never support with money from me directly. Why businesses get into these 100% employee contributions is beyond me?

          2. Jamie*

            Exactly – I don’t care either if it’s only $1.

            To paraphrase Gene Simmons – ‘If I want to give away a million dollars I’ll do that…but don’t you dare try to take one dollar from me…’

            It’s the principle. And if a company wants to say they have 100% employee participation but it’s only for a buck a piece then they can write the check themselves…because acting like there is a high level of participation when it’s for a token amount just means they know how to pressure people into the bare minimum so they look good. It’s a meaningless gesture.

          3. Joey*

            Maybe you haven’t been involved in the uw campaigns like mine. In mine you can designate exactly where your money goes. For example you can choose from dozens of organizations that the UW supports. Could be a church, a homeless shelter, a battered women’s shelter or dozens of other organizations.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              The problem is that a lot of people have objections to the United Way itself, and a portion of all donations go to them for administrative overhead.

              1. Joey*

                Yeah I get that and we have options to work on the clock in a volunteer type role in the community. Although when faced with that alternative the ones that complain about giving try to complain about working in the community to. And we’re organizing it and paying them so its hard to really say they disagree with it. I just find that GENERALLY people who don’t want to donate $1 just really aren’t that into giving back anything to the community.

                1. Jamie*

                  Okay – but if it’s about collecting for charity why doesn’t the employer just donate the $1 – which is a lot less then the hourly wage they’d pay any employee to do the charity work.

                  So it’s really about the employer wanting the employee to give back to the community in the way that benefits them – it’s not about the community. I would absolutely refuse to either contribute or do charity work in this instance – but I do volunteer at an animal shelter in my free time and we donate regularly to several charities of our choosing (and I cannot resist throwing all the cash in my purse into any pail being collected by the VFW or Misericordia).

                  Many of your employees are probably refusing because it’s not their employers business how they contribute to the community and it’s really unfair to just assume because they don’t do it your way it’s not being done at all.

                2. Katniss*

                  What Jamie said. I’d say if a company wants to show how their employees/the company itself helps the community, survey your employees to see what volunteer work they do, voluntarily without pressure from the company. Then brag about that.

                3. Joey*

                  In my org you could go work at the animal shelter. It would just be on the clock for 1 hour and with a group of other employees. I’m not getting how that’s such a problem.

                4. Xay*

                  And then there are people who already donate their time and their money to certain charities and simply do not wish to give to the United Way.

                5. Jamie*

                  In my org you could go work at the animal shelter. It would just be on the clock for 1 hour and with a group of other employees. I’m not getting how that’s such a problem.

                  And I’m not getting how it’s any of the employer’s business. Besides when you volunteer somewhere the first hour isn’t productive. You’re getting set up – being shown what to do …unless you’re literally talking about picking up trash there is nothing to be gained for an animal shelter (for example) to have a swarm of people come in for an hour once a year.

                  Even with real volunteers they coordinate training schedules – you don’t just show up and start walking dogs. I can’t imagine a habitat for humanity site wanting people showing up for an hour either.

                  There is liability involved allowing untrained people around animals and power tools.

                6. Joey*

                  We work with the organizations to tell them what we can offer in manpower. No ones ever turned us down.

                7. Malva*

                  I could not disagree MORE with Joey’s logic. I make donations to schools via, where the individual projects are vetted and I can decide exactly where my money goes – a mural project, a field trip, science lab equipment, etc. I already do very well, thanks, to find great places to send my money.

                  I have ZERO interest to give to any organization that a corporate entity wants to impose on me. And frankly, it’s none of their business to whom I send my donations, either.

                8. Kathryn T.*

                  If an employer really wants to support their employee giving back to the community, they can fund-match volunteer hours. A couple big companies out here do that; for every hour you volunteer, the company will donate $17 or something.

                9. Agile Phalanges*

                  I volunteer at the local humane society, and can literally show up and walk dogs (or in my case, pet cats) for an hour and then leave. In fact, I also take photos they use on their website, but usually an hour is all I spend there. Granted, it’s more than an hour a YEAR, it’s usually a couple hours a month, and yes, I had about an hour of training up front, but every little bit helps, and my humane society closes before I can get there on weekdays, and is closed one day of the weekend.

                10. Jamie*

                  Of course, and the pups totally appreciate it…but for a new volunteer the first hour is paperwork and if that hour of training you got was the only time you would be be there its not helping.

                  But if you’re already a volunteer in the system an hour plays a lot of fetch, a nice walk, or picks up a lot of poop in a dog run.

            2. Runon*

              That only works if you think UW is ethically and effectively run. It also only works if you are ok putting your money into a system that still supports other charities you are opposed to. It also goes against giving directly to the organizations you do support and not having money go to the UW overhead. (Which is also raising money for the charities you don’t support.)

            3. Katniss*

              As others have said, some have issues with United Way as an organization entirely. I also wouldn’t donate to the Salvation Army even if I could allocate my funds.

            4. Cathy*

              I haven’t participated in a UW campaign since I left IBM back in the mid-90s, so things have probably changed … but back then, there was a lot of pressure to get 100% return of the pledge cards.

              The problem was, even if I earmarked a donation to the organization I favored, there was no guarantee the org would get it. They also had to raise sufficient funds in the community before UW would free up the money that donors had earmarked for them. It was actually much better for me to give my money directly to the organization. They actually got more from UW that way, so I’d return my pledge card with a $0 donation and my department got to 100% participation, and then I’d give the money to the org.

              1. Evan (now graduated)*

                Hmm, that could be a 100% participation statistic I could actually support a drive toward: “Let’s get 100% of this team returning those cards!!!”

          4. Jessica*

            Thank you, Runon. My money is MY money. I pay enough in taxes…I don’t need to be forced to give away any more. I should be able to pick and choose when and where I donate.

        2. SW*

          It’s not the dollar amount, it’s a matter of principle. People should donate if they want to, not because they’ve been pressured to or harassed by their employer. That’s not charity, that’s social and professional pressure.

          Also, in a lot of cases, it’s never just $1. Some organizations will broadcast everyone’s donation amounts and make you look like a cheapskate for only giving $1.

          1. AB*

            Yeah — I am lucky enough that I can donate tens of thousands of dollars a year, but I do not want my employer to benefit from my donations and volunteering efforts by using it for marketing purposes “X% of our workforce volunteers / donates / whatever”.

            At some point in the past an employer wanted me to tell them how many hours I volunteer outside of work so they could report that as part of “hours of employee volunteering”.

            I refused to say (it was 20 hours a month, on Saturdays, and none of their business to report on their volunteering metrics).

            1. Layla*

              Why not ? Unless its an employer you hate or object to ?

              Sorry , not from the US, so there’s probably something I’m not understanding.

              1. UK HR Bod*

                I would imagine because it’s not employee volunteering if you are doing it your own time, so the employer shouldn’t really get the credit! My organisation provides a week a year (on top of leave) for employees to volunteer with other organisations – you can take it as a chunk, or use the time in smaller bits. It’s fair for the organisation to track that and say we have X amounts of employee volunteering, but it’s not right for them to claim the significant volunteering that employees do in their own time.

        3. the gold digger*

          It’s the principle of the thing. I should not have to opt out of the payroll deduction. I should not have to give. I should be able to spend my money the way I want to.

          I should not be badgered, cajoled, or otherwise pressured to give money to anyone or any organization at work.

          If the CEO wants to attend the fancy UW dinner, then he can donate the entire amount himself.

          As far as employees “stepping up,” the function of a business is not necessarily to “step up” for the community. It is to provide a product or a service that people want and need and are willing to pay for and to do so in an ethical, moral, and legal way. If the employer wants to spend shareholder money on charitable enterprises, then the employer should spend it – he should not require employees to spend their own money.

          1. Jamie*

            Good point – and a good employer supports the local community anyway just by providing jobs, employee income supporting other local businesses, taxes, etc.

        4. fposte*

          My employer doesn’t match, but they still want to brag about the stats. They fortunately do have lots of non-United Way options, but in general once the money gets paid to me I don’t think it’s appropriate for the job to tell me what I should do with it. (It’s like those horrible relatives who “give” you furniture they don’t want any more but then think they get to tell you whether you can paint it or throw it out.)

        5. Jessa*

          Yes for a dollar really. I do not believe in a lot of UW’s policies and some of the charities they support are not charities I believe in. I do not care if my employer matches my donation, because I don’t want any money going to them. And I despise with a passion the hard sell the “OMG our department MUST be 100% and we will harass you and shame you and name you out publicly until you make our goals. And by the way you’ll get the worst work and be subtly punished by the whole department.” You could not PAY me to support UW ever. I’ve been through too many of their “you’re really volunteering but if you don’t do it your job will be made miserable,” promotions.

        6. badmovielover*

          It isn’t any manager’s place to tell employees how to spend their money. Period. If you’re going to hold that against your employees you’re just a jerk of a manager.

      2. Anonymous*

        I actually find it even worse when the pledge drives are run by the company, especially the United Way or Salvation Army (as I’m ethically opposed to some of the things both organizations do). I work for a religious uni, and I find it even more disturbing that they university runs an annual pledge drive to United Way, and makes a big deal about doing charitable deeds “in the community”. United Way does almost nothing “in my community” and where is the uni getting the funds to run this UW campaign? It sure isn’t from football tix sales.

      3. Sue*

        I gave my fair share to United Way through the place I worked for 15 years. I also paid for great insurance for years, which we rarely used. I had quit working after raising 5 children and was looking forward to spending time at home although I wasn’t old enough for SS. My husband was self-employed and he did get health insurance for us. Eleven years later my husband was diagnosed with a brain tumor, the worst kind (GBM stage 4)
        After he had a seizure and went to the doctor for the first time (at that time we didn’t know about the tumor, just that there was something wrong) that was when I found out my husband had cancelled the insurance and also a modest life insurance policy . He was able to draw a disability check, but the hospital bills were huge. We couldn’t even get food stamps. I will never give to any organization again. Wish I could get reimbursed for all that I did give.

      4. Just let me do my job you a@@hole!*

        a long time ago in a galaxy far far way, I worked in a toxic workplace. You name it it happened! when it came time to donate to United Way, who I also very much loathe! I politely declined donating, saying that I already give to a charity of my choice. But this did not shut up the person in charge of it for the department, I was continually harassed until the campaign ended. On the final day, when all the numbers were tallied up and when it was announced which department was the winner, this person, during staff meeting said “…we would be 100 percent if Mr. Jones gave…” saying my name in a very terse tone. At my next job, when it came time for UW fund drive, I went into my supervisor’s office and very politely asked her that I not be bothered about donating. She understood and said she never would bother, or rat out anyone who chose not to give. Nowadays, with so many rules about non harassment, I am suprised that anyone would still be bothered for not donating at the office.

    2. AnonHR*

      I understand that it seems like an important cause, and worthy of at least the change in somoene’s pocket, but, if $1 is just $1, why doesn’t the company just donate $1 on behalf of each employee? And why would they value a high number of participation if they knew only minimal donations were given and employees weren’t engaged. What if I think the United Way is poorly managed? What if I donate on my own to causes I really care about? What if it’s a rough month, and I’m not spending a penny over my budget? What if I’m not being paid enough? What if I poorly manage my money and just don’t have it to spend? What if I value new shoes more than charity? It’s not my company’s place to make judgments about how good or bad of a reason those are for donating or not donating. My personal financial decisions are my own to make.

      1. Joey*

        We have options for people that can’t afford $1. Work 1 hour of your time on the clock cleaning things like the local park, volunteering building homes at habitat for humanity. Can you guess what happens when we tell people who don’t want to donate about the other option?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          If the goal is to encourage charity or volunteer work, why not let people make a donation to the charity of their choice, so that it’s equitable with what others are doing but doesn’t require them to donate to a charity they may object to (United Way)?

          I happen to think no employer should be requiring any of that, but if you’re going to do it, that would be a better way to go about it.

          1. Joey*

            Because we want to be able to show (not just tell) the community that we hire people that give back.

            1. Colette*

              The company I work for donates money for every hour of volunteer work an employee does – to the organization the employee volunteers for. That’s a way to know your employees are giving back without mandating when, where, and how they do so.

            2. Runon*

              Then hire people who give back. Don’t hire people and then force them to give money at the office where it is no longer something they do voluntarily but something they are bullied into.

              If you want to give back then donate money as a corp. If you want people who give back then make it a point to have a reasonable work schedule that will allow people time in their personal lives to give to their communities. If you want employees who are charitable givers then hire with that in mind and pay them enough that they can.

            3. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I think if you want to be able to show the community that your hire people who give back — which is absolutely your company’s prerogative — then it’s important to make that clear during your hiring process and screen for that in candidates. Otherwise it really turns into something coercive, which isn’t compatible with the stated goal of wanting to hire people who give back.

            4. Windchime*

              They’re not giving if they’re being forced or pressured into it. They’re doing it to save face and keep their job.

            5. Greg (call center manager)*

              Giving back to your community isn’t a stipulation that’s likely spelled out on your company’s application and never make a company’s ethical agenda an employee’s obligation. It’s a tasteless exhibition, regardless of the implied intentions. Your company should focus on having qualified and able employees, not one’s who simply get in the bandwagon. Followers leave no room for visionaries and innovation.

        2. Heather*

          If they don’t want to donate money to the United Way, why would they want to donate time either?

          1. Joey*

            They’re not really donating anything except some extra effort for the day. They’re getting paid for the time.

            1. Katniss*

              But if they object to UW on a moral basis or because they don’t feel that UW spends it’s donations efficiently, they might not want to work for UW for any time either.

              1. Joey*

                We organize some of it ourselves. Like park cleaning- we have someone on staff who will coordinate it so there’s no involvement with other groups.

                1. Katniss*

                  See, that kind of thing would be fine with me, though I’d still prefer to do it off work time.

                2. SW*

                  It doesn’t matter if nothing comes out of my pocket. Nobody should be forced to donate to a charity they don’t support.

                3. Jessa*

                  I really hope that if you hire people you let them know that they are required to give labour outside the company before they accept the job. I’m disabled, I’d never work for you or a company like yours.

        3. Jamie*

          So if I can’t afford a dollar you’re going to pay me my hourly salary to go pick up garbage at a local park. Or build however much of a home you can build in an hour.

          People should be able to come to work and do their job and earn their paycheck without the employer trying to force them into a charity of their choosing.

          If I had the urge to go clean a local park I could do so on my own time (tbh – the urge has never struck) but it shouldn’t be tied in any way to how I earn my living.

          1. Katniss*

            Yup, and to me this speaks of a larger issue of companies that want to intrude more and more on work/life balance. I do not want my work life and my personal life to be tied together, unless the latter is affecting the former in a negative way. That includes how I spend my time and money outside of work.

          2. Joey*

            What’s really wrong with your company paying you to give back to the community? If they’re paying you shouldn’t they be able to tell you what to do? And is giving $1 of your money or doing some physical work on the clock 1 day per year so unreasonable?

            1. Katniss*

              It is if they tell me what charity I must donate my time and effort to. I mentioned the Salvation Army above: I would absolutely fight tooth and nail not to work or donate to them, even a dollar or an hour.

              1. Joey*

                You’d have the option to donate some extra effort on the clock to the local park, kids baseball field, food bank, neighborhood, etc.

                1. TL*

                  What if they don’t want to donate? At all?
                  No how many different options they’re being pressured with, they should be able to opt out.

                  People give back (or don’t) in all sorts of ways and not all of them are formal volunteering things. Some people just aren’t into organized actives, for instance, and that could include volunteering.

                2. Joey*

                  No ones ever been able to explain to me a logical reason why people should be able to opt out. If they just don’t want to isn’t that the same as saying you just don’t want to do other duties as assigned? Remember this is paid work.

                3. Anonymous*

                  I don’t know, this seems like a can of worms for the employer. What if I, as Difficult Employee, decide I don’t like any of the options, and suggest an alternative that’s really alternative — and does not represent the employer’s ideals? Better to just have an opt-in system.

                4. Difficult Employee (anon)*

                  And henceforth I will no longer be anon but rather Difficult Employee, at least until another commenter jumps all over me again for being a narcissistic, entitled, born-with-a-silver-spoon, baby boomer. Then I’m outta here. (again)

                5. Rana*

                  People should be able to opt out because it’s none of the company’s damn business what they do with their income or personal time.

                  If I want to be a curmudgeonly hermit who hates people, that is my right. If I want to donate to every charity and volunteer all of my free time to charities, that’s also my right.

                  But neither should be any concern of the company’s. If they want me doing those things on the clock, then that should be made clear at the time of the job offer as part of the work.

                  Otherwise, what’s next? Them “encouraging” me to buy certain brands of clothing? Watch certain tv shows?

                  “Because I don’t want to” should be sufficient, full stop.

                6. totochi*

                  Paid time… was this included as part of the job description? Responsibilities include blah, blah, blah, plus picking up trash at local park. Also, for exempt employees, unless you take away tasks and responsibilities, all this means is I have to work extra hours to cover the “volunteered” time.

                7. Rana*

                  As I said, if it’s not part of the job description…

                  Look, I get that certain companies want the cachet that goes along with having their employees contribute to the community. But the ones that I respect are the ones that are right up front about it, as a condition of the workplace. Take Patagonia, for example. On their web page, in their job descriptions, and in their application process, they explain that they expect their employees to participate in a certain number of community activities – it is literally part of the job, and those activities are explicitly linked to the overall mission of the company. (So they are all environmental in thrust; you don’t have volunteering at a church function as an option.)

                  If part of my job entails “volunteering” at the local Little League, or the Christian food bank, or the Boy Scouts, I deserve to know that up front.

                8. Joey*

                  Of course we tell them up front-its important to us. Its on our career site and we cover it in new hire orientation as well as ongoing communications.

                9. TL*

                  Not really – I mean, you can force your employees to volunteer their time, but the big difference is the fruits of my labor are no longer going to Employer but to Volunteer Organization.
                  Which mean that I am supporting VO, even if my company is paying me to do so. I choose to support Employer for my paycheck, not VO; I shouldn’t be forced to support VO.

                10. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  I think that if you want to say that part of their job is cleaning up a park once a year (or whatever), then that’s your prerogative, although you should disclose it during the hiring process. But then it’s not volunteering and the company shouldn’t represent it that way to the community. The company could certainly say “we send a group of people to clean parks,” but it’s different than “we hire people who volunteer, donate, and give back to the community of their own volition.”

                1. Caffeine Queen*

                  I absolutely agree with all that’s been said. Why not simply offer paid days that people can spend volunteering with an organization of their choice? They could either take or leave them but that shows your company values community service and giving back. I think that does a lot more to promote a culture of giving-and it would be truly giving because it would actually be voluntary.

                  However, even if it’s “only a dollar”, a company has no business dictating what I do with my cash. There are several organizations I would not support for various reasons and I know that some of the organizations my husband and I personally support would be considered quite controversial. I prefer to keep my charitable donations out of the workplace.

                  Also, I don’t consider it an act of social justice to support charities I believe are ill managed or take positions I personally believe to cause harm. I think when businesses do this, it’s about looking like they support good work more than actually doing it.

            2. Tinker*

              They’re paying me, they didn’t buy me. So no, although it Is Legal (TM) to make employment contingent on some questionably appropriate demands, the mere fact that my employer pays me to test software does not mean that they can rightly demand that I dance like a monkey for them in matters that pertain to my personal life.

              1. Joey*

                What’s so questionable about say picking up trash from a park or landscaping around a kids baseball field or painting over graffiti and getting paid your regular wages to do it?

                1. the gold digger*

                  For one thing, nobody is doing my real work while I am picking up trash, so now I have to either miss deadlines or stay late to get things done. Fortunately, I am exempt, so it wouldn’t cost my employer any overtime. But the company could feel good about “giving back.”

                2. Jazzy Red*

                  Joey, you are really determined to not get it.

                  In a nutshell – no one tells me what charities to support. Not my mother, not my father, not my boyfriend, not my minister, not my therapist, and especially not my employer.

                  I decide what causes I will support and how I will support them.

                  It’s not a question of how much money (that’s between me and the IRS), or how much work I give it.

                  IT’S MY DECISION!

                3. Tinker*

                  The demand itself, and the attitude of being entitled to make personal demands outside the scope of my professional function because “I can tell you what to do.”

                  I also have private opinions regarding the sort of volunteering you describe.

                4. KellyK*

                  It’s *way* outside the job description you were hired for.

                  I suppose the work-day thing is okay *if and only if* you inform people that it’s an expectation of the job when you interview them AND if you make sure to staff and allocate work such that people (especially exempt employees) aren’t just getting screwed over as gold digger points out.

                  If I still have the same 37 things to accomplish in the week that I go pick up trash as in a week where I don’t, then it is costing me something–either that work is coming out of time that would otherwise be personal time, or it just doesn’t get done.

                5. Joey*

                  Really I’m open. But as I said you don’t have to give to a charity. You could for example be given a paint brush and some paint and paint over graffiti in a neighborhood. I’m just not understanding why you think its wrong for your employer to pay you to do work in the community.

                6. College Career Counselor*

                  Because it’s not an activity that I would choose to do. Even if you paid me for it. I would rather do my work at my job than other things that are NOT my work. The conscripted volunteer is a contradiction in terms. At a previous job, the entire division was told by the VP to go to the local united way/salvation army/volunteer center and spend several hours painting the interior. Which we did. But I was annoyed because this is not how I would have chosen to spend my effort. I am not a painter–I don’t like it, and I’m not good at it–and doing this was a waste of the time for which they paid me that day. The most hypocritical part? The VP didn’t participate. He never even showed up.

                7. Jamie*

                  I am not a painter – I don’t like it, and I’m not good at it

                  And there is this.

                  If it’s really about giving back to the community and making a difference the company can hire day laborers to paint, pick up stuff, whatever for a fraction of what they are paying me, or any of our engineers, or managers, or accounting staff…etc. And the temp agency for the laborers screens them for skills. So you could have it done properly for less money, or have it done hit or miss by people who have other things to do for 2, 5, 10+ times the cost for that hour.

                  The only way that’s cost effective is if exempt people have to make up the time (unpaid of course) in which case it’s not just reassigning work – it’s adding an hour to their week because they’ll have to stay late or work from home to make up the time they lost.

                  It’s not efficient and it’s neither cost effective nor fiscally responsible. Hire someone to do it for minimum wage plus the agency mark up so about 11.14 per hour or pay me $50+ an hour to do the same thing, but badly. That wouldn’t fly in any project proposal I’ve ever been a part of.

                  It’s just a dog and pony show.

                8. Joey*

                  Aren’t there a lot of work activities that if given the choice you would choose not to do? Yet you do them anyway because that’s what you get paid for.

                9. KellyK*

                  Jamie, “dog and pony show” sounds exactly right. It’s not about actually helping effectively, but about being able to *say* you have 100% employee participation and getting a PR boost.

                10. Escritora*

                  It’s unreasonable for you to believe you can ask, demand, or insist your employees do any of these things. Your workers are not Stakhanovites in your Gulag, they are free citizens and it’s NONE of your damned business what they do with their time or money.

                  You do not get to decide what is a good use of their time. You do not get to decide what is a good use of their money. Your workers are free: They do not have to justify why they don’t want to contribute to your charity. Why is this so hard for you to comprehend?

                  If your first thought is that your employees are props in a drama then your position makes perfect sense. If your first instinct is that your employees are *people* then do them a favor and act like you know it.

                11. Joey*

                  Why don’t I get to decide what a good use of their time is when I’m paying them? Conversely they get to decide if they want to work under those terms.

                  What you probably don’t realize is that most employees do both- they give a few bucks and take some time to get out of the office to give back because its super convenient to do it during work. And it feels rewarding. Really, is there a better way to give back than to get paid to give back? And doing it without sacrificing the time you normally spend at home?

                12. Tinker*

                  As far as this whole “but don’t you do things that you don’t want to do because you are paid” thing — actually, I generally don’t. I also don’t pick up trash for a living, and not just because it doesn’t pay well. Nor do I work for employers with bad boundaries, if I can help it.

                  If you want to make such offers, it’s not like I can stop you. But I’m also by no means required to accept such an offer or view it in high esteem.

                13. Marmite*

                  I’m not sure if I’ve correctly followed this whole thread, but if I have it right Joey is saying that employees can essentially opt out of picking up trash or painting graffiti or whatever by donating $1 to a charity they may be morally opposed to. To me that is what’s questionable about this. I shouldn’t be told I have to give back part of my paycheque or do certain undesirable tasks, paid or not!

                14. Anony1234*

                  So I basically read through the thread here between Joey and several other commenters.

                  I understand where both sides are coming from, but I’m surprised to see the true colors of other people. Someone called the few tasks mentioned as “undesirable.” Yet, there are people who either volunteer or actually work in these undesirable tasks. I can see how donating, even $1, to a charity of one’s non-choosing can create tension. However, one hour out of a year’s worth to a charity (local or national) during work hours while on the clock I never thought would create such a heated debate.

                  I would assume it falls into the category “other duties as assigned.” But it’s one hour and according to Joey, it sounds like anything is fair game for that hour. It just doesn’t look great because it’s more or less conscripted volunteering. I wonder, though, if the company did it as a team day where all agreed on a local community event or clean up (etc) if that would be a better idea (instead of a party, for example).

                  I volunteer more periodically so I’m wondering if Joey’s company would give me credit for that.

                15. FreeThinkerTX*

                  Because if that’s what I wanted to do for my regular wages, I would have interviewed for a sanitation or landscaping job – NOT a software coding or technical sales job! I detest manual labor and give back to my community with my natural skills – which do NOT involve sweating like a pig in the heat, being eaten by mosquitoes, or bending/kneeling down dozens of times in an hour.

                  Also, I sit on the boards of three volunteer organizations, so I am hugely offended by your statement that people who don’t want to donate to *your* charity-project-du-jour are always the same folks who don’t give back to their communities. That’s an incredibly snotty and self-centered thing to say.

                16. badmovielover*

                  It’s not about contributing to a cause. Your company just wants the PR and the pictures.

                  You hired an employee for a specific position. If you want PR, hire a marketing firm.

                17. Jess*

                  Maybe I think the city should have to *gasp* hire laborers (or hell, high school kids) to do landscaping and paint graffiti? If the company really wants to make a difference in the community, why not pay people in the community to do work?

            3. Jamie*

              If you are upfront with people when you hire then that’s fine – people know what they are getting into. But the point is (and it’s the last time I’ll make it since clearly you don’t see anything wrong with this) is the principle.

              Not everyone wants to give back to the community in an employer mandated way so the employer looks good and can use it as PR. And sure 100% employee contribution may look good for the people who care about that, but if they saw behind the curtain that it was $1 a piece for a lot of them then it doesn’t look so good…it looks like people were strong armed into a token donation. “Here’s a dollar – stop asking for another year” isn’t the image they are trying to project with 100% participation stats.

              And yes – my employer trying to dictate how or what I chose to give back to the community is absolutely unreasonable to me. The same way it would be unreasonable for them to dictate anything else about my personal life that doesn’t impact my work. It’s simply none of their business.

              1. Joey*

                But its not really you giving back to the community if you’re getting paid to do it. Work wise its no different than say getting new office furniture and getting paid to help move it.

                1. Anon*

                  Your logic is a little tortured here. You want to be able to show you have employees who give back to the community, yet you also believe that it’s not really giving back to the community–it’s just doing your job–because the company is paying you. So what are you actually “showing” to the community here? Either give back yourself, with your profits, or encourage employees to give back but make it voluntary, or else it’s worthless by your own metric.

                  I hate saying this because you’re being such a badass on the side of right in the sexual harassment thread, but I really don’t get your reasoning in this one.

                2. Joey*

                  I personally think its not really giving back in the true sense. My employer feels the employees are giving back because they have to put forth extra effort which they dont normally do which is a valid point.

                3. Colette*

                  I’d probably have concerns about being expected to help move office furniture. That’s adds nothing to my resume, and is not why I took my job.

                  (If I choose to move furniture because it made sense for some reason and I was convinced I could do it safely, that’s different – but being told to do so would be a big dissatisfier for me.)

                  What if I have bad knees/am newly pregnant and sensitive to paint fumes/am exempt and thus am volunteering my personal time because no one is doing my job while I’m gone? What if I am prone to sunburn/back problems?

                  And as others have said, what if I just don’t want to – because I don’t think it’s my problem, because I spend 50 hours of my free time volunteering every week at organizations I believe in, because I cleaned up the park last year and then saw people dumping bags of garbage in it on my way home?

                  There’s nothing wrong with offering the opportunity to help, but many issues with mandating it – not the least of which is that, as someone who volunteers every week, I don’t want someone helping me who doesn’t want to be there.

                4. Just Jane*

                  OK, you know what, you’ve repeated several times that this is about ‘giving back’ to the community, but having worked for years in an NGO I can tell you that a lot of community groups hatehatehate having groups of people (often resentful because employers like you are forcing them into ‘volunteering’) show up do random ‘good works’ for an hour once a year. It does nothing significant, sustainable or long-term to help those organizations, and often we had to scramble to find something random, simple, not requiring special skills for people to do for that hour, plus take away time from our own work to supervise these volunteers. If as a company you want to ‘give back’, then make a large lump sum donation or give employees who WANT to volunteer sufficient time to volunteer on an ongoing basis. Stop strong-arming your staff into 1-hour activities that are more about your company’s image than meaningful community development or social change.

                5. College Career Counselor*

                  Yes, there are indeed quite a few work duties that I would not choose do outside of work. But, painting buildings is not part of the job description of college career counselor. Arguably, it’s not even part of “other duties as assigned,” because presumably those other duties have some bearing on my job for the university.

                  As Jamie put it up-thread, it’s wasteful, inefficient, and aggravating. I have a ton of respect for the painters, carpenters, electricians, etc. who work for the university and do their jobs well. They do this work because they’re trained, experienced and have an inclination to do it in the first place. I do not. To flip things, I think it would be silly to “volunteer” a master carpenter to counsel underserved populations about their job prospects and choices.

                  I just don’t see the value in being shanghai’d into doing work that does not advance the cause of my department or its clients (except, possibly in the political sense for the VP, who likely got a lot of mileage in the community out of having “his” division show up). And you’d better believe there was a political cost to be paid for not showing up, unless you were out of town or legitimately ill. I do not get a sense of participation/fulfillment out of “mandatory service.” In fact, it’s a morale deflator for me.

                6. Escritora*

                  Joey. Nobody bloody took anything from the community. Did the company pay taxes? Did the company employ workers? Did the company use local vendors/suppliers? Did the company act as good citizens, i.e., obey the laws of the city/state/country? Then congratulations, they took nothing. They need not “give” back. Maybe if you got out of the mentality that the company is a thief in need of atonement you might respect the notion that the people who work for it cannot be used as its sin-eaters.

                7. volunteer coordinator*

                  Well, that’s kind of a blurry line, isn’t it? It’s my hands-on labor, even though you’re paying me. I would say I sure am giving back. And I would say it’s much different than moving office furniture.

                  Why do YOU think it’s okay to use the labor of your employees to make your organization look like it’s giving back? Why not have your board of directors do the work, or your top executives? Why not just cut a company check out of your profits?

                8. volunteer coordinator*

                  I wanted to add that I agree with JustJane. A group of volunteers for one hour is pretty much useless. No one turns this down, however, because of community relations and other reasons. It’s not for the work.

                9. Joey*

                  We’re a little smarter than that. We don’t let people volunteer for just 1 hour doing things where its not feasible. Of course there are tasks where its more trouble than its worth. But, there are also tasks where its very feasible and helpful to work in 1 hour shifts. We continually adjust based on the feedback we get.

                  I think its okay to do it because they know that’s the deal when they come on board and they have options. If someone were to bring forth some real reason why they couldn’t do it (not I don’t want to) we’d find an alternative.

                10. Canadian mom*

                  Why are you assuming that employees, apart from giving $$$, aren’t already giving up precious hours of their own time doing volunteer work in the community?

                  I’m currently unemployed, but even if I wasn’t I would be very unhappy if I was “voluntold” to spend an afternoon picking up trash, even if I was getting paid, in addition to my weekly stint at the hospital thrift shop.

                11. Heather*

                  I’m telling you no office I work in has ever done this. They would open themselves to all sorts of Workers Compensation claims. If you need office furniture moved hire movers. It’s not a good use of resources to get an unfit person to haul furniture. And if any employer asked me to I would say no.

            4. Elise*

              If they required you to donate $1 to a charity that supported burning babies for amusement — would you be okay with doing that? It’s just $1, after all.

              Or what if your company wanted to pay you for 1 hour of work gathering the wood for the fire? That would be okay right, since they are paying you?

            5. TheSnarkyB*

              Joey, let me ask you this:
              If you can’t come up with an activity that an employee has no moral objection to, would you still keep up your argument? No, I would not do something under “other duties as assigned” that I had a moral objection to, paid or not.
              And yes, I have a moral and political ideology within which I actually do have problems with things like cleaning up a baseball field, even one with no political or religious affiliation itself.
              Under this (real and applicable to me) hypothetical, would you consider conceding your point on the grounds of respecting an employee’s personal and moral beliefs?

              1. Tinker*

                It’s interesting you say that, because I also have some moral qualms about volunteering (and particularly in the form that it tends to manifest in the corporate environment) but thought it was just me being a tendentious weirdo. Again.

                The thing is, though, there’s no particular reason why Joey’s company has to respect my personal and moral beliefs — I think it’s improper not to, but my opinion isn’t exactly binding.

                1. TheSnarkyB*

                  1. Thank you for the new word! (Tendentious, hadn’t heard it before)
                  2. I agree that your opinions aren’t binding, but it is more reasonable for you to refuse do something because you “don’t believe in it”* than because you don’t feel like it. Especially given Joey’s argument about how it’s your employer’s time and if they’re paying you, etc etc.
                  I think at that point, it crosses the line from being a neutral professional task to one with a personal emotional burden, because that’s really what we deal with when we’re forced to do something that goes against our beliefs – an emotional burden. So what many people in this thread are saying – that they don’t want to contribute in any way to a cause that they would not want to contribute to of their own volition – resonates with me because I see that as the employer crossing the line from professional to personal. Your thoughts?
                  And no, you’re not being a tendentious weirdo – I have the same moral qualms and I bet a lot of other people do too!

              2. KellyK*

                It’s a little off-topic, but I’m curious about the moral and political ideology behind this, if you don’t mind sharing.

              3. Joey*

                Hasn’t happened. Everytime I’ve drilled down to find out exactly what the objection is we’ve found an alternative. And by the way most are physical limitations. Rarely are there objections at all and even rarer are they moral objections. Although no ones ever said “I have a moral objection to giving back to my community” either. If that happened I’d suppose we’d probably conclude the person really doesnt align with our values.

            6. tcookson*

              Why don’t I get to decide what a good use of their time is when I’m paying them?

              Just because a company has hired someone to do a particular job doesn’t give said company the level of ownership over that person’s labor to be able to farm them out in any capacity the company sees fit, regardless of whether the company is paying for it. The employee still maintains agency in their personal life; the level of assumed indenture implied in Joey’s comments is a little mind-boggling.

              1. FD*

                If nothing else, it’s stupid, because as Alison keeps saying Good Employees Have Options (GEHO? Can that be an acronym now?)

                For example, it’s legal to tell your employees they have to move a huge stack of paper from Spot A to Spot B on odd numbered days of the months, and from Spot B to Spot A on even numbered days of month, even though there’s no business benefit to doing it. But good employees will get annoyed by this and leave.

                After all, they may have the right to decide what I do with my work time, but I have the right to quit over it.

            7. Twentymilehike*

              What’s wrong with my employers paying me to give back to the community?

              Because I was hired to manage an office, not pick up trash (or whatever). I am busy at work and I want to do the job I agreed to be paid to do and when I am at work, and when I leave work I can choose to be involved in my community or not.

              The two things are not even remotely related. When I go to work I represent the company. When I volunteer, I represent me. I have a specific job to do that doesn’t involve my personal viewpoints. Volunteering for something reflects my personal viewpoints. I’m not interested in mixing the two. When we start talking about personal things like what charities people support we end up having ridiculous political arguments. Work is not the place for that. We don’t earn our paycheck with our opinions. (I mean, unless you are an opinion writer…)

              1. Anonymous*

                When I volunteer, I represent me.

                This. Part of what I find particularly galling about a company thinking they have the right to commandeer my efforts in the personal sphere is that they are trying to seriously over-reach the line between when I represent them and when I represent myself. Having me on the payroll for a particular job does not give them the right to appropriate that for themselves.

                1. tcookson*

                  I get that it’s nice for the company to be able to say that their employees are active and charitable in the community, but you just can’t get 100% participation in that without either making it a requirement of the job up front or seriously overstepping boundaries that, for a lot of people (especially those with options — see “GEHO”) that is going to be an annoyance that erodes their desire to continue to be there.

        4. Editor*

          Joey — I get what you’re saying, but so often organizers don’t think deeply about these one-off volunteer gigs. I have skin problems and allergies that make it very difficult for me to do volunteer stuff outside, for instance. People who commute long distances may not want to come in on the weekend for some prearranged “volunteering.”

          I understand why charities (not just United Way) like to see high participation numbers, but they need to be sensitive to the way “participation,” “popularity,” and bullying go hand in hand at times.

        5. Elikit*

          Wow, working grown ups don’t like being strong armed into giving up their money or their time?! What a crazy world we live in.

        6. Jessa*

          What right do you have to expect anyone to give one second of their time or one penny of their money. I can guess what happens if you’d done that to me you’d get a how dare you speech. I never give a single minute or penny from work EVER. What I chose to donate to or not is none of the business of my employer. And any employer that runs one of these programmes is usually more interested in numbers than quality of donations. What I give to may be something that is not popular to my employer, or something that I do not want my employer to know about. It is not their business whether I can afford or not afford, whether I want to or not, whether I care about charity or not. I could be Ebeneezer Scrooge pre ghosts, and it’s none of my employer’s business.

          Giving people the “other option” infers that they are REQUIRED to give SOMETHING. This is wrong.

          1. Windchime*

            Agreed. And if someone is being strong-armed into it, it’s not “giving” in my opinion. It’s just submitting to the pressure in order to get someone to stop bullying.

            I donate plenty of money to charity, and I also do other things that I prefer to keep private. But if my employer were to force me into either donating or doing an hour of community service or some other alternative, I’d be pissed. Not because I’m selfish, but because I’m quite capable of giving to worthy causes on my own, and not because I was pressured into it by my employer because they want to look good.

          2. Anonymous*

            I want to print this out and keep it, so I can refer back to it should this issue arise again. Ebenezer Scrooge pre ghosts basically sums up how I was feeling. Well said!

    3. Xay*

      Yes. A $1 that I give to the United Way is $1 that does not go to the charity of my choice. Although I can designate with charity receives my donation, I prefer to donate directly to the charity so they get all of the money.

    4. Oi*

      For many of us, it’s not just $1. (And even if it is, I don’t want to donate a dollar, a quarter or a penny to United Way. Period.)

      A partner at my law firm told us that we were expected to give at least $5,000 to the United Way because “we pay you enough.” I thought that was galling (he’d rethink the “we pay you enough” if he saw my student loan statement). And absolutely absurd.

      Many CEOs for United Way make hundreds of thousands of dollars. And in my local United Way you must give at least $120 to be able to designate the charity of your choice (so anything less than <$120 all goes to United Way no matter what you designate and if you give $120, at least 20% still goes to United Way's fat paychecks). As it turns out, I DID donate $5,000 last year to a different organization. I didn't get a reward from the company or a gold star at work, but I gave to an organization I trust and care about with a CEO who makes nada.

      1. Oi*

        Oh, and the end of that story: I hit my employer up for $5,000 to match my contribution to the organization I was personally interested in.

        They did pony up $1,000. I was pretty happy to have beat the system on that. :)

        1. E*

          Yes, I was going to ask if Joey’s company matches gifts. If you try to get a gift matched, you need proof from the organization you donated to. If Joey’s company is getting documentation that somebody donated $5,000 to Organization X and regularly spends Saturdays volunteering there, are they really going to require them to give to United Way or spend Friday picking up trash?

    5. Vicki*

      My mother is a Girl Scout leader. GS is part of UW.
      My mother’s recommendation is to donate directly to whichever cause you like. Otherwise, a large part of the donation goes to “administrative costs”.

      That’s the “price” of donating to an umbrella agency.

  3. Runon*

    I find it much easier to say no thank you to a charity donation than to a “birthday” fund or anything equally absurd.

    For charities I am very cautious and aware of my donations, efficacy of the organization, etc. I hold a very firm line, “I plan all my donations at the start of the year and this isn’t in my budget.” I’ve also been known to pull up information about misdeeds of charities or the bad policies when the charity in question is particularly horrible. The good news is people are less pushy in general since I started here.

    If there is a particularly good way to handle donating something for a birthday gift I’d really like to know.

    1. Jamie*

      Reading stuff like this makes me so happy my employer enforces the no solicitation thing AND generously pays for all birthday and retirement gifts and celebrations.

      It’s hard enough trying to come up with something clever to write on a card for someone you barely know, much less funding the gift.

      1. Runon*

        I gave up on clever.
        “Enjoy another year, Runon”

        On every single card. Sorry people I work with, I like most of you, I really do!

        1. Runon*

          Oh I put in superlative before year but I bracketed it, that was unwelcomed.

          It would be interesting if superlative was an html tag though.

  4. mollsbot*

    AAMs advice to the people soliciting for donations is spot-on. I’m currently fundraising for the Special Olympics in my state, it’s a big event that happens at my building and I’ve decided to participate in it.

    When I sent the email to my colleagues (will my boss’ permission) I made sure to use phrases like ‘if you are interested in contributing’ and ‘if you are unable to make a monetary donation, I am accepting moral support donations as well.’

    It’s all about your wording (also making sure you send thank you cards, but that’s just good manners).

    To the OPs: I’m broke, and when I’m the one getting solicited and I can’t afford to help out, I ignore it. If I can squeeze a little out of my budget, it’s usually under $10 and I’ve never felt bad about it.

    1. Felicia*

      It’s also good to do it in a way where no one can tell who’s saying no, which is why emails aren’t so bad. When someone goes desk to desk there’s more pressure because they’re right there waiting for an answer, and a lot of the time other people can hear.

    2. annie*

      Yeah, I do this too – a group email, and that’s it. I think a lot of people appreciate the opportunity to donate to a charity when presented with it – especially young people who are not affiliated with religious groups, often times you just don’t get asked to donate to charities because you’re not in a population often being asked (families, religious groups, etc.). One year I mentioned my niece was selling Girl Scout cookies and my coworkers begged ME to bring in the form so they could get some. I don’t expect anything, but I feel fine doing one low key ask via email.

  5. JMegan*

    The problem in my case, is that no, it’s not necessarily a big deal to donate a dollar or two. But I work in a *huge* organization, with hundreds of people all collecting money for the same charity. It has happened three times now that someone has shown up at my desk, called me by name (from my name plate) without introducing themselves, and asked me to donate to their particular effort to support the charity.

    These are people that I don’t even know – never seen them in the halls, don’t know their first names (until I ask), and won’t see again once I give them the money. Whether or not I’m inclined to donate to this particular charity, I certainly don’t want to explain my financial situation to them – and unfortunately the desk-to-desk types are often also the don’t-take-no-for-an-answer types.

    I really wish that these sorts of workplace charity drives would come with the instruction “Don’t bug your co-workers to donate, because chances are they are already fundraising for the same cause themselves.” Or at the very least “Don’t bug your co-workers to donate, because chances are they have seen the emails and the intranet postings and the signs by the elevator and are well aware of the campaign already!”

    (Whew, ranty! Glad I got that off my chest!)

    1. mollsbot*

      I’m surprised your employer allows that kind of behavior! It’s very push and rude.

    2. Susan*

      Agreed- I usually work as a contractor which means I get no paid or vacation time; actually lower pay then regular employees and am forced to take a no-paid vacation twice a year when these companies shut down. During the Xmas season, I received an email from one department (who I never dealt with) saying I had signed up to donate to the company’s favored charity. I responded that I never put down my name for anything and how did they come by this information. Of course, they couldn’t come up with an answer; maybe trying to shame me into paying. During this time, I was told that due to budget cuts, my contract position was being eliminated; so that was my reason for not paying.

      I have also had a manger email me to donate to a charity. Of course, I had to as she was my manager. There really should be a standard HR rule in place that managers should not ask employees for donations. That becomes a very uncomfortable situation.

  6. mollsbot*

    Also, the birthday/dead son thing is just insane to me. I don’t even know what I would do in that situation, stick my head in the sand and hope nobody comes looking I suppose.

    1. fposte*

      Yeah, that seems like a weird way to try to curry favor and rope other people into it with you.

  7. De Minimis*

    I’m having to come up with $20 to help pay for a parting gift for a retiring employee. I can pay it, but would have preferred they went about it some other way [they have already purchased the gift and just let everyone know how much they should pay] but it’s a case where there are only 6-7 people in the department so it will definitely look bad if I don’t participate or pay less than what is deemed my fair share.

    I guess it’s just one of those annoying things. I know we’ll have one more retirement later this year and that will probably be it while I’m here. We do have occasional charity stuff [mainly things for employees who are going through major events like losing their home in a fire, bereavement, etc] but those are easier to opt out of if I choose to.

  8. Felicia*

    My last job, they asked for 15$ from each person for every single birthday. That was more than I made in an hour. I was new to the working world and easily intimidated, though the first time I still said, sorry, i’m uncomfortable contributing to this. It was super awkward, because it wasn’t my manager, but a senior worker who was some peoples’ manager, who would go around to every single person and ask, and everyone could see if you said no because it was an open office. And then when I said no she said things like “but it’s not that much!” or “but everyone’s contributing” or “are you sure?” so i had to stammer i’m not interested a lot of times, and I was shaking by the end. And then a month later, it was someone else’s birthday, so she came and asked me AGAIN as if my previous answer no longer counted. One of the many reasons I was relieved to be fired not too long after that. I really hope i never encounter anything like that ever again.

    1. Jamie*

      I worked at one of those places – at least once a week someone wanted $10-$15 for this or that and it started immediately. I was a temp and not about to contribute what was about my take home hourly wage for people I didn’t even know.

      Most places aren’t like that – but the one’s that are will leave you very wary of the “card and collection” people.

    2. Yup*

      Ugh, I hate that they did this to you. If it was so blessedly important that they celebrate birthdays, then the company can spring for $20 out of petty cash every month to get one cake and a couple of cards for everyone with a bday this month.

      Often there’s a self-appointed ringleader on this kind of thing, who feels compelled to Make Everyone Participate. (Because mandatory fun is the best kind!) So frustrating when it’s a boss. Ugh ugh ugh.

      1. Coco*

        [QUOTE](Because mandatory fun is the best kind!) [/QUOTE]
        Yeah, gotta love that “mandatory fun.”

        1. AmyNYC*

          “There ain’t no party like a Liz Lemon party, ’cause a Liz Lemon party is mandatory”

      2. doreen*

        I’ve never worked anywhere that the employer cared about birthdays, retirements,etc . It’s always important to the other employees, and since I work for the government any gifts/parties have to be funded by the participants. I wish my agency wasn’t so into retirement parties- I’m at a level where I feel I’m expected by the other employees to attend parties for people I have supervised and I feel I need to attend the parties for those in upper management so I can network. There are three parties I should be attending next weekend alone , at $60-$80 each. I am very happy I have long-standing plans to be out-of -town.

        1. Felicia*

          I don’t think I was fired because of that (I sincerely hope not), but that’s part of the reason I was unhappy there. I think it did make me not as friendly with my coworkers as I could have been because i resented the whole situation and that was part of the reason. I didn’t even want to eat the cake or expect anything on my birthday so expecting me to spend more money than I make in an hour on people I barely know is so stupid. Oh, and the second time they asked me (after I said no the first time), they accused me of not being a team player because I refused again. So maybe that was the reason.

        2. De Minimis*

          My agency doesn’t really do that much compared to some…we even haven’t done the Combined Federal Campaign [the one with the United Way] because no one is interested in administering it. We do have the occasional potluck, but that does not involve much. I’ve heard other agencies [and even other departments within my facility] are far worse.

          I just was asked about another retirement thing, but it was someone in another department that I did not really know, so I felt comfortable saying no to that one.

          We are pretty strict about soliciting otherwise…technically parents can’t even pass around order forms for Girl Scout Cookies, etc….we have to sneak around in the parking lot if we want to buy them, like we’re trying to score drugs.

        3. mel*

          Ugh my workplace is inconsistent about birthdays which would be way worse than if they just didn’t care…

          They tried to do a thing where every month they’d have a little snack table w/ cake on the side to celebrate that month of birthdays, but for some reason my birthday month was the only one consistently skipped over. For three years before they just stopped doing it. wtf?

          And if you were very well liked and special (a manager or a friend of a manager), then they start collecting money from us low-rung losers to buy an expensive gift. I can think of only two staff members who were gifted laptops on their birthdays, funded by bottom staff.

          1. Heather*

            That’s crazy! Cake and card (funded by company) is fine. But no gifts! I’m not paying to buy a laptop for someone!! Wth are people thinking?

      3. LadyTL*

        Oddly enough, my retail job currently handles birthdays surprisingly reasonably. The owner really does set aside petty cash to get a small cake for someone’s birthday and you don’t even have to eat any of it if you don’t want to. No mandatory gifts or parties or anything, just a cake set aside for people to eat.

        I’m really going to miss that when I move.

        1. Lindsay J*

          My boss buys everyone lunch at one of the local restaurants when it’s someb0dy’s birthday (and also brings in donuts and kolaches when there’s a morning meeting). There is no pressure to partake, but nearly everyone does because we can choose what we order and it’s one day we don’t have to pay for lunch. It’s really nice.

  9. SW*

    I remember when I was emailed repeatedly and approached about contributing to a baby shower for a manager I rarely spoke to. Her department’s admin stopped by my office to talk about how the office budget was cut so “everyone had to pay for this out of their own pocket” for this event, and how they had catering, banquet hall and flower arrangements covered, but needed extra funds to cover the raffle prizes.

    I can’t say I like being asked for money by people who make way more than I do. I don’t remember how I said no — I think I was wishy-washy about it — but when it finally came around I must have been the only person in the office who wasn’t invited.

    1. Yup*

      What the heck kind of baby shower were they throwing this person? That sounds more elaborate than some weddings I’ve attended. I don’t love office baby showers on principle, but if you are getting one, you’re getting cake in the conference room.

      1. Jamie*

        I don’t love office baby showers either…but if they had cupcakes I could put my principles aside…just to be sociable…

        I really need sugar – I wish someone was having a baby shower now.

  10. Andie*

    One of the things my mother’s employer does is offer employees an incentive to donate if the company is donating to a particular charity. If you donate $5 dollars to their designated charity you get to dress casual (jeans and tennis shoes all week). They just send an email to everyone and if you are interested you give $5 bucks to HR and when casual week starts you give to ditch your business clothes for the week. I am sure some people probably dress casual even if they dont pay the $5 bucks but HR is not walking around with a list checking. Its an honor system but no one hounds you. They send one email and that is it.

    1. Del*

      Yeah, this is what my company does. In fact, they’re even better about it, because their usual approach is “Here’s the campaign, if we raise $X or get X% employee participation, EVERYONE gets casual dress for the month of July” or similar. So there’s not even a “Look at me I’m so cool I donated and you didn’t” thing going on. It’s very confidential.

  11. fposte*

    Side question on sponsorship for walks, etc.–have the rules changed on these? It used to be that you’d agree to sponsor before they did it, and then they’d collect the funds after they actually did the deed. Now it seems like it’s a pay-up-front deal, and at that point I’m not sponsoring your activity, I’m just giving you collection money for charity.

    1. Liz*

      I see your point, but isn’t collecting money the primary objective? It’s not like you’re really investing in them walking a couple miles or whatever it is.

      1. fposte*

        Eh, I kind of am–people ask on the basis that they’re going to put forth a particular effort, not just because they’re trick-or-treating for Unicef. It’s a financial acknowledgement of a personal commitment, not a buying of a sticker on a NASCAR vehicle.

        1. doreen*

          You’re talking about the a-thons, right? Walk-a-thons, bowl-a-thons that sort of thing, where you pledge to contribute a certain amount per mile or per pin and you couldn’t turn over the funds until afterwards because you need to know how many miles were walked/pins were knocked down to know how much you were donating. About 15 years ago, they started turning into flat sponsorships with the money collected in advance, which has always made me wonder why they bother with the walking if I’m going to donate $20 regardless of the number of miles walked.

          1. short geologist*

            Doreen, maybe they ran into kids like me… I was a scrawny little kid with no athletic skills other than I could swim like the dickens. Every year, I’d do a charity swim-athon and I’d get some poor sucker to donate like a buck a lap and they’d be out $120 instead of the 10 bucks they expected.

    2. mollsbot*

      Collecting donations outside of the registration fee is usually optional for the 5k charity walks (I’m assuming that’s what you’re talking about). I think if you go above and beyond the registration fee you get prizes. At least that’s what the *one* 5k I do does.

  12. ThursdaysGeek*

    Decades ago, when I was in high school, for some sort of walk-a-thon type fundraiser, I was rude to a beloved teacher by pointing out that others had sponsored me for a larger amount. She told me that this allowed her to sponsor more kids who came to her, and it was hurtful to make comparisons like that. I never forgot that lesson. Other people choose to give and use their money in different ways, and I don’t see the whole picture. Be gracious at any level of generosity. Make it easy and non-stressful for others to simply say no.

    The only time I badgered anyone was a few years ago, when I was doing another fund raiser. I went to many of the teens I’ve worked with over the years, and have bought wrapping paper, cookies, cookie dough, value cards, and candy from, and told them they had to sponsor me for $1.00. And if they didn’t have $1.00, I’d pay it, but it was still from them. I figured turn about was fair play.

    1. Jamie*

      And seriously – what the HELL is with the wrapping paper? It’s such a bizarre item to have kids hawk.

      And it never has Hello Kitty, Winnie the Pooh, or penguins which is the only kind of wrapping paper I’d buy. I’m uncoordinated and lazy – gift bags were made for people like me.

      When my kids were small I refused to even let them badger relatives. I’d write a check making a contribution to whatever the hell and toss the catalogs. I wasn’t training them for sales so I didn’t see the point in allowing them to annoy people.

      If you want my money than either be an awesome cause I’ll contribute to for nothing (and I have several) or sell delicious cookies I cannot buy at the store. Outside of those two categories I do not want to hear it.

      1. Xay*

        The only fundraising item my son ever sold was cookie dough because it sold itself. I refused to pressure people to buy overpriced giftwrap or knickknacks.

      2. TL*

        Our FFA had a meat and cookie dough fundraiser that was looked forward to by the entire community all year.
        It was soooo yummy.

        1. College Career Counselor*

          One presumes that the meat and cookie dough were separate items, yes?

          1. De Minimis*

            The big thing around here is FFA Blue and Gold Sausage.
            Everyone goes nuts waiting for that fundraiser…

          2. TL*

            Yes, they were separate items.

            (Although cookie wrapped sausages sound oddly appealing right now – must be the Friday crazies.)

              1. Esra*

                Wow. Well geez, that makes the horse-carousel fridge magnets I had to sell look pretty darn good.

                1. Lindsay J*

                  We had magnetic picture frames, with star backgrounds and stuff like that. My mom was the only one who brought any, and I think they are still on the side of our refrigerator somewhere.

      3. Lily in NYC*

        My ex’s parents own one of these businesses. They are freaking loaded. I was shocked to find out they get 50% of everything earned by the kids; it seems so high. My ex worked for them for a few years and had a fake 5-pound chocolate bar in his back seat once – it was part of a sales demo. Someone smashed the window of his Mercedes to get that candy bar – they must have been so pissed when they realized it was just cardboard.

        1. TheSnarkyB*

          Someone smashed the window of his Mercedes to get that candy bar – they must have been so pissed when they realized it was just cardboard.

          Hahaha that sounds like me when I have my period!

      4. tcookson*

        We have to sell popcorn for Boy Scouts, and I NEVER ask anyone else to buy it. I can’t make myself ask someone to pay $25 for 10 oz. of popcorn. There have been years where our gifts to all extended family members was a container of Boy Scout popcorn just so we could look like we participated in the selling. I really hate the door-to-door type fundraisers . . . I like the work-for-the-money fundraisers WAY better (parking cars for football games, having a yard sale with hotdog concession, etc.).

        1. Kou*

          I’m not morally opposed to selling things fundraisers (helloooo Girl Scout cookies). We actually buy Boy Scout popcorn tins from the neighbor kids every year– it makes them happy and they love the scouts and I love junk food. Everybody wins!

          But if they were hawking wrapping paper or something I can’t say I’d be similarly inclined.

        2. tcookson*

          It’s not that I’m morally opposed to the selling-things fundraisers . . . I think it has more to do with the fact that my first round of needing to sell Boy Scout popcorn coincided with the financial downturn back in 2008 – 09; I was all prepared to bite the bullet and sell at work, but I found that I just couldn’t do it knowing how tight money was for so many people. That, and my natural aversion to having to sell things. It’s more palatable for me to do the kind of selling where people approach me, rather than me having to approach them. So I like the bake sales and stuff like that.

  13. Nonprofiteer*

    I agree that the UW is a sham. I work for a nonprofit that gets money from the UW in my area. Every fall there is an organization-wide event (during work time) that you have to donate money to the UW to participate in- and I’m talking $50 here. So if you don’t participate, you’re stuck back in the office and labeled as a trouble maker. I don’t care. There’s no way in the world I would give money to an organization that takes it from worthy nonprofits as a “administration fee”. My boss and co-workers don’t like it, but they can deal with it. Btw, I also have a problem with nonprofit workers being asked to give to the charity they work for- that’s essentially docking my/their pay. Not cool!

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      You should check out SFGate’s Jon Carroll and his “Untied Way” campaign.

    2. IndieGir*

      I’m with you on that. I actually give quite a bit to charity on a regular basis through auto-deductions from my checking account. But I completely refuse to give to the UW, even though my company supports it aggressively. I won’t even give $1. They coerce contributions from people who can’t afford it through shame.

      And they tell lies — one year, I was told I could make my monthly contributions to one of my regular groups through the United Way and the charity would get the same amount, no haircut. I did it that way for the year as a personal favor to a co-worker who was charged with running the program. The next year, when I switched it back to direct pay with my regular charity, I found out that they did indeed take a haircut, but that they were forbidden to tell me about it while I was paying through UW. Apparently, UW blackmails charities into silence by removing them from the program if they tell their donors that they get less money than with a direct contribution.

      I suppose I was an idiot for not having figured that out myself, but I was young and stupid in those days!

      1. Elizabeth*

        Apparently, UW blackmails charities into silence by removing them from the program if they tell their donors that they get less money than with a direct contribution.

        Ours not only does that but if an organization does any fundraising outside of the designated UW beg-a-thon, or even talks to donors about how much money they need, our local UW will kick them off the roster.

  14. Heather*

    I WAY prefer to e-mails to card/check off, but I feel like e-mails can come off as shakedown-y, too. I was a recipient of a four person “let’s give our boss an XMas gift!” email last year. 1) Said boss had been my boss less than a week, 2) I was an unpaid intern….so no. And then I worried that the coworker organizing it would judge me.

    1. KellyK*

      I think a four-person email is a lot like coming desk to desk because of the size of the group. An email to everybody in the company/department is a lot more impersonal.

  15. Another question*

    Hi, I have a question regarding this situation. I work for the government in a large social services program. I was asked by my supervisor to be the representative for our team (only a few months after starting the job) for our employee committee. Our job in the committee is to raise money for our location for employee events (parties, awards ceremonies, raffles, etc.). We do a monthly event to raise funds where we sell food, have carnivals, or anything else we can come up with. All money required to put on these events are considered “donations” and come out of our own pockets. These events never raise much money, so we often have to go around to all the other employees and personally ask them to buy tickets for each event. I hate this, however, I feel like I don’t have a choice. Also, if our committee doesn’t raise enough funds for the employee events, it’s considered a performance issue. How can I handle this better? Is there anything I can do?

    1. SW*

      Honestly, the company should be paying for these events, especially if they’re mandatory. And it’s really awful that they’ve made it your “job” to front money for the fundraising activities.

      1. Natalie*

        The commenter says it’s a government social services agency, so they probably isn’t allowed to pay for the events.

        1. De Minimis*

          Where I work [fed agency] we have an “employee club” where people pay $10 a year to join and that covers all the events. They also have occasional food fundraisers [think these are allowed since it’s entirely within our facility.] It pays for our Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, an employee appreciation day, and a couple of other events. It only works though if you have a pretty large group of employees, which we do.

          I like it because they don’t have any pressure to join, if someone doesn’t want to they can just not go to the events [which are limited to only 2-3 a year, and most of them are just a slightly extended lunch hour.]

    2. ThursdaysGeek*

      I’m confused. For employee morale (I presume), a group of you have to pay for a monthly party, and then plead with enough employees to attend and pay their way to offset what you’ve paid? Any extra money goes to the company? And if there isn’t extra, you’re a poor performer? Is that really what you’re saying?

      1. Another question*

        Pretty much. We don’t get reimbursed for our out-of-pocket expenses, so it ends up costing us each between $20-$40 a month. We usually only raise about $80 for each event, which goes directly into our committe fund for the next award ceremony. Maybe we’re doing a crappy job with the events since we don’t raise much, but it’s so hard to get anyone to participate. Each one of us has the employee committee participation listed in our performance plans. Luckily, the committe is only a two-year deal, so I only have to deal with it for a few more months.

        1. JMegan*

          Is it just the participation aspect of it that’s in your performance plan, or are you required to raise a certain amount of money? I’m still not a fan of mandatory participation in something like this, but I’m REALLY not a fan of making your performance review dependent on other people’s willingness and/or ability to give money to it. Yikes.

        2. College Career Counselor*

          You’re being forced to fundraise, AND your performance at work is being judged on this metric, ie, how much you can generate from your fellow conscripts. Unreal.

        3. ThursdaysGeek*

          Hmmm…I bet I could come up with an innovative way to raise employee morale across the board, and it wouldn’t cost the company anything! More importantly, it wouldn’t cost the employees anything either.

          That reminds me of the recent employee survey done by the husband’s company, where morale is in the toilet. One of the disliked managers set a meeting to disclose the results of the survey — at lunch time, with no charge code, and with no food. So bring your own lunch on your own time to find out why morale is so low.

          Honestly, with so many good people unemployed, how is it that these people are employed and managers?

          1. Lindsay J*

            We had one of these surveys at my last job and it was ridiculous.

            Maybe – just maybe – the reason that employee morale is low is because we were working for a bankrupt company that paid many people minimum wage or close to it to work hours in the hot sun, with no benefits, little chance for advancement, and not enough resources to do our jobs effectively.

            No? It must be because we don’t have pictures of smiling employees in the breakroom then.

            My boss also got harassed by the director because we had more complaints than most of the other departments. However, the complaints were for things that we had tried to change but weren’t allowed to (a fresh coat of paint and a new carpet would have done wonders for morale but were not within budget), and we had the lowest turn over rates, highest rehire rates (seasonal employment) and the longest average length of service (many of the employees there had been there longer than I have been alive, while in many other departments less then a season is typical and they average 100-150% turnover for an 8 month season.

    3. Runon*

      I also work at a gvt agency. We have a similar committee but instead of each employee paying, the leadership (for us 5 people) each put some money into it personally and then we work from that. It is one of the places I do think our leadership…leads by example. The committee is extremely cautious with the money but they manage to get generally a couple events a year in. There is also one opt in meal a year generally as well. (Which is really zero pressure, I work next to and directly with the people running it and I never feel any about this thing.)
      I’m not sure this helps but in general I think the raising funds plan is a rough one.

    4. Elise*

      Why does the company feel they even need the parties, awards ceremonies, raffles, etc? Awards can be handed out in front of your team at work. Any one who wants to go to a party with co-workers can choose to meet up after work. And raffles…..not sure why that would ever be needed.

  16. RedStateBlues*

    While I agree with those people saying they wouldn’t pay on the principle, I also know to pick my battles and it just doesn’t come up enough at work for me to want to dig my heels in over it.

    Would my position change if it were a continuous effort around here to solicit money for one cause or another? Probably, but I’ll worry about that if it ever gets to that point.

    Not believing in the cause/program is another matter entirely. Under no circumstances could you pressure me enough to donate to a cause I don’t believe in (I guess I could imagine some, but they probably aren’t realistic). For instance, I don’t know what some of you have against United Way, nor do I really want to know (this isn’t the place for that discussion anyway) but if you don’t believe don’t give.

  17. Cruciatus*

    My company wants employees to donate to them! OK, it’s for a scholarship fund for students, and you do get entered into a drawing for a vacation, or an iPad and things like that. But I dread seeing those envelopes every year with the tickets we’re supposed to sell (and if you can’t sell them they’d like you to donate at least $60). And I’m told the higher ups do look at who sells and who doesn’t. I make $10 an hour. No. Not happening. Oh, and the scholarship event it’s for, we also have to work at every year. On a weekend (hourly folks get to take that time off during the week during that pay period…but still).
    Every year, when the security folks get the envelopes, they immediately write “RETURN TO SENDER” on them. I wish I had the balls to do that!

    1. Rana*

      Yeah, that sort of crap is common in universities and colleges, too. I am not about to donate the pittance they’re willing to pay me; they’re already making a profit off of not giving me benefits, so donate that instead.

  18. evilintraining*

    A couple things from someone who spent 23 years at 2 different nonprofit organizations, one of which used to receive United Way funding:

    1) You can check out any charity, see what percentage goes for administrative costs, and a lot more at Administrative costs should not be above 13%.

    2) I got so tired of being asked for money every year. I work for you; you give me a paycheck and then you want me to give some back? Fine — but accept what I’m willing to give. And pressuring people to constantly increase their pledges from year to year (and some to embarrassing levels knowing what those people earn!) is just unacceptable. The sad thing is, they all do it.

    3) Birthdays and the like are optional. Period.

  19. Bella*

    UG, this is so annoying.
    First of all have any of you checked to see how much charities even take for thier own administrative costs and program expenses??

    Look here:

    I personally like to look for a person, family or friend that really needs the money from outstanding circumstance. This year I donated $100 to a former classmate whose husband was in the hospital for 3 months and almost died. He lived and I am happy that I could help her out.
    I have donated to burn victims, army vets and other less fortunate.
    Just some thoughts.

    1. Esra*

      There are so many great resources for researching charities in the states, I wish there was more like that for non-profits in Canada.

  20. B*

    Just like facebook I do the blanket “I’m sorry but I do not mix business with pleasure. ” I consider charity a pleasure that I give of my own time and money.

    As for gifts/cakes/etc. if you really want all of that the company can pay for it. I am at work being paid to do a job. I am not here to then give you that money back for someone else’s benefit.

  21. Claire*

    The only thing I’ll pull my wallet out for at work is Girl Scout cookies. Because a) yum and b) it’s an organization I strongly support. Other than that, I’m not interested in wrapping paper/frozen pizza/tulip bulbs/candy bars/etc.

    1. RedStateBlues*

      LOL! You sound like my wife. There is no sob story on Earth thats going to get a dime out of her wallet, but when the Girl Scouts come around, its like Scrooge on Christmas morning. Unlike you though, its entirely for reason a). I think she’d tacitly support about any mission statement to get her hands on those cookies :)

  22. Brett*

    This is also part of knowing your company culture. Ask a public safety employee how well it goes over to refuse to donate to the memorial breakfast/dinner. Or refusing to play in the memorial golf tournament once you reach command rank (no matter how bad of a golfer you are). If you know you are going to have objections to the primary charity supported by the office culture, then you have to take that into consideration when accepting the job and realize that it is going to affect your ability to get raises and promotions in a tightly knit company cultuer.

    1. RedStateBlues*

      Agreed. One really needs to consider the true costs of withholding that donation.

      1. SarahMarie*

        Yes, this is true. If it is going to hurt your reputation at work, you would need to consider that before refusing. Or look for another place to work where the culture is more relaxed.

  23. Harrumph*

    Not really related, but I get so annoyed with the constant requests from my cousin for donations to church/mission trips. All it is is a form letter with a little “hope you can help!” handwritten blurb. I barely know her, and I’m not religious, and she knows it.

    Go get a temp job and raise some money yourself, you twit! And/or at least write the letters out by hand to pretend you’re putting some personal effort into it.

    1. IronMaiden*

      Try the line “you can’t pour from an empty pitcher”. Look sad when you say it. It works for me.

      1. Harrumph*

        Ha. That’s sort of the line I use for when my college comes calling asking for donations. :P

    2. Rachel in Minneapolis*

      When I was a teen, I sent out a letter like that to all my relatives. One of my aunts gave me this feedback: Next time, add in to the letter how many months you have been working and how much money you have personally saved up. Then ask people to add to your efforts. I think this really helped her see that I had been working towards this as well, not just asking her to subsidize my vacation.

      And yes, I agree with not sending letters to people you don’t know well enough to know that they are in agreement with your cause.

      1. Harrumph*

        That’s a really great suggestion, to demonstrate what you’ve already done and to show that they’re contributing to what you’ve already spent effort doing. It seems more….participatory, I guess? Rather than just holding out a hat or making the person feel like they’re throwing money into a black hole.

        Glad your aunt was good with constructive advice. :)

    3. Runon*

      I wrote a letter like this myself when I was a teen. I really wanted to do a leadership trip that was very outside my budget, even with the 3 scholarships I managed to get for it. My grandma insisted I write it, and then she hand wrote notes on them to the relatives I knew less. I felt so bad about sending it but all my relatives who helped out were so kind and a couple said things that were incredibly touching. And I got to go!

      (And I did say on there that I worked (full time in the summer, 30 hours a week during the school year) and was awarded the scholarships, which I think helped my cause.)

      It was odd and I’m not sure I’d recommend it, and not more than once. But it made a huge difference for me personally.

      1. Harrumph*

        I think you did it right! :) You obviously needed it, put in a ton of work for it (3 scholarships! applications!) and had a job too. You get the gold star for hard work. ;) Plus, I feel like it’s harder for a teen to get any sort of wage that will help save, you know?

        My cousin spent an entire year abroad in Peru after high school farting around (an extra semester of high school, and a semester of “college”), went abroad the second half of her second year of college (and didn’t get any credit for her classes in Spain because she didn’t feel like taking her exams), graduated from college in December 2011, stayed at home doing nothing until about 9 months ago, and since then has been randomly hopping from organic farm to organic farm playing with goats. I feel like she needs to show a tiny bit of dedication to SOMETHING before I feel okay giving her money to do ANOTHER trip abroad.

  24. Lily in NYC*

    I am flabbergasted that an office is giving their boss a check to mark the anniversary of his son’s death. Who the heck does that? It’s insane.

  25. V*

    I had a situation once where my company moved from a sketchy office building into a renovated historic building.

    One of the VPs found an old painting of the building we just moved into. He called everyone into the CEO’s office and did this big presentation to the CEO, as though it was from all staff.

    Most of us didn’t even know about the painting until the presentation (myself included). He then sent an e-mail to everyone asking for $30 to pay for the $500 painting he already bought!!

    I ignored it because it just felt weird that I didn’t know about this painting, and was expected to give money for a gift he chose to give to the CEO. Plus, I was only there about 6 months, so it didn’t seem appropriate.

    A couple weeks later I got another e-mail, where I was Bcc’d and asked again to give money. I finally decided to put $20 in an envelope (I was at the bottom of the food chain and there was no way I was giving the full $30) and put it on his desk with “For painting” but not my name. It did get the e-mails to stop. He never said anything to me, so I don’t think he figured out whose money it was.

    1. Colette*

      I once was in a group where one of my coworkers was pregnant. We pooled money (voluntarily), got her a gift, and went out for lunch.

      And then she had the baby, and one of our coworkers bought flowers from the group and sent around an e-mail asking for donations. (This was the second time he’d done something like that.) I replied (and copied all) and explained that since we’d already recognized this event and bought a gift, I wouldn’t be participating again.

      I don’t get the mindset of people who buy something and then ask for donations after the fact – that’s a lot more pressure than asking people if they’d like to participate beforehand and scaling the gift to the donations.

      1. SarahMarie*

        That’s so weird to buy something and THEN ask for donations. I was an Executive Assistant for many years and whenever it was the CEO’s birthday I would ask his managers if they wanted to throw in a few dollars towards a gift. Then I would take whatever I had gathered and get him a gift card from the team. I would never have went and got a gift and then after the fact tried to make everyone pay up. The spirit of gift giving is that you are doing it because you want to be kind to someone and not because you feel forced or obligated. I wouldn’t want a gift from someone who was forced to give it to me. Especially a co-worker. I would feel weird.

      2. V*

        Oh agreed! His second e-mail was something like, “I spent $500 bucks on this painting and that’s a lot of money, so please help me pay for it.”

        1. Jamie*

          Can I do that? My house cost more than $500…maybe if I send an email my co-workers will help me pay for it…


      3. tcookson*

        Someone at my office did something like that recently. One of our co-workers returned to work after getting married, and this one co-worker went out and bought a cake and made a big deal to everyone about how it was her idea and her gesture and how thoughtful she, herself, was to do it . . . and then she sent us all an email after everyone had eaten cake to ask us to chip in for it. WTH?

  26. Juni*

    I worked for an office once that gave every employee a $100 bonus every year around holiday time, contingent on us donating $50 of it to charity (with some limitations). We could either pre-select our charity by telling the finance coordinator who to make the $50 check out to, do it via United Way, or donate it ourselves and show a receipt. There were some rules/regulations and a few hoops to jump through, but they GAVE us $50 to donate and $50 to keep, every year. It was nice. If you didn’t want to donate $50 to charity, you could just decline, not get the other $50, and go on with your life.

    1. College Career Counselor*

      I can’t be the only one who thinks a $100 bonus where you are mandated to donate half of it otherwise you don’t get anything is not a $100 bonus. It’s a $50 bonus with strings attached. (Granted, the company doesn’t have to give a bonus–it’s extra by definition). However, if they want their 100% participation, they should have just given everyone the $50 bonus and donated the other $50 directly from the organization.

      1. RedStateBlues*

        Actually, I was thinking is was some workplace psychology experiment. As you alluded to, if 100% participation was the goal, this sure seems like some Rube Goldberg process to get it.

      2. Oi*

        I think this is very different from the situations described above. This is actually the company supporting the employees in what the employee is interested in in the community.

        I’d be happy to get this offer.

        1. bearing*

          Right, and since the employee gets the money and then sends it to the charity, it’s the employee who gets to deduct the charitable donation. So it’s not quite the same as a $50 bonus with strings attached. It’s a $50 bonus plus a $50 tax deduction.

    2. Runon*

      I actually think this is a very good way to do it. Assuming there wasn’t other kinds of pressure to participate, or any limits on who you could give the money to. (Assuming 501(c)3 status or something like that.)

      1. Juni*

        From what I remember, there were no mandates on giving, and your determination to give to charity was totally up to you and confidential, and the only person who knew was the finance person assigned to your last name who cut the checks. No one that I worked with didn’t like this initiative – it was basically free money, not tied to performance or anything, as long as you committed an equal amount to a charity of your choice. No cost out of pocket, it was like being paid to donate to charity. Most people thought of it as a perk.

        1. KarenT*

          I think it’s a great idea. I agree it’s really a $50 bonus, but I’d be thrilled if my company gave me $50 to donate to a charity of my choice.
          It’s the company actually doing the giving and engaging the employees. I like it!
          Out of curiosity, did they care what charity?

  27. BookWorm*

    “Angel Tree” – every Christmas a former employer used to select a needy child for the employees to purchase gifts for. Ugh. I hated it.
    If you think that makes me sound like an ogre – well, I had relatives who were just as bad off as the needy families & I spent my money on my relatives. And yes, I told my co-workers about my family members. It wasn’t any of their business, but it stopped the aggressive solicitations.

    1. tcookson*

      Right . . . I have family members, too, to whom I send money when I can . . . people who have been out of work for three years and they have kids to support. I don’t care that I’m not getting company-approved brownie points for helping them (or that the company doesn’t get to take some sort of credit for it) . . .

    2. Jazzy Red*

      We have angel trees in my community (rural small town), but they are 100% voluntary. Also at my church. I usually contribute because they are voluntary.

  28. Anonny*

    Giving someone money because their child died 3 years ago is…weird. I don’t get it. Unless it’s going to a charity in his honor? (I was confused by the second OP saying they donated the year the child passed to the family *and* a charity.) A manager still shouldn’t pressure employees to give regardless of the cause/recipient, but I’m just trying to understand the point of this particular fundraiser. Maybe I misread something.

    1. Marmite*

      I think it’s probably going to a charity in his name or a memorial fund. My partner died two years ago and I set up a memorial fund at a local organisation he supported. I honestly didn’t expect people to continue to donate after the initial thing but they do. I don’t solicit repeat donations (we gave details of the memorial fund in his obituary and requested donations in lieu of flowers) but the organisation notify me when they receive new donations and it still happens fairly often. People seem to like to donate on his birthday, the anniversary of his death, or their own birthdays. I always write a thank-you note but, as I said, have never solicited the repeat donations.

      In the OP’s case it might be that the father wants to raise money for a charity in honour of his son. For example a SIDS charity if his son passed away from SIDS, and has decided to do that on the anniversary of the child’s death. People don’t get over deaths like that for a very long time and he may be thinking of it as a constructive way to mark a horrible date in his calendar. That said, I agree he shouldn’t pressure for money, but it sounds like it’s actually a third party asking for money for him so he may not be pushing it at all.

  29. Anonicorn*

    One thing I hate (loathe and despise) about my job is that we have a backwards culture where gifts flow upward, birthdays are celebrated quarterly, boss’s day and admin professional’s day are a thing, and we have the equivalent of a party planning committee that orchestrates every annoying card, sign up sheet, and get-together.

    Our director – let me say that again, DIRECTOR – had a baby shower complete for a grandchild. The planning committee emailed us the director’s gift registry and created a sign up sheet for food. Tackiest thing ever.

    The quarterly birthdays involve being one of a randomly selected group that brings whatever desserts the birthday celebrants have selected. I showed up one time without a dessert and was told that I’d better go to the store quickly because someone’s birthday might be ruined. Um…no, I don’t think it would ruin someone’s month-ago birthday if they don’t have a cupcake at work today.

  30. Scott Messinger*

    I feel the need to defend United Way, even though this is not part of the original thread. I donate to United Way every year. I like it because it’s easy, my company doesn’t coerce me to donate, and the money stays local. Administrative costs for my local United Way are 16% ,which I feel is reasonable.

    United Way is a clearinghouse for charities, to make it easier for people to donate to local charities without the local charities needing to spend as much money and time to fundraise themselves. in this respect, I think United Way does a good job overall.

    And just so no one thinks I’m a UW shill, I posted comment under my real name.

    Just my two cents.

    1. SarahMarie*

      Yes, the United Way is a great charity that does a lot for their local communities. I think that is great that you support their work.

    2. Editor*

      In my county, there are three United Way groups. One is Medium City UW, which is well into the next county and covers my inner suburban area but isn’t particularly interesting to me because the groups that benefit are all the usual suspects.

      The main office of my former job was in the county seat, which is the headquarters for Rural-Suburban UW. I know more about it and as far as I know, it wasn’t creaming too much off the top in admin fees. But it didn’t serve the area where I lived or where I worked.

      Then there was Tiny Rural UW at the other end of the county where I worked in an outlying office. It was run on a shoestring. The woman in charge was a bank official married to a local cop and got calls at all hours from people who needed help and didn’t know where to turn. People in town were incredibly generous and helped local charities pay for extraordinary medical expenses and other problems. I never had any qualms about giving to Tiny Rural UW, but Medium City UW didn’t interest me at all.

  31. SarahMarie*

    In my office we do a weekly jeans day where you are supposed to donate $1 to whatever charity we are sponsoring that particular quarter. However, we don’t really enforce it. If someone really wants to wear jeans and doesn’t want to donate $1, we don’t track them down. I think that it is nice when companies sponsor charities, however I don’t think that it would be right to force someone to participate in that or in a birthday club, group gift, etc… if they do not wish to. Some people love to participate in office baby showers, retirement parties, and other functions and some do not. Either way, that is ok. My office threw me a baby shower with my first child. Everyone pitched in and got me some really nice gifts. I was really touched by the gesture. We are a small organization so it isn’t like these things happen all of the time, but when they do I participate because I want to and not because I am forced to. There are others who never ever participate and that’s ok too and I don’t think anyone really cares that they are opting out.

    1. Tinker*

      Heh, my first reaction is “wow, they found something even more depressing than Casual Friday”. Variety makes the world go ’round, I guess.

      1. Marmite*

        Over here (UK) we have Jeans 4 Genes day once a year. I remember my school participating in it (we have school uniforms here so wearing jeans for a day was hugely desirable) and most of my workplaces have too. My school had the option to wear jeans but donate the £1 to another charity if you didn’t support genetic research.

    2. Windchime*

      We have jeans days at work, too, and for a small voluntary donation, you can wear jeans for a certain day. They don’t keep track, so pretty much everyone wears jeans on that day.

      We also have a couple of fun annual events. One is candy grams and the other is flower grams. For a dollar, you can send a candy bar (or a flower) along with a note to a co-worker, and the money goes to the Foundation. The Foundation money is given to local charities–I think this year, it’s the local shelter for homeless women and children. Candy grams and flower grams are both fun events; it’s a good way to show appreciation for coworkers and the money goes to a good, local cause.

  32. Angelina Retta*

    Every time someone comes up with the “it’s only __ small amount here __!!” I ask for that amount to be given to me personally from the asker’s pocket. Funny, they never give it to me.

  33. SarahMarie*

    On the topic of donating to a charity at work: A neutral way to opt out would be to say something like “This looks like a great cause, however I am very loyal to XYZ charity. They support a cause which I feel passionately about and I volunteer/donate on my own time”. Just a suggestion. Of course, if this is not true, you probably shouldn’t say that.

    1. AB*

      I have a similar opt-out speech that goes like this:

      “Thanks, but I already have a list of charities I donate to, based on my own research and the results of evaluations by organizations such as, which identifies programs with strong evidence of positive impact on people’s lives and that can productively use more donor funding.”

      (I will add the part about “this looks like a great cause, but” if I truly believe it.)

    2. Ed*

      My wife and I (who both work for the same company) both have chronic illnesses. I generally say something like “we donate to the MS Society and the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation since that affects us directly”. That seems to go over pretty well. But we’re still pressured to take part in the annual heart walk (since our department co sponsors it). At least they’re not insisting we donate money; just sign up so we can claim a bunch of participants.

      1. Esra*

        High five, fellow Crohn’s and/or Colitis haver.

        I say the same thing, I have my set charities. I don’t like to mix charitable giving with work. I like strong boundaries.

  34. Bonnie*

    I don’t have children. After 15 years of buying things I didn’t need, I put an end to it. I love supporting children, schools and clubs. If your child wants money from me and asks for it, I will give it. If your child is having a fundraising event like a read-a-thon, I will happily donate. But I am done buying stuff I don’t want for which the school only gets about 50% of my donation.

  35. Carrie in Scotland*

    What s this United Way? We don’t have it here in the UK, although no doubt we have something similar….

    1. Marmite*

      Actually we do have it, it’s just local to Liverpool here for some reason! It’s an organisation that does community advocacy, getting people to try and improve their communities through volunteering, giving, etc. They focus on education, health, and stable income. If I remember correctly from my time in the US they have been somewhat controversial, though, particularly for the way they handle their finances.

    2. Jazzy Red*

      It’s several different charities/organizations, under one umbrella. They get difference amounts of the money raised. My sister worked as a temp at United Way for a few weeks, and found out how much need was in our community by the phone calls they got. They would help put the callers in touch the organization that could best help them. The biggest controversy they had was supporting Planned Parenthood. People who are against abortion didn’t want their money going to this particular agency.

      Employers would pressure their people to contribute, either by “suggesting” contributions of specific amounts of money, or an hours or days pay. Employers who had 100% participation would be recognized at wrap-up dinner and get their pictures in the newspapers. I don’t know if they’re still doing that so much these days.

      People just want to chose for themselves how to give their money or time & effort.

      1. Jazzy Red*

        One more thing, I used to contribute to the Susan G. Komen foundation, which was doing breast cancer research and helping women (and men) who had breast cancer. It became public last year that they were giving money to Planned Parenthood, and I stopped donating to them. I specifically wanted my money to be used for breast cancer research. My sister and aunt were survivors, as well as several friends. I felt I’d been duped by them. I now donate directly to breast cancer research.

        1. FreeThinkerTX*

          And I quit donating and buying pink merchandise when they announced they weren’t going to support Planned Parenthood anymore. I’ve had two breast cancer scares and gotten all my screenings and mammograms done through Planned Parenthood, because I don’t have insurance. Cutting off that funding jeopardizes my chances of receiving quality, affordable women’s wellness care.

  36. Marmite*

    I took a class on giving and voluntarism at college and learned some very interesting things about the way charities use donations and where the money really goes. I’ve followed the professor’s suggestion ever since; in January I pick two charities to support monetarily for the year and regularly give to those what I can afford to. I research charities I’m interested in to see where they spend their money, etc. and select five or six I believe in that also spend their money in a way I agree with, and then let my young son help me pick the two for the year.

    I also volunteer my time to three programs that I like and believe in, and I support my son when he chooses to join in with sponsored school events (we talk about whether it’s something he wants to support before he chooses to participate, but it usually is as his school tends to choose local community projects). If I’m asked at work to donate to charity drives I explain about my choosing charities in January for the year and say I’d be happy to consider this charity for next year if whoever’s asking wants to give me info on them/send me to their website or whatever.

    I do donate to some things “off the cuff”, memorial funds being the main one. I lost my partner two years ago and was touched by how generous people were donating to his memorial fund, including people that weren’t especially close to us/him. I understand the positive impact those donations make on the family as well as the nominated recipient of the fund so I like to donate as much as I can at those times.

  37. CathVWXYNot?*

    I consider the difference between what I make now and what I’d be making by now if I’d stayed in the private sector to be my donation to the charity I work for. Exceptions for bake sales, BBQs, and raffles with good prizes, natch ;)

  38. Kate*

    I’m now having giving flashbacks to former jobs! My last employer (referred to as “The Bad Place”) passed around a sign up sheet with everyone’s birthday on it and you had to sign up to be the “host” of that person’s birthday and bring in treats and get a card, etc. It was like a horrible combination of mandatory fun and a flashback to potentially not having anyone pick you for the dodgeball team (there was an odd number of employees). We also had to give $20 each for the owner’s birthday present and her Christmas present. With 23 employees, she did well. Note that we did not get holiday bonuses or birthday presents ourselves!

  39. Anonymous*

    We not only have retirement parties, showers, and the like, but now they’ve started collecting donations for first apartments. As in, teens/20/30/whatever moving out for the first time. Apparently towels, sheets, dishes, curtains, and the like are desperately and immediately needed. Oh, and furniture.I pointed out that when I moved out on my own I had a exactly one blanket, a spork, and one Taco Bell glass and thought that was fine. I got “the frown”. wtf.

    1. Esra*

      Serious wtf. Since when do you get gifts for moving out? I left home at 16 and it was all hand-me-downs from friends and Goodwill finds.

    2. tcookson*

      Ha! When my husband and I were first married, we didn’t have a table and proper chairs . . . we had two metal folding chairs that we scooted up to the kitchen bar and that was our dining room table. Our bed was just a Hollywood frame with the box springs and mattress on it . . . we gradually improved our lot, though . . . not through any receiving of gifts, alms, donations, etc.

      1. Jamie*

        I love this. My first marriage we were quite young and in military housing. We had a bed, a ikea dresser, and shoe folding chairs. He bought a love seat from a buddy for $7.00 because my dad was flying out to visit.

        I was so proud of how cleverly I hid the fact that half of one of the cushions had been chewed by his buddy’s dog. I was a real Martha Stewart.

        My father was horrified…we went to the mall and next thing I knew I had a home full of furniture and more cookware than one pan and one spatula.

        I still smile when I think of how proud I was of that couch and how thrilled I was to get rid of it less than 24 hours later.

        1. tcookson*

          What is a “shoe folding chair”? Is it a chair shaped like a shoe, or some genre of chair that I’ve never heard of (ie. parson’s chair, slipper chair, etc.)?

          I can’t say I wouldn’t love it if any parents on any side of our marriage swooped in and took us on a house-full-of-furniture shopping spree!

          1. Jamie*

            Oops…some folding chairs. We had 3 – like the kind that come with card tables. I really need to proof better.

            1. tcookson*

              Oops…some folding chairs/blockquote>

              Oh, I might have figured that out if I’d remembered my third grade teacher’s advice to use “context clues”. :-)

      2. Lindsay J*

        Yeah, I still don’t have a kitchen table. We eat on the couch most of the time.

        When I first moved out I furnished my apartment for about $200. Went to grab a couch from Craigslist for about $50, and while we were there wound up picking up a two dressers, too since they were getting rid of them. Grabbed a coffee table from Goodwill for $15, cheapest bedframe we could find on Amazon, and we were set.

    3. The IT Manager*

      :) For the first several years out of college my kitchen table was a card table, my tv stand was another card table (classily disguised by tossing a sheet over it), I had several folding chairs, and a neon yellow bean bag chair (from my teen years).

      I finally acquired a futon for the living room before my parents second visit. Sleeping on the floor during their first visit did not work out well for me, but it turned out sleeper sofas are way over priced. It took me at least 5 and half years post-graduation before I got a real dining room table and chairs.

  40. Seattle Writer Girl*

    Shortly after my company was sold (in a sale which literally put tens of millions of dollars directly into the founder’s wallet) our office held our annual Trick-or-Treat event. The founder’s two small children, flanked proudly by their mother, went around to every person in our office to trick-or-treat for UNICEF complete with 30-second memorized speech about how your money went to “potable water for children” and some such. Again, this was just 1 month after our company had been sold and the founder became an overnight millionaire (on top of his already considerable wealth). Their actions were very poorly received and I overheard several workers only half-jokingly tell the girls to “go ask your Dad for money.”

  41. Ed*

    I have yet to give to my company’s “giving campaign”. When I started it was mostly United Way. My first objection (and this was in the early ’90s) was that they’d printed out a nice little form with my contact info already on it, and all I had to do was indicate the amount. Oh, one other little detail: it had my SSN on it. I complained to them and eventually (after a few years) they figured out putting SSNs on things was not a good idea.

    They also eventually stopped using UW. I still don’t care. My charity work/donations are my business, not my employer’s. Don’t bother me with soliciting for a heart walk, a “community giving” campaign, or any of that stuff.

    And lately it seems that my office is putting on farewell parties for people leaving about once every few weeks. That gets old too.

    1. Ed*

      Oh, and the university hospital at which I used to work generally provides well over $100,000,000 in uncompensated care to the public. You’d think that would be enough charity for them.

  42. Cassie*

    We recently had a retirement party for someone who works in an auxiliary dept, with a “please let us know if you’d like to contribute for the cake” mass email. This person has done some work for our dept (as it’s what he is paid to do), but I’d say about 25% of our staff actually know who he is. Most of the reaction when the email went out was “who is this guy? Do I know him?” People went to the party and/or contributed because they were worried the supervisor would get mad if they didn’t.

    I basically ignore all requests for birthdays and such. I’ve contributed a little for retirements (less frequently for when coworkers are going to other depts), but I’m not a big fan of it at all. Especially if someone tries to force me to contribute.

  43. elikit*

    A couple of years ago, after being made redundant from my permanent job, I temped for a government department. They kept loaning me out to different department, so I ended up working in 2-3 places while I was there.

    My first week at the Department Blah, the woman in charge of the team said, “Once a month the different departments take turns putting on a morning tea. This month it’s our department’s turn, and everyone contributes $10.”

    I probably awkwardly said “Ooookay…”

    Then I started to think about it and I was like, well, I wasn’t here last month for the previous morning tea, and I’m a temp and won’t be here next month for that morning tea, so why should I pay $10 to set up some random ass morning tea?

    So when they tried to collect the next day, I just said, “No thank you.”

    And they looked confused/affronted and left me alone.

    Two weeks later, I found a job somewhere else.

    And at my new job, someone posted on the intranet that they were doing Mindful May, which was similar to Dry July, except instead of not drinking for a month, they were going to meditate for ten minutes every day so they were collected sponsors for that. Even if I didn’t have my charity stuff already laid out for the year, I would not have felt compelled to sponsor that.

      1. Elikit*

        Ha! A morning tea is just basically a bunch of breakfast-y foods like muffins and fruit and suchlike being set out around 10 or 11, and everyone takes a break and has a snack and a bit of a chat.

        I think it was so high because everyone who worked on that floor would be invited, but there were 5-6 people on the team, so that seems like a lot of money to buy some muffins and fruit!

      1. Elikit*

        Oh, it’s a take off of Dry July, where you don’t drink for a month, get sponsors and donate the money raised to charity. I can see sponsoring people for Dry July because Australia has a pretty healthy drinking culture and it would probably be pretty hard for some people to not drink for a month.

        But meditation seems so much less tangible than not drinking that I would so not be inclined to pay someone to do it.

          1. The IT Manager*

            Me either. I find it amsuing to be used as an example “similar to Dry July” when I have never heard of that either. I can assume from Elikit that’s its “a thing” in Australia.

            Also (extrapolating here) if you were to do a Dry July an individual particpating sould say something like I would have spend $200 on alcohol this month but instead I am donating that money to a charity. You really can’t do the same thing with mediation which you don’t spend money on.

  44. Hannah*

    I have used the “aww I can’t, it’s not in the budget” line before with success. I’m pretty sure I got this from an older post on this blog. At the same time I just try to sound friendly and encouraging of whatever the collection is for.

    I don’t actually have a budget but it’s a nice way of saying I’m not going to support anything financially. I’m comfortable with seeming like a bit of a tightwad as long as I’m nice about it.

  45. Vicki*

    I like the system of “there’s an envelope/can, box on So-and-so’s desk if you want to contribute” and/or “a card you can sign if you want.”

    As for company donations, LastJob “gave” every employee $100 as a holiday gift that they could donate via in whatever proportions they saw fit.

  46. Grumpy*

    We have a ‘family’ type environment at work, though we’re well over 200 people now. Whenever there’s a gift-giving occasion baby shower , birthday, “our boss is so wonderful” they take donations but everybody writes down their name and the amount they donated next to it! WTH?

  47. Ion*

    I am supposed to give 10% to The Lord. I’m gonna start asking my coworkers how much they give.

  48. KC*

    This is SUCH a thing at my company right now. We used to be a business casual environment, and every Friday employees could donate $2 to dress casually. The money collected was donated to a different charity every week (usually suggested by an employee). Now, in theory you could just wear you business casual attire and skip the donation, but there’s a lot of social pressure not to be “that guy.”

    We’ve since moved to a casual dress, but Friday donations were still solicited. When the company noticed donations dropping, they decided to go with quarterly charity events. They’ve grouped everyone in the company into teams, competing to raise the most money. Now, the charity is a worthy one. But I’m getting REALLY tired of the bake sales, after-work events, poker nights, etc. — and we’re still being asked to do the Friday donation. Your “team captain” tracks what you raise each week, and each team’s earnings are emailed out every week. None of this is subsidized by the company, and no match has been mentioned.

    I really wish they would give us X# of days to use to volunteer (paid) each year and let us do our own charity work. But then they wouldn’t be able to hand an organisation a huge check at a public sporting event at the end. So much employee time/money has been wasted on fundraising (on and off the clock).

  49. Ann Onymous*

    How about when it’s your employer itself asking for the money?
    Last week, when I came in, I was asked to donate money to a fund at the college where I work. I was kind of backed into a corner and told by the “designated fund solicitor” in our department that if we got 100% (and I just happened to be the 1% holding it up) participation, we could take part in the campus’s pizza party. I gave the minimum amount as I was a little miffed.
    Like, isn’t your employer supposed to pay YOU, not the other way around?

  50. anonymous*

    This works in work environments too:

    When I am asked for a donation loudly – – as a method of social pressure by a grocery chain such that they will then be able to market how much “they” contributed, – – I state loudly with the intent of others behind me hearing, “no thanks I do my giving privately”. I highly emphasize the word “privately”

    I believe it turns the tables on who is embarrassed as several times, the clerk has then apologized for asking and says “we have to ask”. I say “I know, but it’s not a public matter for most people and it’s intended to try to shame me into giving by asking me in public”. I then turn down the line of people behind me and usually more than one person is smiling at me or taking interested note. While I would not do this at work, in a grocery environment, I then suggest the clerk shares my views with their manager.

    I take as much time with this conversation as is needed to come across as polite and thoughtful about it, because if you are going to offensively try to shame me in public, especially while I am a paying customer, I am going to take my bleepin’ time to make sure everyone in the vicinity understands just who should be ashamed.

    What if, after a nice dinner at a restaurant, the waiter came up and asked for a donation to a cause? What’s the difference? I am a customer in both settings so what changed such that this abhorrent activity seemingly became ok to do? Nothing, in my opinion, except people allowing themselves to be bullied. It’s not okay, and we should be pushing back.

    This pattern is true at work too. Recently a senior executive claimed that they had a certain health condition that ran in their family and encouraged people to give to a charity. It’s an open giving situation, where you can see who has given funds, and she clearly has not contributed, so it appears to be a political thing. There is also a competition with other departments on giving, so it’s my view that she expects us to give a lot while she gives little. I think one might need to vote with their feet at work more than confront, but clearly one can say that their budget for giving is already committed for the year and move on.

  51. annon*

    Isaac’s Deli in Lancaster, PA gives rewards for donating to United Way, an organization that I disagree with on many points. One reward is a new, limited edition work shirt for having 100% participation within the location. My coworkers all hate me for losing them the shirt, one manager tried to buy me out and another manager has taken it upon herself to make me regret my decision for next year. I feel like there should be some kind of legal shield from this sort of employee abuse.

  52. Tkdchik71*

    I work at a non profit. Currently, we are running an endowment campaign and they expect full financial participation from all board and staff. The staff and I are feeling bullied into participation. We all have very tight budgets and believe it should have been our choice. Being the manager, I told the person no, but they insisted I ask staff again. They came back again, I gave them the same answer. “Don’t you believe in what we do?” Then, I was asked if I could write them in my will. I about lost it. Then the rest of the day, I had to deal with this issue instead of work-related issues. Forced participation just causes resentment, I think. It is bad policy. They have no idea our financial state and it is none of their business.

    Any thoughts?

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