my boss wants everyone to donate personal money back to our employer

A reader writes:

I’m the newly appointed development coordinator at a small, independent graduate school. My boss and I are the only ones in our department, and he’s got an idea that I want to oppose – strongly – but I’m not sure how to go about it.

My boss wants everyone who works here to give to the school – and he’s becoming very up-front about how strongly he feels about getting 100% participation.

The problem is that my husband is a student here. Between his tuition and our payment for on-campus married student housing (by far the cheapest option), around 120% of my paycheck already goes to the school. We’ve taken weekend jobs to foot that extra 20%, leaving us with my husband’s measly work-study job for our other living expenses. I feel like we do enough already!

While we are in the minority, my personal conversations with some colleagues reveal that I’m not the only one in this situation, either. Around a quarter of the staff are either married to a current student or recent graduates of the institution themselves, complete with student debt.

Furthermore, I don’t think that getting 100% faculty and staff giving participation will produce the result my boss intends. “I don’t care how much they give,” he said. “I just want to be able to look a donor in the eye and say ‘100% of my people give. They are committed to our mission.'” I think anyone with half a brain will recognize that 100% giving has to be compulsory.

Now, I could just shut up and give a dollar and call it a day. In fact, because I’m so new here, that might be the best option. On the other hand, though, since I’m the only other person in the department, I know the task will eventually fall on me to “encourage” the participation of my peers, and I just can’t stomach that. I might be the best one to oppose this nonsense.

I’d like to know:

1) Is this normal in educational or other nonprofit institutions? Perhaps this is a customary part of these sorts of workplaces and I just need to deal with it.

2) If this isn’t normal, what is a good way to approach my boss with this? I really don’t want to get into a conversation about my personal finances, but I want him to understand just how offensive his insistence on me giving more to the school is.

It’s not uncommon, but it is very, very obnoxious.

The fact that it’s not uncommon, though, means that you can’t approach it with your boss from a perspective of “this is obviously insane and a horrible idea” … because your boss has probably seen this done before, and knows that plenty of people don’t find it insane and horrible, even though they should.

But you can certainly point out the consequences of doing this that he hasn’t considered. Well, yes, he would like to be able to tell prospective donors that 100% of his staff supports the school enough that they donate, that advantage (if it even is an advantage — I’m skeptical that most donors are moved by that) is outweighed by the following:

(a) It’s an unfair position to put people in, because many people — like you — are already stretched thin financially and will have to use money that they had allocated for rent or groceries.

(b) People will deeply resent having to either explain their finances or give money to their employer (when in the normal course of things,it’s supposed to be the other way around), and this is terrible for morale.

(c) Mandating that people donate is utterly at odds with what he hopes to convey to donors — when donations are compulsory, a 100% participation rate no longer means anything other than that people comply because they want to keep their jobs.

I’d point out all of the above to him. Do it calmly and unemotionally — which is pretty much always how you should talk to your boss and coworkers, but it’s especially true since you’re new. See your role here not as an impassioned advocate for Right (although you’re serving that role too), but as a calm, helpful observer pointing out some consequences he might not have thought about.

But if that doesn’t work and he’s determined to plow forward with it anyway, then yeah, give a dollar, call it a day, and recognize that your boss is just a little out of touch in this area.

{ 284 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous*

    I advise philanthropists and grantmakers and I know of none that would find this a compelling statistic. Many donors will ask about donations by board members, where 100% is often seen as a requirement, but not for employees.

    1. AmyNYC*

      As a student member of my college’s Board of Trustees, I can vouch for this. They wanted 100% participation and I sat there quietly….

      1. JennyS*

        Agreed on 100% Board of Trustees. I’ve worked for non-profit arts organizations for 14 years and know that many donors find Board commitment to be compelling evidence. 100% of staff? I’ve honestly never heard of a non-profit requiring such a thing and I can’t imagine that donors would find it very compelling either.

        Here’s the thing: sophisticated major donors know that non-profit employees aren’t raking in the bucks. These employees show their commitment to the mission and the organization by being in the non-profit field to begin with. There is no need to be a donor too.

        1. Elysian*

          Exactly – most people make a financial sacrifice to work at a non-profit because they believe in the mission. That’s their donation.

          1. Coffeeless*

            The non-profit i used to work for did this. They told us it was essentially mandatory and gave us “suggested donation” amounts. I was working 15-20 hours a week at roughly minimum wage. They ended up taking something like $8 out of every pay check.

    2. thenoiseinspace*

      Exactly! I’d see that number and assume there’s got to be a lot of resentment in that department, and decide not to work with them. It’s just too suspicious.

    3. Anonathon*

      Yup, this is my field and I agree. We have the option for staff to donate if they want, but we don’t push it. (Basically, you can fill out a form with HR if you feel so inclined, and it is a very nice and non-expected gesture.) 100% Board giving is way more important, and that’s what foundations and individual donors care to see.

    4. Anony-turtle in a half shell*

      I work at a small, private, independent high school, and our development office requests 100% donation participation for faculty and staff. They say that outside donors ask about employee participation on a regular basis and like to see near 100% participation. They do tell us that how much doesn’t matter at all, just that they have very high participation. (This, obviously, causes some resentment among employees, who are already dealing with low pay and no raises for a long time.)

      1. Anony-turtle in a half shell*

        I should add that this year, one of the top people in our organization requested everyone who wasn’t donating give him information about why they weren’t giving. He apparently followed up with everyone who did not give some amount.

      2. Anne*

        I *went* to a small, private, independent high school, and they started pressing us for donations immediately upon graduation. It can be five bucks a year, but how great will it look that our alums have such great dedication to the school!

        No thanks. I’d paid enough in tuition, I was paying for college internationally, and it wasn’t like they’d exactly set me up to walk into the workforce immediately…

        It’s such a pain that this starts even at the high school level. (And elementary school, I imagine.) Not good for you, not good for me.

    5. raise your game*

      “where 100% is often seen as a requirement”

      And even that is sometimes bad, because it leads to boards where a key requirement is capacity to give. If the organization is dealing with, say, poverty, then actual poor people can’t be on the board playing a role in the organization’s governance.

  2. monologue*

    I don’t have any good advice for you, I just want to say I can relate. I’m a grad student and the hospital I work at just built a new research building. Yes I now benefit from that building, but while it was being built the Reasearch Institute Chair, a professor with a very generous salary, was constantly sending mass emails to students and postdocs that she knows are temporary employees on a tight budget and requesting donations towards the new building. It was pretty disgusting. Luckily we were not forced to give, though.

    Personally I think if you work somewhere you’re already giving your time and you shouldn’t ever be asked to make donations to your employer. Sure you’re being paid for your work, but there’s so many little things we all do above our job descriptions that I think make up the difference.

    1. some1*

      Slightly related: I went to parochial schools for K-12. For years my grade and high school sent stuff addressed to me at my parents’ house (which I had moved out of). Um, if you think I live with my parents, why would I have extra money lying around to donate to my alma mater??

      1. AmyNYC*

        My college did this – a student called me and asked for a donation, and suggested $365! I told the kid, “I pay more than that a month on loans, but I can swing 20 bucks.”
        Wait… maybe this was all a diabolical plan.

        1. Vee*

          My husband’s college calls us all the time–and our daughter is a student there currently. Sorry, we’re already giving you $16K a year.

        2. Turanga Leela*

          Yes! I recently got a call from a young-sounding student raising money for my alma mater. I politely told him that money was tight, and he said, “Should I put you down for $200 then?” I was actually offended.

          1. LV*

            I once got stopped on the street by a canvasser for the Red Cross and told him, truthfully, that I had gotten laid off from my job recently so I couldn’t afford to donate. He said, “This fundraising drive ends next week, so you have a few more days to get a job and start donating!” Yeah, because that’s going to be my main priority, over paying overdue bills and getting groceries…

            1. Michele*

              Those guys are all over NYC whether it be for Greenpeace, Planned Parenthood, you name it they are there. One girl actually said to me as I walked by that I must hate the environment since I wasn’t willing to donate. I asked what her name was, got back to the office and called her company to issue a complaint!

              1. Elysian*

                Someone once told me I hate children and the future because I wouldn’t donate to his cause. I couldn’t stop myself from telling him that I was a public school teacher and No, in fact, I don’t hate children or the future, and that in fact I’m investing a lot more than him because I’m not standing on a street corner insulting people. Thankyouverymuch.

                1. Tori*

                  I almost feel like insulting and pestering must be tactics that these people get trained on. It happens so much, I have never heard of someone having a pleasant interaction with a street canvasser.

                2. fposte*

                  I would be sorely tempted to respond “No, I just hate you.”

                  The British term for these people is “chugger,” condensed from “charity mugger.”

              2. Frustrated Job Seeker*

                I did street canvassing for one of the organizations mentioned above for a day. Yes, I barely lasted a single day – I wanted to quit before I started (a friend that worked at this company “convinced” me to take the position)

                It was torture. They try to sell it you as “building coalitions and promoting progressive causes and organizations,” but truly, if that was the case then why the daily quotas (if it wasn’t about the money)

                Frankly, I’m surprised these organizations make any money – they buy contracts (that pay for the salaries/operations of) with the canvassing company, and supposedly all the money the people raise goes back to them.

                They say there’s value in all work – yeah, not so sure about this one.

              3. Anne*

                They’re all over the world. Here in the UK we call them “chuggers” – charity muggers.

                A friend of mine has perfected a fantastic way of meeting women. When he sees a woman who is being talked at by a chugger, with that quietly desperate “I’m too polite to leave, I don’t want to give you money, please leave me alone” look in her eyes… he enthusiastically bounds up to her and says “Oh my god, how are you! I haven’t seen you in YEARS! What have you been doing since school? Do you have a minute? Let’s get a coffee and catch up!” When the chugger tries to interrupt, he rounds on them and says “Excuse me, but *I don’t care*, I was really close with this lady when we were kids and it’s amazing to see her. Please go away.”

                Then they walk away, and about ten feet away he shakes her hand says “Hi, I’m Dean. We absolutely, completely do not need to actually get a coffee unless you really want to.”

                Apparently he’s done it five or six times, gotten a couple lovely dates out of it, and only had one of the women give it away to the chugger once. I don’t know how he does it. Does he wink or something? Who knows.

                1. Anne*

                  Thinking about it, I guess the people who are polite enough to get trapped talking to chuggers are also the people who will just politely roll with it?

          2. ZSD*

            Yup, a student from my alma mater suggested a mere $500 when I said money was a bit tight for me. I actually laughed at her. I think I gave $25.
            (It’s not the students’ fault, though; this is what their supervisors are telling them to say.)

            1. Anon Accountant*

              I’ve had that also. When I was unemployed, the student suggested I donate $500.

              I asked if $20 was okay. He was thrilled that I was agreeing to donate something.

        3. TL*

          They did that to me and I just laughed. They kept lowering it and I kept on laughing; finally I was like, “Y’all are getting $189/mo from me in student loans – not counting what’s going to Uncle Sam – call me back in 10 or 20 years, okay?”

        4. Anon*

          I used to work in the student call centre that would hassle alum for donations. Most don’t donate, but some will throw $20 bucks or so towards it. Wasn’t an awful job though, we got to play a lot of fun word games!

          1. MaggietheCat*

            I worked in the fundraising center when I was in college. Right before graduation (and giving notice) I deleted myself from ever being contacted by the call center! Happy graduation to meee.

          2. Fellow Caller*

            I also worked at one of these for my own school and we played a ton of word games during breaks! Were you part of the RepDIALS by any chance?

          3. MissDisplaced*

            Ugh! It gets so annoying when those calls come. It can’t be fun to call either, especially with so many recent graduates still unemployed.

        5. CC*

          Yeah… I once agreed to donate $50 to my university for a year (less than $5/month!) then the next year they asked me to donate $50/month. Nope.

      2. Anonathon*

        I’m going to defend this practice a bit, as it can be really tough to put together an annual mailing! It’s possible that they don’t have your current address, so they sent it to the home from your student days in hopes that your parents would forward it. It’s also possible that they have a tiny development staff, and lack the resources to assess each individual alum’s capacity. (That said, I agree that it comes across as bizarre.)

    2. Kit M.*

      He hit up graduate students for money? Did he send mass emails to stones during blood drives?

      1. raise your game*

        I don’t see any problem with asking current students for money. It’s just asking. THey can say “no.” In fact, I see no problem with asking anyone for money, except when there is a power dynamic that creates expectations that the person must/should say “yes.” It’s just an ask.

        Pressuring is another issue.

        When people ask me for money and I don’t want to give, I say “no.” Pretty simple.

    3. AVP*

      I mean, yes, you are benefitting from the new building – but you’re supposed to be! You work there! You’re not supposed to pay for the privilege of its existence. I wonder if the professor was just given a quota of pitches he had to make and figured that grad students would be the last likely to complain or push back.

    4. KJR*

      The boss I had at my first job out of college insisted that we all donate to United Way. We were newly married, fresh out of school, and just scraping by as it was…particularly since this particular boss wasn’t paying her employees on a regular basis (this was prior to my knowledge about FLSA laws!). I decided to donate my time instead, and became a Project LEARN tutor.

  3. Anonymous*

    I work at a museum, and they do require all staff and board to donate. Purchasing a membership is strongly recommended, especially for FT staff. I think it’s pretty common but also a little irritating since it’s, you know, a non-profit and I don’t have a ton of disposable income sitting around. Plus, the fact that I spend at least 40 hours a week (usually closer to 50) and numerous weekends overseeing programs and events for not a ton of money is a pretty decent indicator that I’m committed to the organization’s mission and betterment.

        1. AJ-in-Memphis*

          Only partially? That makes it that much more crappy BUT at least you have a job, right? *sigh*

          1. Anonymous*

            That’s what they keep telling me! In my organization’s defense, they do offer some perks that, at least compared to other non-profits, are very generous–they pay my cell phone bill and invest heavily in professional development. But yeah, there’s a lot of silliness, too.

      1. PJ*

        This actually makes sense to me. However, “We recruit volunteers from among our membership” is a different message than “You want to volunteer here? You have to pony up for a membership first.”

      2. Liane*

        Huh? My husband & I were volunteers for several years at the aquarium in our city, since befor it opened, and a membership was one of our perks.

      3. Anonymous*

        I’ve heard of this before, too–it’s so foreign to me! We’re a niche museum that has a hard enough time getting volunteers–I’d be throwing free swag at anyone semi-qualified who could offer help!

      4. Joey*

        I think its dumb, petty, and desperate. I would expect the employer to provide this free of charge to employees, especially if the pay is low.

        1. OhNo*

          +1 to this.

          I volunteered at a small, specialized museum for the whopping great length of time of one summer (3 months). In return, I got a free two-year membership AND a discount on future memberships.

          I don’t understand why this isn’t a more common practice – if people love what you do enough to work for free, why would you try to wring more money out of them?

    1. Amanda*

      Yep – not uncommon in the museum world, especially as someone said below for volunteers. I’ve seen debates go back and forth about volunteers as members for some time now.

      I’m not a member of my museum, though many of our staff are.

      I know it’s also expected of museum directors to be donors, especially to big capital campaigns. Then again, they are usually making more money than front line staff and can afford it better.

      (high five for way more than 40 hours a week doing programs – I am taking a 10 minute lunch on a day with two programs and a burst pipe – so yeah, not terribly well compensated for the amount of work I put in!)

    2. lisa*

      I work for a museum also, but we have a workplace donation campaign at the end of every year. They sent out the email the day I got a giant raise, so I became a supporting member (partially because we do actually do awesome work, and partially because I was in an excellent mood).

      I’m also a fundraiser, so I know how 100% board participation is a common metric for funders, but I haven’t heard of employee participation, beyond senior level staff. Would citing the number of staff who are alum be useful? That, in and of itself, could be a compelling statistic (it could also make funders think the school exists solely to create employees for itself). You could also argue it from an efficiency standpoint – it’s a better use of time to engage new and current donors than to chase down $5 from every employee on campus.

      The Chronicle of Philanthropy or other nonprofit-association organizations might be good resources in tracking down if this is common among other nonprofits, or just for the out-of-touch development directors.

    3. Jenny*

      I am a staff member at a museum that requires board members to have a membership and encourages staff and volunteers to. I don’t require my staff to have memberships, but several do have one, and I personally pour a lot of money into the organization (membership, donations, and donations of office supplies and other items that don’t fit in the budget) on top of my time, because I support the organization’s mission. I don’t really understand why you wouldn’t want to become a member.

  4. Sascha*

    I have worked at two universities for the past 8 years, and both of them encouraged staff and faculty donations. At the larger, public university where I’m at now, it’s a pretty brochure sent once a semester that I can toss in the recycle bin, and no one asks me about it. At the smaller, private university where I used to be, we would get the pretty brochure once a semester, but my director liked to point it out whenever it came out. We also received a few emails during “donation time” from the president, telling us all how wonderful it was to give. Thankfully, however, no one hassled me beyond this. While my director did lack common sense and decency in many areas, she at least did not “encourage” us beyond mentioning donations during a staff meeting or two.

    I’m sorry you are having to deal with this! I feel exactly the same way. I think you contribute to your university far more than just financially, and I wish your boss could understand the value of that. Being committed to a mission doesn’t have to mean financially.

  5. Bryan*

    I work in development and I hate this. Thankfully my employer does not do it even though it’s fairly common.

    Also many non-profits don’t pay that well to begin with. You might love what you do and where you work but it almost feels like you’re having to pay to work there.

    1. AJ-in-Memphis*

      Agreed. You do give up a lot (of money) but you gain some things to that you wouldn’t get in a corporate environment. The Trade Off.

      1. Bryan*

        Oh yeah I love what I do and I wouldn’t want to do anything else.

        I think it’s just the office giving drive taken to the extreme since not only are you being pressured to donate but my gut reaction in the past (to employers I liked and supported the mission), “haven’t I given you enough.”

  6. bearing*

    Could you suggest to your boss that it would be far more impressive to be able to brag that a high percentage of alumni donate to the school? That this would be a much better measure of the school’s fulfilling its mission than bragging about the employees’ level of donation?

    (“But I can’t pressure the alumni to donate in the same way that I can pressure the employees!”

    “Yes, that’s why it’s so much more impressive.”)

    1. OP*

      This is excellent! I will do this – if I’m going to be noncommittal about this idea, it will be best to offer an alternative. Thank you!

    1. AndersonDarling*

      I worked at two places where we were required to donate to UnitedWay and I really questioned if it was legal.

      1. At one place, if every person did not donate, a holiday was withdrawn from the employees. So it wasn’t technically mandatory, but your co-workers were punished if you didn’t donate.
      2. The donation list was shown to every manager between you and the VP. If you didn’t donate “enough,” you were sat down and told to explain yourself.
      3. We were told that if we didn’t donate enough, we would not be promoted.
      4. Managers bonuses were tied to how much their department donated.

      These were massive organizations, so it wasn’t like they couldn’t donate a few $million from profits. It was all done so they could say they had 100% participation… the employees were buying good PR for the company.

      It really ruined how I felt about UnitedWay.

        1. AndersonDarling*

          Yeah, it was really bizarre to start somewhere new and then receive “It’s United Way Season” emails. I thought it was an isolated insanity, but it followed me like a terrible HR monster. :)

      1. Anonymous*

        I worked for a massive company that pushed UW. Fortunately, none of those things you mentioned happened at previous company. However, since it’s inevitable that they could figure out who did/did not, in my mind it was mandatory. It’s a big PR thing for them but at least the company donated its own funds (and did other philanthropic things). I gave a small one time donation usually. UW is one of the major charities I don’t care to give to now.

      2. Anonymous Call Center*

        Yeah, the United Way has done a very good job of marketing itself to companies that want to brag about the generosity of their employees. My current employer is really pushy about giving to UW during their annual drive. I was concerned about it enough that I actually rehearsed my response: I am concerned that at lease one senior executive was caught using funds for personal expenses and the UW doesn’t measure outcomes so I can’t tell if my money is making a difference and if it is whether it’s having a positive or negative effect. I’d hope that they’d discourage companies that make donations mandatory/almost mandatory because you can bet that in the future, those employees will rather set their money on fire than give it to the UW.

        1. majigail*

          I just want to remind everyone that although United Way of America is a national umbrella organization, each and every local United Way is funded and run independently. Anonymous Call Center’s UW sounds like it has problems, major problems, but that’s not the case of every UW in the US.

          1. AndersonDarling*

            That was what I was starting to think… that this was a marketing technique in my city. Thanks for the info!

        2. Kathy*

          I did contract work for Adobe in San Jose. They encouraged all their employees to donate to a local organization (great reputation) called Second Harvest. Well I had already donated privately to Second Harvest and didn’t respond to the request for money. The part that ticked me off was I received an email from one department saying I hadn’t donated the funds that I had pledged. I emailed that department and asked when did I pledge? I also sent them a screen shot from my bank account showing I had already donated money. Funny they couldn’t find my pledge and refused to tell me who put down my name and donation amount. Very disgusting and shady.

          1. fposte*

            Oh, that is seriously shady. Sounds like they had a loophole that allowed somebody to lie to get their stats up, and it probably guilted enough people into participating that there wasn’t much motivation to change it.

      3. Anonathon*

        What the what? That makes me batty. I really believe in giving to small, local nonprofits — where my less-than-huge donation can make a tangible difference. I’d be hugely irked if I had to reallocate that money to a large organization with which I had no connection. Also, what a great way to make people totally resentful of philanthropy, not to mention disinclined to ever give to the United Way on their own.

      4. Dan*

        Did you work for Raytheon by any chance? I don’t hesitate to name names :)

        I worked for a division of Raytheon that has since been sold off, and they really, really like to push UW donations. The thing is, my worksite was in Los Angeles, and most guys made between $10-$12/hour. One was so broke that he qualified for some state medical program for his kids.

        Raytheon wanted *everybody’s* forms back, even if you chose not to donate. I did get an email from HR saying “we haven’t got your form back yet”. Um, if you ain’t got it back, I don’t want to give you money.

        1. Anon E Mouse*

          At TheJobFromHell, we were told that filling out the UW forms was mandatory, even if we didn’t donate. The first 2 years I didn’t fill it out. The 3rd year, my boss said I wouldn’t get my paycheck if I didn’t fill it out and hand it in. I informed him that 1 – holding my paycheck hostage was illegal and 2 – I had direct desposit, so all he’d be holding onto was the pay stub. Then I filled out the form and wrote “signed under duress” on it. The look on his face when I handed it back to him was priceless.

    2. CEMgr*

      Absolutely. Calling a mandatory payment a “donation” is just window dressing and if it is challenged, most judges would call it an impermissible deduction from wages. Calif Labor Code 221. “It shall be unlawful for any employer to collect or receive from an employee any part of wages theretofore paid by said employer to said employee.” Yes, it’s a bit vague as written, but cases over the years have made it very clear that employers cannot exact payments of any sort from California employees except in a few defined categories (mainly taxes and health care).

  7. Anonna*

    How awful. This reminds me of a time during NPR Pledge Week where the local news manager point-blank asked one of the Morning Edition hosts ON THE AIR if he had contributed to the campaign (luckily, he had). I think she had the same intention as OP’s boss, to show their audience that even NPR employees are committed to the cause, but it was mortifying for everyone.

    1. ec*

      That sounds super awkward, and he probably shouldn’t have done that on air!

      But…I do think it’s fair to expect senior management to contribute, and i think the higher you go up the ranks, the more common this expectation is. Not sure how this would apply in the NPR case, but your comment made me think of this.

      1. Cat*

        Also, in that case it seems like there’s a high likelihood it was set up ahead of time. I’m sure everyone at NPR hates pledge week, but they all seem very good at coming up with smooth lines to use throughout.

  8. Emma*

    …donating money back to your employer?! If they want 100% compulsory “donation,” just skim the percentage off their paychecks and call it what it is – a pay cut.

    1. Kelly L.*


      (FWIW: At my old work, we were Strongly Encouraged to donate to a particular charity, but 100% response rate was what was being pushed rather than 100% yeses. So they wanted you to respond even if the answer was no, which was a mild annoyance but I got why they needed it.)

      1. Dan*

        That actually makes sense. One year I worked for Raytheon, who liked to push UW donations. And yes, they wanted are forms back even if there was no donation. “Response rate” is the buzz word they were apparently looking for, but didn’t actually bother to disclose to us.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Response does not equal donation.

        Thank you, I learned something.

        If the boss said he had a 100% response rate, that does not mean 100% donated. hmmm.

    2. Sascha*

      If the company/school/whatever needs more money…then yeah, just cut our pay. But I guess it’s not about just getting the money. It’s about that pretty 100% rate.

    3. AdAgencyChick*


      If I as a donor heard “we have 100% employee participation!” I definitely would assume the employees had been coerced. I’m a cynic like that.

      1. Anonymous*

        Me too! I’m super suspicious of a 100% employee participation rate. I would immediately assume it’s inaccurate or coercive.

      2. Jennifer*

        Me three. I would think the organization had jerkass management and would not want to give them money.

  9. AJ-in-Memphis*

    Give them a dollar or five… and ask for a receipt. By no means should they make you give anymore and watch your paychecks too.

  10. Anon*

    Ahh the annual capital campaign. It’s a totally normal thing in higher ed. I give, the bare minimum, but I give. It’s pretty much all you can do. However, I don’t give as an alumnus. Not gonna happen.

  11. Not So NewReader*


    OP are any of the employees there unionized? It seems to my recollection that one of the reasons unions came into being was because people were being forced to pay to keep their jobs. Call it a kickback, insurance, whatever.
    If you have unionized workers on campus this will become a hot potato shortly. Because the boss is saying you must pay to keep your job.

    How would the board feel if this came to their approval?

    Honestly, OP, he is not promoting the school. He is promoting HIMSELF. This is about him grandstanding. “I made everyone going to school and/or working here donate!”

    He can’t think of another way to impress donors? wow.

    1. OP*

      Nope, no unionized employees here… and the board probably wouldn’t be too horrified by this since they are expected to donate and fundraise as part of their membership.

      To clarify, the situation is becoming compulsory due to constant nagging and pressuring – no one has actually been threatened with their job. And if anyone is in danger of not donating really backfiring career-wise, it’s me (since I’m the fundraiser), not the maintenance man.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Exactly OPs point. It looks like OP is going to be maneuvered into doing something that she does not believe in.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I would be willing to bet that 80% of the employees are going to have the same reaction as you- no how, no way.

        If the boss insists on this can you ask if people’s donation of time would be considered an equivalent? I am sure that people work more time than their jobs call for.

        The whole idea is just a bad idea, though. It is going to foster a lot of resentment.

  12. Anonymous*

    I think there’s 2 issues here, and Alison’s reply only addresses 1:
    1. OP’s finances make it difficult for themself to donate.
    2. OP doesn’t feel comfortable compelling others to make these mandatory donations.

    OP’s dilemma with “shutting up and calling it a day”, is that that solves #1, but it won’t just be “a day” because of #2, not if they’ll be personally responsible for enforcing the 100% compliance.

    Now, I could just shut up and give a dollar and call it a day. In fact, because I’m so new here, that might be the best option. On the other hand, though, since I’m the only other person in the department, I know the task will eventually fall on me to “encourage” the participation of my peers, and I just can’t stomach that. I might be the best one to oppose this nonsense.

    1. John*

      Good point.

      I don’t think it’s worth going to the mat, but if OP is going to be asked to help collect, I think he/she should expresss willingness to do whatever he/she is asked but indicate they might not be the best person for the role given his/her awareness of the financial struggles of his/her colleagues. And if boss man raises his eyebrows, add, “Yeah, a lot of us have significant others in school and we’re barely making ends meet. We want you and the school to be successful in this but in some cases it’s between doing that and groceries, which is true for me, so it’s really hard. I hope you understand.”

      Years ago at a former employer, we were in the midst of the annual giving drive to benefit a certain organization that was in the headlines around that time for financial mismanagement. I was designated the fundraising captain for our location. I said that I would gladly fulfill the role but, given what I knew about the organization, I couldn’t promise to be a strong advocate. I was asked to perform the role anyway, and I sent out a couple perfunctory emails and when people felt me out on whether they had to give, I told them I didn’t care either way and they should let me know if I should mark them down for “no” and that it would be a long list!

    2. OP*

      This is exactly the problem. Sure, I can give $10/month (lowest amount accepted on company payroll deduction forms) and shut up about it. But then I have to turn to my intern, who makes $80 a week, and ask her to donate as well. That’s what I’m really not OK with.

      1. OhNo*

        You’d know your boss best, but I really like what John mentioned above: say that you are happy to do it, but you won’t be the strongest advocate for the job because of the reasons you mentioned.

        Then, if they do still ask you to do it, you can ask people to donate, but you can do it in a way you feel comfortable with. No need to be extra-pushy about it, and if people say they can’t donate, you can be respectful to their needs.

        (This is, of course, assuming that your boss is a reasonable individual – it kind of sounds like he might not be, given your original letter.)

  13. CarrotNotCarat*

    Something similar happened to a friend of mine yesterday – her boss sent out an email soliciting donations for her daughter’s school. If that wasn’t bad enough, the boss then went around to all of her direct reports and said, “You’re going to give to Susie’s school, right? If you don’t have the money today, you can pay me tomorrow.” Tacky, tacky, tacky.

    My company has a policy against stuff like this for very good reason, and I’m so thankful that they do.

    1. Jean*

      This is similar in that it’s another example of workplace-based coercion to make a charitable donation, but there the similarity ends. Presumably everyone employed at XYZ Nonprofit believes in the organization’s mission at least sufficiently to be able to come to work each day, but everybody may not believe in the worthiness of the Boss’s Daughter’s School. There are always people who have strong opinions about public vs. private education; and if the school is affiliated with Religion #1, might that not put employees who practice Religion #2, #3, #4, or No Religion At All somewhere on the scale between Mildly Uncomfortable and Deeply Appalled at the Idea of Supporting This Particular Belief System?

      1. the gold digger*

        And if it’s just a regular private school, there is the thought, “Wait. I already pay my taxes to support public schools and now I am supposed to give extra money to a private school that charges more in annual tuition than I paid for my first car?”

        1. Xay*

          My son attends a private school and I cringe during fundraising season. I know the schools he has attended use the money for good purposes and invest a lot in building their scholarship programs but as I told one of my friends a couple of years ago, it feels strange begging for donations for priviledged children.

          1. Anony-turtle in a half shell*

            If it’s anything like the private independent I work at (which is average in this statistic), student tuition only covers approximately 80% if any student’s actual tuition/education cost, so every student is “subsidized” by donations. This doesn’t count the students who are also on financial aid, who might be subsidized more by the donations that go specifically to the endowed scholarships. None of our general donation funds go to scholarships, only designated funds. (We’ve had parents complain about financial aid, because they think “my tuition payment is paying for some other kid to go here!” when that is not the case. Their tuition payment isn’t even covering all of their student’s cost to go here.)

            That said, the requests for donations outside of the actual school community is tricky and our development office requests that we leave that up to them. We’re asked to not approach others about donating if they are not already “within” the community, specifically because of the issues that CarrotNotCarat mentions.

    2. littlemoose*

      That is so inappropriate! Presumably none of the staffers have any relation to that school, and for the boss to not just send a mass e-mail but to demand donations individually from her subordinates is an abuse of power. That takes a lot of gall.

      1. CarrotNotCarat*

        @littlemoose – I totally agree. My friend did ignore the initial email (because like you, she found it completely inappropriate), but it was obviously a lot harder to ignore her boss when she came by her desk.

        I explained to her that it is indeed an abuse of power and she agreed, but she was scared to say no. :(

  14. Anonymous*

    Something I’ve started saying when I get solicitated at work – “I’m so sorry, but if I give to you, I feel compelled to give to everyone. Honestly, I can’t afford to give to everyone, so I’m going to have to decline. Thanks for asking though.” It’s been pretty effective.

    FWIW, I do give to charities of my choice, so I’m not a total Scrooge.

    1. AnonEMoose*

      My sister is a teacher. She has a policy that she will purchase things like the fruit from the FFA students from the first person to ask her (and she makes this clear to her students).

      She’d buy the stuff anyway, so it means she gets what she actually wants, but doesn’t screw up her budget.

      1. TL*

        When did FFA start selling fruit? We always sold meat and cookie dough – it was delicious and everybody loved FFA fundraising season. (Seriously, the teachers would start bugging their kids if they thought they weren’t being asked.)

        Most of my teachers had the same policy, though. First come, first serve.

        1. AnonEMoose*

          Not sure…maybe it’s a regional thing? I’m in Minnesota, so is my sister.

          Or maybe it was the choir students selling fruit, but I thought she said it was the FFA.

          1. Anony-turtle in a half shell*

            I’m in Minnesota as well, and all of the the local FFAs also sell fruit.

    2. the gold digger*

      I do give to charities of my choice, so I’m not a total Scrooge.

      Even if you didn’t give, I wouldn’t necessarily think you are a Scrooge. It’s none of anyone else’s business what you give to charity. Not everyone is in a financial position to give money away. It is a luxury that comes with having an income that well exceeds your expenses.

      1. TL*

        Eh, my income doesn’t well exceed my expenses and I throw $20 towards Planned Parenthood or a book drive a few times a year.

        Most people could donate a couple extra dollars here and there every now and then. But there are plenty of other equally good ways to give back to the community.

        1. Gjest*

          This is why I started volunteering. I can’t always donate financially, but when I have time to donate, I do that. This is why it bugs me that some places (discussed above) require volunteers to pay to become members. What about the people who don’t have money, but do have some time to give?

    3. Elysian*

      ON a similar note, my pitch is “I’m sorry, but I budget for charitable giving on a yearly basis. I’ll consider [your organization] when I make my budget for next year.”

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Then you can expect some of the smarter solicitors to feel entitled to your money next year. One thing I learned is that you should *never* give a reason for declining something if you expect a fight or if you don’t have a friendship/relationship with that person, because then they have something to work with. For people soliciting donations or selling something I always tell them “I’m sorry, I don’t make purchases/donations at the door/at work/in the street. If you have any information I’d be happy to look it over when I have time.”

      2. Juni*

        … and my response has always been, “I’m sorry, but my family makes charitable donation choices together, once a year, at Thanksgiving dinner. It’s part of our family tradition. So I’ll take whatever you want to give me and bring it to dinner, but no guarantees – it has to be a consensus.” This is actually what a lot of families who have family foundations do, so experienced fundraisers won’t be phased by this one bit, and the phrasing makes it too personal to push for more.

  15. LeeD*

    OP, I was in this exact situation at a previous job. It reached the point where the boss was offering to donate on behalf of the less well paid of the staff (e.g., give us cash to turn around and donate!).

    It learned later that the administration was publishing the participation rate per department, and the department heads had decided that anything less than 100% would reflect poorly on them. They have since stopped publishing the rates by department, and the pressure on employees has been mostly eliminated.

    Would it be possible for you to have a discreet word with someone in the giving office and ask if departmental participation rate is be published? If it is, they might be persuaded to stop doing it if you explain the pressure that it puts on employees.

    1. OP*

      This is a good insight – I will do some quiet research to figure out if this is my boss’s own idea or if he is being pressured himself by someone higher up the chain of command. Thank you!

  16. StateUGrad*

    Several years ago, my alumni association started calling me every day (yes – daily) to donate. I was polite to them for awhile, declining every time, but they still kept calling.

    Finally, I got so fed up that I said, “I really do not have any extra money to donate, so please take me off your list.” The association representative replied, “Oh, EVERYONE has a little bit of extra money – don’t you want to give it to State U?”

    I then proceeded to tell them my salary and gave them a run-down of my monthly expenses. When I finished, the representative got really quiet and then said, “Gosh, you really don’t have any money, do you? I’m so sorry – I feel terrible that I’ve been calling you so much. I’ll take you off our list.”

    I’ve never gotten another call from them. That was 5+ years ago.

    1. Kay*

      Wow! That’s awesome. I know my University calls me periodically but never very often (once or twice a year max) and I have some school spirit, so if I can spare $20, I’ll give, but they’ve never made me feel obligated to give.

      On the other hand, people wanting me to take surveys are the bane of my existence. I’ve had them tell me that I can’t be removed from their list unless I call x number (which no one answers). Finally, I left a voicemail on one of those numbers that said “If you call me again about this survey, I will file a police report for harassment.” That seemed to be so much more effective than politely requesting I be removed from a list that I should have never been on in the first place.

      1. ec*

        I wouldn’t mind 1 or 2 a year – recently my school was calling literally every day, at the same time (which was a bit late, since I’m in a later time zone) for about a month straight!

        Usually I would immediately ask to be taken off their call list, but for some reason that month I couldn’t work up the energy to pick up the phone. Thankfully they stopped on their own.

    2. Jamie*

      Every day? I would begin to hate Alex Van Halen himself if he called me every day.

      Well, maybe not him…but pretty much everyone else. You were way nicer than I would have been.

      And my husband’s grade school is always hitting him up for money. It never ends.

    3. Anon from Oz*

      I donate to a particular charity monthly and I started receiving emails and phone calls from them weekly asking for more money. I finally told them that if they contacted me again I would cancel my monthly donation. I haven’t heard from them in over a year. I like what they do – I just can’t stand the “more more more !!!” mentality they have.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        They are taught to hit the ones who have donated in the past. Making a donation does not cause them to go away. Just the opposite- they move in with you.

        I made a donation to Ronald McDonald house on instead of flowers when my aunt passed away. I am still getting requests in the mail it has been almost a decade. I cannot imagine what this costs them.

        (Not trying to speak negatively of the cause itself. But they failed to realize I have my own favorite charities and this was a one time donation on behalf of my aunt. I would think that most charities have seen this before now and understand what is going on.)

        1. Jennifer*

          This kind of behavior makes me sorry that I ever donated to charity, and it disinclines me to keep donating.

      2. Jessica (the celt)*

        This. I was just complaining that I give a monthly amount to several groups, and they each still send me every-other-week mailings (complete with return envelope) asking for donations. I don’t even know what to do to get it to stop, because I want other updates, but they are wasting money on both paper and postage (in addition, I suppose, to someone’s time to stuff those envelopes and take them to the post office). I already give, and I am not giving more other than my regular monthly donation.

  17. Kobayashi*

    I worked at a public university (so maybe it is different) but NEVER remember any of the higher ups asking us for donations to the school. That being said, I’d give a penny and be done with it :)

  18. Artemesia*

    While I hate this kind of pressure and myself resisted the pressure to give to charities I don’t support on behalf of my employer so they could claim 100% etc, I do think that working in the development office I would give $5 and call it a day. I can’t imagine the hassle is worth it to take a principled stand on this one. Or make the point about the hardship and give $1 for the stats.

    Yeah it is stupid, but is it a hill to die on?

    1. fposte*

      Agreed–the fact that it is the actual fund-raising office makes it more of a problem to say no.

      1. Anonymous*

        Finally. Rational thought. You work in fundraising and your job is to ask others to give. Give $5 and sit down.

  19. ArizonaGirl*

    I worked for NPR and PBS stations that pressured us into donating, which I found ludicrous. One big giant circle of exchange. We give money that goes right back into our salary, and then out again. It made no sense except in adding to the paperwork burden for our development departments.

  20. Anon*

    I work at a non-profit and this is laughable. Employees at non-profits already GIVE every day. They give by often getting paid less, working their butts off, and often not having some of the same opportunities they would in corporate.

    100% giving? Well to me, that sounds like wages being stolen from employees – As a doner, I would be disgusted – not impressed.

    I’m sorry. But I WOULD NOT even give a single dollar. I would absolutely rather quit my job than give a dollar.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      Exactly!!! I think everyone who works at a non-profit knows they are making less than for-profit organizations. Accepting low wages is equivalent to giving to the mission.
      Asking for more is just greedy.

      1. Jamie*

        I don’t think this is always the case. It was something I assumed before reading here, but I know Alison has said that some non-profits do pay competitively to attract high performers.

        I would hope the orgs to which I donate pay well enough to keep talented people doing the work which is so important. Not inflated ridiculous salaries – but I wouldn’t expect the person in my position at my favorite charity to make less than I do just because they are non-profit.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yep, that’s correct. Certainly many, many nonprofits pay less than comparable roles at for-profits, but it’s not universally true. Some nonprofits pay quite competitively, because they see the connection between pay and talent (and between results and talent).

          (You can certainly get talented people to work at lower salaries when they believe in the cause, but often they’ll move on once they hit a certain point in their career. So if you want to retain your stars — and hire fantastic senior people — you usually need to pay competitively.)

          1. Observer*

            The problem is that it’s not always about management that doesn’t understand this. I remember something that my boss said to me many years ago: “People think that people who work in anti-poverty programs should live on poverty wages.” Unfortunately, this is often true. I’ve been in more than one meeting where my boss was urged (years before ACA was a gleam in the radar) to dump insurance coverage for staff as a way to save money. To his credit, he refused to do it. Also, the issue of “overhead” creates big issues in terms of salary in many cases. Never mind that most overhead is either really pooled service costs (eg the network that everyone uses), legally mandated (making sure that you are in compliance with the law can take quite a bit of overhead) or mandated by contract or regulation of the very organizations or government agencies that then give you a hard time about overhead.

            There finally beginning to be some sensible conversation around this. At least one State agency in NYS has actually done something that is almost revolutionary – they won’t approve a contract budget that has a too low overhead rate.

        2. Anonymous*

          It also depends on size as well. I work for a very large nonprofit that brings in over a billion dollars a year because we work in so many states and countries. We pay some roles very competitively and I get paid more here than I would if I took a similar role in a smaller company that brought in much less.

          I think when talking about salary people compare employees at large companies that bring in billions of dollars to medium and small nonprofits that bring about $5 million or less. I’d be interested to see exactly the salary differences between the sectors once yearly revenues are compared. I’d imagine that nonprofits still get paid less, but I’d also imagine that difference is a whole lot less than people assume.

    2. Anonymous*

      Heck, I’ve heard of some nonprofits that essentially require their employees to pay to work there. The job pays the bare minimum while requiring employees to wear designer clothes, donate to the org, and use their personal networks for fundraising and partnership-building. The only people working there are either independently wealthy, or they believe that the experience will pay off some day.

  21. DM*

    I work for a non-profit, and every year we’re strongly encouraged to donate to the United Way, since supposedly 100% staff support to them results in UW viewing us as committed to their cause and therefore they’ll support us financially. Insane reasoning and I wish it would stop, but I just suck it up and write a check for a nominal amount.

    1. Observer*

      Actually, in the past at least, the United Way (at least in NY) was quite explicit about this. If they gave your organization money, part of the deal (even though it was not in the contract) was that you had to pressure everyone in the organization – even those not working in programs funded by UW, to give SOMETHING. And a one time donation was not good enough. it had to be a check off on your paycheck.

      I believe that our organization will no longer participate, as there are concerns about the legal status of almost any deduction (excepting health insurance and retirement plans)

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Additionally, the receiving org cannot get donations from anywhere else. That is, it cannot raise funds on its own. The idea being if I give to X’s fund raiser that is money that could have gone into the UW.

        In short, the UW is trying to control how people donate.

        I got so burned out on this that I now give mostly to things I see in the news- people who lost their house in a fire, etc.

        1. Observer*

          Something does not sound right. I know that the UW was NEVER our sole funding source, and I’m not even sure that it was the sole funder for the programs it supported. We are totally not unique. While they do have some programs that are specifically theirs, outside of that, their grants are clearly not intended to take over an entire budget.

  22. thenoiseinspace*

    I’d honestly be tempted to screenshot this post, print it out, and leave it on his desk. The problem is that there aren’t any other people in the office, so it can only point to OP.

      1. AndersonDarling*

        Or have an employee survey to find out if mandatory donations would hurt morale.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        It is good to have a card up your sleeve, OP.

        Maybe if nothing else works you can show him hundreds of posts that are basically saying “NO do not do this.”

  23. Brett*

    I have worked at five easily recognizable private universities, as well as a couple of public. None of those private institutions ever required their faculty or staff to donate. Not once was I even pressured to donate.

    I am actually find it more appalling that your husband is paying enough tuition to be a financial hardship. Major tuition breaks for children and spouses are nearly a standard practice for private universities and colleges.

    1. Anonymous*

      But tuition is only part of the expense. College fees (not tuition, but extra fees) are getting ridiculous. At my alma mater, tuition was only about 2/3 of the total bill. Tuition breaks and waivers usually don’t cover the extra costs.

    2. Judy*

      Some state schools, too, although not as far reaching as private schools.

      My mom’s college degree was pretty much paid for because Grandma was a secretary for a professor at a private school, back in the day. By the time I was college age, only the faculty at that university had full tuition for children, staff rates were still more than a state school tuition plus housing when we checked into it when my mom was looking for a new job when I was in high school.

      And many times for grad school, the major benefit of a work-study job is a tuition waiver or reduction.

      1. Artemesia*

        On a positive note, it is now illegal for tuition benefits to be accorded only to faculty children. If they are offered, they either have to be taxed or offered to all employees on the same basis. This has been the case for at least 20 years.

    3. fposte*

      Oh, good point. The OP does say she’s newly appointed–perhaps this is the first semester she’s had the job and the remission will apply going forward?

    4. OP*

      Yeah, it is really ridiculous that the school doesn’t offer tuition breaks to spouses of full-time employees.

      Spouses of full-time students get to take courses for free, and employees get to take courses for free – it is maddening enough that I’ve considered signing up for full-time credit load (for free as an employee) so that I count as the full-time student and my spouse gets to come for free on the spouse scholarship. Then I’ll just fail all my classes, but who cares? We would be financially solvent!

      I wonder if I should mention this scheme to my boss to point out how uncool it is that staff families are not extended tuition benefits.

      1. Anonymous*

        I would totally be doing the scam if I were you, especially if I could do that with yoga/fitness classes!

        1. OP*

          The school is super-super small, so my scam would be immediately noticed and commented on and pretty much destroy any credibility I have with my boss, boss’s boss, president, etc.

          1. long time lurker!*

            Seems to me this is not a ‘scam’ but rather a legitimate way to work within the system they’ve set up.

      2. ec*

        Spouses of students are allowed to take classes for free?? I have never heard of this at another school (but I am not in higher ed, so maybe it is not as uncommon as I think!)

      3. schoolspirit*

        Why don’t you sign up to take classes that you’re interested in? Do spouses of students only get to take the same courses as the student, or do they get to pick their own degree?

        My employer (also a university) has an annual staff campaign and 100% participation is the goal. I don’t think it’s mandatory, technically, but I work in development and our department’s stance is that “We can’t ask others for money if we don’t give our own.” I don’t ask people for money myself, so MY stance is that since I give of my time and my effort well beyond 40 hours a week (and of the paycheck I could be earning by working elsewhere), I shouldn’t be on the hook financially. Unfortunately, we take in the money, so people know who has and hasn’t given and I am too chicken to be the odd one out, so I made a donation. Peer pressure: it’s a thing.

        1. OP*

          The school is really specialized, and the free spouse classes only apply to courses within the division. I have pretty low interest in my spouse’s field of study, and many of the courses are so technical that I would be completely swamped. I support my spouse’s education and certainly believe that this field of study is of vital importance to society, but it isn’t something I am prepared to study at the graduate level.

  24. KC*

    My company had a nearly-compulsory charity donation every Friday. Employees could buy a casual day (jeans) for $2 for employees, $3 for managers, $5 for VP level and above folks. It was a different charity every week.

    And while it wasn’t “mandatory,” you definitely got the stink-eye if you were the guy who obviously hadn’t donated this week (not wearing jeans). It annoyed me on a lot of levels, and I just wished that they would let us sign up to have it taken out of our paychecks automatically so they would stop bothering me. Eventually, new C-level management worked to sort of phase that out.

    I’ve always felt that if companies want to brag about employee charity work on their website and claim that they support charities, they should put their money where their mouth is. Give employees X# of company-paid days per year to use to volunteer with an organization of the employee’s choice. Or have the company agree to match any donation made by employees to a charity of their choice. Something like that would make me feel a lot better about it.

    1. littlemoose*

      I used to work part-time for a large retailer with a great program – for every 15 hours of their own time an individual volunteered at a charitable organization, the retailer would give that organization $50 or so (my memory is fuzzy on the exact amount). I was really involved with a volunteer student organization in college, and through this program brought in a little extra money for us while doing the same volunteer work I would have done anyway. I think it’s a cool way to incentivize and reward volunteerism.

    2. Jamie*

      I hate this on principle, but especially because it’s a different charity every week. There are a couple of mainstream organizations I won’t give money to due to my personal beliefs or my understanding of how they handle their donations – so if I am in jeans for the local humane society week and not for charity X – I would hate to be asked about decidedly non-work topics at work.

      1. Cat*

        And then you have people like me who would do the opposite and spend the day telling people how much I hate the charity just on principle. Which is obnoxious and probably a personality flaw I should work on, admittedly.

    3. Jess*

      I wonder what they’d do with people like me who just…don’t wear jeans. I wear skirts pretty much all the time, and even if I did want to donate I’d rather donate and show up in my regular skirts. The only jeans I own are for gardening.

      1. Jennifer*

        As another person who rarely wears jeans except in bad weather, I suspect you and I would be SHAMED like everyone else they mention. Or that we’d be obligated to GET jeans.

    4. Anony-turtle in a half shell*

      I’m surprised more people don’t do what some of my coworkers do: just wear jeans on the “jean day” anyway, knowing that no one has the guts to call you out even if you haven’t donated. I know that one coworker has done this for at least the past three years, so when word got out that no one was calling her on it, it’s kind of become a thing that people are doing more and more. (I do give a nominal amount, so I can wear my jeans guilt-free.)

  25. Anon30*

    I work in a small non-profit and we do all give – usually for online campaigns to get them moving. Sometimes it’s $1 and sometimes up to $50 (because we care about the cause), but I would say the following to the OP with her situation –

    I agree with Alison’s response – You are perfectly in the right not to give. You already pay your husband’s tuition and I know how much even $1 is worth. Make your point with him calmly and rationally. If he still doesn’t understand, it may be simpler to just give 50 cents or a $1.

    Or, alternatively, maybe can you offer to volunteer at the school or elsewhere in lieu of giving (if that’s an option for you)? If you propose that choice, perhaps your boss will see that you are finding a solution to the financial hardship.

  26. Jordan K*

    This reminds me of my old university, which asked its (minimum wage, haven’t-seen-a-promotion-or-raise-in-years) employees to donate 10% of their paycheck to the uni every month!

    Needless to say, it didn’t last long.

  27. Sarah*

    OP, this is quite common in nonprofits. If you are working in development, then it’s kind of a given that you would be donating, especially if you soliciting donors. (Must give before asking others to give.)

    When I worked for one public university in development, they had incentives for people to give (giveaways of school merchandise, gift cards, etc.). I think this is a nice way to go. Maybe your school’s bookstore will put up some clothes, etc. to be put in a drawing (anyone that donates even $1 gets entered).

    1. LSG*

      I think “must give before asking others to give” is a really reasonable position for board members, or for a volunteer fundraising committee (assuming, of course, that that expectation is made clear up-front). As many others have pointed out, though, nonprofit employees are often “giving” in myriad ways already — asking them to prove their commitment by returning part of their salary is absurd.

      As a low-level donor to many nonprofits (and as a person who works in nonprofit development), I don’t judge a nonprofit employee’s commitment to their organization by whether or not they have donated, but by how well they do their jobs.

      1. Observer*

        Actually, as someone pointed out up stream, in a lot of cases it’s not all that reasonable. Sometimes the reason why the volunteer fundraising exists is because these are people who believe in the cause, but they don’t have money. But they ARE donating their time. Is that not a statement of support?

        In the case of boards it’s a bit more complicated. But, requiring Board members to be donors as well can create some real problems with governance and program design.

        There are two issues. One is that in many cases, the people who are the target constituency of the organization are more likely to be able to donate time than money. I would hope that the issues with excluding anyone from your constituency from your board should be obvious.

        Secondly, you generally want people with certain types of expertise on your board. Those people generally are not poor, but it doesn’t mean that they are rich. And, if they are on the board for their expertise, they are probably donating a significant amount of time. Does it really make sense to limit your pool by insisting on a “double donation”?

        Think about it this way: If someone offers you a donation, do you refuse it if it less than a certain amount?

  28. Ann Furthermore*

    What I find aggravating about this is that if this school is like most of the other universities out there, not only are they pressuring faculty and staff to give, but that they also get more money from students each school year in the form of increased tuition and fees.

    I work for a subsidiary of a huge company, and all the donations, community service, etc are done at the corporate level. Fortunately, not too much of this kind of stuff — pressure to donate and so on — trickles down to us. They will collect donations for specific things, and then match employee contributions up to a certain amount, but that’s about it. We are in Colorado, so last year, there was something set up to collect donations for victims of all the flooding.

    I would hate being pressured to contribute to something. I do quite a bit of volunteer fundraising work for my daughter’s school, and I’m always the first one to buy classroom school supplies to help with budget shortfalls. So I consider that to be doing my part. Sure, my daughter benefits from what I do, so you could say I do it for selfish reasons, but all the other kids at the school benefit too by the money that’s raised each year.

    1. fposte*

      “they also get more money from students each school year in the form of increased tuition and fees.”

      Well, sort of–yes, tuition is rising, but that doesn’t mean that universities have bigger budgets to spend. The tuition and fees are going up to minimize increasing shortfalls in many cases. This is especially true at public universities, since state funding is being widely cut back and they often have an increased pension burden; additionally, enrollment is predicted to decline.

      Around here, a measly 1% employee raise across the board costs close to $200 million more.

      1. Ann Furthermore*

        Well it just makes me wonder how good any of them are at keeping their costs under control. I’m probably far too cynical about this. A few years ago, the University of Colorado announced that they were going to be raising tuition by 30% the next school year. 30%!! Like they think that students and/or their families just have unlimited amounts of money lying around?

        I just felt so bad for all the students, because what are your choices? Refuse to pay, and abandon all the work you’ve done on your degree so far, or just cough it up? It’s like the school is holding your degree hostage in exchange for more money, they know it too, and use it to their advantage.

        Plus this particular school had an extremely controversial faculty member who made national news, first for an essay he wrote after 9/11, and then later was charged with plagairism. To my untrained eye, it seemed pretty blatant, and I believe the charges held up, and then later he sued to be reinstated. Or something. So that’s why the school has to raise its fees — for things like fighting lawsuits? Why is that the students’ problem?

        1. Bryan*

          I understand where you’re coming from and it sucks, I work at a non-profit full-time and am still in school part-time and when my tuition goes up I wonder where the money is going.

          But I bet the state decreased funding and looking at it from the administration’s side were the supposed to keep tuition where it was and lay off staff? I’m not saying either side is right because an increase that large could derail a student’s college plans but I just really like the method of putting yourself in the other person’s position.

          1. Ann Furthermore*

            No, I do get that tuition has to go up to account for inflation and that kind of thing, but it was raising it by 30% that raised my eyebrows. That’s way more than just a bump for standard increases in costs.

            1. College Career Counselor*

              I’m not conversant with the specifics of the University of Colorado’s situation, but I know a lot of places raised tuition by significant amounts in an attempt to off-set budget cuts from the state. I’m not saying it doesn’t suck, but if you get a big chunk of your operating budget from the state, and the state says, “we’re cutting your funds by X%,” you’ve got to make up the shortfall somehow just to get back to where you were before the cuts. And that’s usually on the backs of the students (and their parents), who are taking additional loans out.

            2. fposte*

              It’s not standard increases in costs. It’s Colorado state pulling $200 million back from Colorado state schools.

              The professor’s case is as nothing, budgetarily speaking. It’s payroll and benefits and retirement contributions that are so freaking expensive, and when the state starts dialing back its support the university’s choice is significant layoffs or tuition hikes.

                1. fposte*

                  I do feel that one, but then one of my alma maters was legendary for killing off its famous undergrad sports program. There is a lot of contention that football (and I’d throw in basketball as well) pays for itself, and it’s certainly true that you’d take a lot of alumni dollars with it if you shut it down–but I think that “pays for itself” thing is more an article of faith than a seriously crunched number.

      2. Joey*

        What I find incredibly comical is that many universities don’t seem to walk the business practices they teach to students. Most of the metrics they use to measure success are a complete joke.

        1. Ann Furthermore*

          Exactly — that’s why I thought it was so outrageous. I’ve spent my career in the corporate world and cost control has been an integral part of it. When the parent company needs money or sees margins eroding, their knee-jerk reaction is not to just raise prices. Instead, the edict comes down from on high that everyone has to cut their budget by x%.

          Now, I can’t say if CU did or didn’t do that, or if they did or did not put other cost containment measures into place, but I do recall that they weren’t very apologetic about that huge tuition hike. They just basically said, “Well, that’s the way it is and if you want to keep going to school here, fork it over.”

          1. fposte*

            Though I think it depends on what you’re consuming. I don’t remember being apologized to for a rate or price hike by any corporation ever; the only alternative I’ve ever been offered is a smaller iteration at the same or similar price.

    2. OP*

      Actually, the really cool thing about my school is that it hasn’t raised tuition prices in years. While they aren’t a tuition-free institution (as evidenced by the 120% of my paycheck that goes right back to them…) we really do work hard to keep costs down. I’m incredibly proud of the way that the school offers high-quality education without succumbing to the extravagances so common in higher education these days. While it means that I won’t be getting a raise anytime soon, it also means that my spouse’s expenses will not increase during our years here, and that’s a good thing.

  29. Sarah*

    I’ll add that I am a member of my arts nonprofit. I get $3.85 taken from my paycheck (voluntarily). I don’t mind it. It’s the cost of a latte. If they are offering to take it directly from your paycheck, just do that. You won’t miss $1-2.

    1. Observer*

      That’s a hugely presumptuous thing to say. You know, there actually are people who don’t buy lattes because they really can’t afford it. Given the LW’s description of her financial situation, it is actually quite possible that she will ACUTELY notice the $1-2 because it could easily mean a skipped meal each pay period.

      Beyond this, any development department that depends on “proving” staff commitment by coercing “donations” (ie extortion) is not doing its job right.

    2. Kelly L.*

      I’m so sick of the “cost of a latte” thing for the same reason Observer mentions. It assumes everybody’s going around blowing money on lattes all the time, when actually that’s one of the first things a lot of people cut when things get tight.

      1. Anonsie*

        That always grates on me, too. “It’s just the cost of a cup of coffee!” Yeah, maybe if I were someone who actually went out and bought overpriced coffee because I had a budget for it, it would be. But I am not.

  30. AnonHR*

    I think upper management at non-profits sometimes forget that many employees donate every day by working under market value for a cause they care about. Asking for more is really pushing boundaries…

  31. JoAnna*

    A donation is given of one’s own free will, while a fee is compulsory and carries consequences (i.e., “pay $X or you receive consequence Y). No one should have to pay a fee as a condition of keeping their job or avoiding a negative review. It’s extortion and defeats the true purpose of charity.

  32. Jessica H*

    I’m a development professional; it’s not odd, really, what she describes above and I don’t find it obnoxious. Often 100% participation means just that– $1 or $5/year. For something you [should, if you’re going to raise money for it] care about. It’s almost never compulsory by rule but, instead, by culture. We try to get our staff to participate on an annual basis. A true professional in this field won’t make any one feel obligated to give and from what I read about her boss, he/she didn’t either.

    Also, my first reaction to this very long note from the reader is that he/she may not belong in the development profession. I completely understand scraping by, I was a married grad student too, but I expect those in our field to understand the significant difference philanthropy can make… even if it’s just a dollar they can give. And, I might add, you usually sign up for that at the door when you interview. It’s not like you awaken suddenly and realize you’re working in development.

    1. AnonEMoose*

      Clearly, a lot of people here disagree with you about the obnoxiousness of this approach. Several other posters have pointed out that employees of non-profits are typically sacrificing in terms of salary and opportunity when compared to those in comparable positions in the corporate world.

      Asking for more from them is greedy and obnoxious, and implying that they should give because they’re “supposed to care” is…hmmm…nothing polite I can say there. They’re already showing they care – by working there in the first place.

      That said, I don’t have a problem with a non-profit saying to its employees “if you’re planning to give to charity this year, please consider a donation to us.” But there should be no pressure, not even on those who work in the development area of the organization.

      1. Jessica H*

        I’m well aware of the lack of pay around here. :) I really don’t find it obnoxious or offensive (I’ll note: for those on the development staff; argument’s still out for everyone else in the organization). That said, part of the interview process for her, as a new employee, should have vetted how she felt about participating in the school’s cause through giving financially, even in a small way. I find it really detrimental to the team’s work when development team members aren’t personally philanthropically inclined. It does sound like her financial situation is worse than most; however, I would have wanted that information to be part of the interview process and to have screened out those who are bothered by this common practice.

        1. Bryan*

          It sounds like it happened after she started and I don’t think it has to due with the OP being philanthropically inclined. One part is that it doesn’t fit in her budget. Another part is it’s easy to understand when paying tuition, why someone would not want to give to an organization (or when you already work there). The last part is the more general employers should never tell employees what to do with their money.

        2. Mike C.*

          Why do you feel it’s so detrimental when the folks in question are clearly having problems simply affording the basics? Are you telling me that the development folks you work with lack the empathy that their morale would be reduced by a coworker choosing food over work?

          Doesn’t something seem wrong with this picture?

          1. AnonEMoose*

            Exactly. However philanthropically inclined you may be, you still have to take care of essentials like housing, food, and so on first.

        3. OP*

          Jessica, you are right – Development isn’t a good fit for me long-term, as I’m fundamentally opposed to pressuring people for donations. While I do fine as a secretary – that’s pretty much my role here – I don’t think I have a future as a major gifts officer.

          This is something I discussed at length during the interview process, where I was assured that the institution has a “very light touch” when it comes to asking for money – and with this one exception of pressure for employee contributions, they do. We rarely send fundraising e-mails, have very few direct mail campaigns, and call alumni once every two years. Somehow this light touch is lost when it comes to faculty and staff, though, and the heavy-handed tactics are starting to bother me – not even really for my own sake, but for the sake of my colleagues in admissions and maintenance who are student workers.

    2. Bryan*

      I’m in development too and while our profession is based upon the concept of asking I feel like it is out of place at where you work. If you want to give you give.

      I also got the feeling the OP may not belong in development but
      my guess is that the job is more of an administrative than development role (I could be completely wrong about that) and she might have followed their spouse and needed work.

      1. OP*

        Your intuition is correct. I spend the majority of my time in clerical duties, and institutional policy actually prohibits me from EVER asking a donor for money – I’m that low on the totem pole.

    3. Observer*

      I work in a non-profit, so do my husband, daughter and a number of other family members. And some of us are involved, directly and indirectly, to the fundraising aspects of the organizations we work for. And ALL of us see the line between fundraising and our salaries. So I TOTALLY get the importance of donations, even small ones, and the power of giving.

      What YOU seem to be missing is the fact that in most areas of nonprofit employment, pay scales are well below market rate. The LW’s situation is clearly not an exception, if her paycheck won’t even cover tuition and student housing. Given that reality, she is ALREADY giving – far more than a dollar or two.

      Worse, is that this attempt to pressure staff (and I don’t see how you can say there is no pressure when the boss explicitly says he is trying to gain 100% participation – that NEVER happens without pressure) is something the boss wants her to sign on to – he wants HER to be the one pressuring others. Totally inappropriate.

    4. the_scientist*

      Wait, so it’s acceptable to grossly underpay staff compared to for profit companies, make them work long hours often with insufficient, outdated equipment to support the cause AND you expect them to donate to the organization they are already giving the vast majority of time to? Jeez, do you expect your employees to sell blood and plasma and donate the proceeds too?

      If I’m working for an organization I’m donating my valuable knowledge, skills and time to the cause at most likely significantly less than I’m worth in the open market because I care about the cause That should be more than enough.

      Your attitude is the woooooooorst.

      1. Mike C.*

        Should employees turn to dealing drugs or prostitution if it means more development money as well?

      2. Anonymous*

        This is often the attitude of people higher up in development. They may be able to say, “Way back when I was poor and I survived so you can too.” But generally they spend a significant portion of their time with people who have more money than they can spend. So they adopt that attitude. They forget that some people simply can’t afford it and then tell them that if they don’t well then “You don’t really care about your job or your cause.”

    5. LSG*

      I work in development, and I really, really disagree. (I don’t disagree that it’s a culture that exists in some nonprofits, but I do disagree that it’s a reasonable expectation.)

      This might feel a bit off topic, but I think there’s a clear connection: one thing many nonprofits struggle with (and I’ve spoken to many) is a lack of every kind of diversity in their development departments. If there’s an attitude of “well, it’s just a few dollars, you won’t miss it” in the departments, I think that explains quite a bit of the lack — candidates who WOULD miss it are going to be turned off. Maybe to some that means they don’t belong in the development profession. I can say, though, that if I’m sending a development officer into a meeting with a donor, I’d much prefer to send someone who grew up in our (low-income) neighborhood, benefited from services like ours, and can speak about the issue from their own experience, rather than someone with an “it’s just a few dollars” attitude.

      Someone in development DOES know how much a few dollars can do, but on the flip side they also know how little it can do. From a development standpoint, it can be easy to think about how much of a difference $5 is going to make to a capital campaign (…half a brick?) versus how much it could mean to them (food for a day).

      1. OP*

        This is it exactly – I’m turned off by my boss’s “it’s no big deal, just give something” approach because for me it is a big deal.

        As the first college graduate in my family, I am keenly aware of the impact that scholarships have on students – I wouldn’t have made it without one. That’s why my spouse (also a first-generation college graduate) and I are working so hard to pay tuition right now. In many ways, 120% of my paycheck already goes to the cause my department raises money for – supporting needy students. I just happen to be married to my scholarship recipient, so I can’t claim a tax deduction :-)

        1. Anonie*

          I respectfully disagree. 120% of your paycheck is going to pay for your husband’s education not to the cause. You are paying for his education. The money you are paying is going to benefit you and your spouse in the future. He is getting something for the money you are paying.

          If your husband is getting a scholarship he is benefiting from people who are supporting the cause. If you don’t have the money to give then don’t give and don’t feel bad about it but I don’t think it is fair to say that you are giving 120% of your paycheck to the cause.

    6. Mike C.*

      She may not belong because she’s too poor to give money back to her employer? Are you crazy?

      Please, please tell me how much of a “difference” that one dollar from a poor employee will do for a graduate school. Please, please tell me how a dollar makes or breaks the career of someone working in development.

      That dollar might mean the difference between eating dinner today or not, how selfish could you possibly be?

    7. Anonymous*

      I think what’s missing from this argument is the reason why an employer would ask her employees to donate in the first place. She probably doesn’t care about the amount, truly. When the major gifts officer at an organization can say that their Board and staff are committed 100%, that creates a very compelling argument for much more financially well off donors to give their money. It shows the donor that the staff give their time and money to an organization that they believe in.

      It isn’t trying to “extort” money from staff, but to get outsiders to believe in the value of the organization.

  33. A Bug!*

    The boss is proposing to pay lip service to the school’s mission. Worse still, in the pursuit of that lip service, he’s proposing to cause financial hardship to the household of a person who truly is committed to that mission in an obvious and indisputable way.

    Talk about a lack of perspective!

  34. AnonEMoose*

    Thanks to the insane pressure to donate (which I always resisted) at previous employers (my current one is more reasonable, thank Deity), I will never knowingly give one red cent to the United Way.

    I would rather just quietly give directly to a few charities of my choice, and consider it none of my employer’s business.

    OP, I wish you the best of luck in getting your boss to see sense on this one…forced donation is no better than extortion, in my book. Actually, I think I’d rather deal with the extortion, on the whole – it’s more honest!

  35. ThomasT*

    I’ve worked at many nonprofits, and can only remember one employee-focused ask. While I think that it’s true that many nonprofit employees are making less than what they might make in another sector, the trade-off often also includes more flexibility, and perhaps better non-financial benefits. And working for an organization whose mission you support is (theoretically) a pleasure in and of itself. I don’t think it’s inherently inappropriate for a nonprofit organization to solicit its employees, but I think that a hard push for 100% participation does cross the line, and risks losing whatever benefit there might be in citing that figure in the course of other campaigns.

    In the OP’s case, might a figure of 100% faculty participation (or 100% of full-time faculty) sound as good (and more believable), and avoid putting undue pressure on support staff who are either like you and working to put themselves or a partner through the school, or those who are competent at their job, but not in it because of the mission? The message that you want to send to major donors by citing employee giving percentages is that employees support the mission of the organization. But that message needs to be actually true – creating that impression through arm-twisting will damage the mission over the long haul by angering and demotivating employees. And ultimately, development staff, like all the other staff and volunteers of nonprofits are there to support the mission.

    1. Anonymous*

      This kind of attitude is interesting because it says, if you do great things for the world we’ll punish you by paying you less, by demanding you pay us for the pleasure of working here, and by telling you that you should be grateful working in a job where you Do Good Things.

      On the other hand if you do horrible things for the world we reward you with a giant check and a pat on the back as you advance in the world quickly. Oh and if you then give that money to a charity you’ll be rewarded for Doing Good Things with your name on a plaque.

  36. Yuu*

    My 2cents:
    While I’m not sure your boss is right, this honestly doesn’t seem like something worth making waves over…Just donate a dollar, and recommend your colleagues donate a dollar if they also express the same feelings on the issue. If your boss gets a net donation of $10 from 10 employees, he’ll probably get the message. I’ve volunteered with nonprofits before, and for stuff like this the thing I like to point out is, you’ve give hundreds of your hours to this organization. That’s something other funders who have a lot of money to spare probably don’t do. They give money because they have it, you give time – both are donations to the cause, both are needed.

  37. Elizabeth West*

    The nonprofit I worked for required one donation from employees of at least $20. You could take up to your first full year to donate it and after that you weren’t required to give any more unless you wanted to. The year I started, we pooled our money to buy an ice machine for our floor. I put my donation to that (it counted), which made forcing it a little less painful.

  38. ZSD*

    The large public university where I got my PhD had big thermometers up around town counting up the contributions back to the school by faculty, staff, and students. I forget how many million dollars per year they were hoping for. I found it completely obnoxious.
    The public university I now work for is also hard up for cash (like most public schools), but at least they haven’t asked the members of the university to make up for the shortage.
    (We do have a United Way campaign going on, but participation is voluntary.)

  39. Kathleen*

    About 20 years ago I worked for a medium sized nonprofit that was supported by the local United Way. Since they supported us, we were required to hold an internal United Way campaign. This annoyed everyone since we were all not making a lot of money. I was the executive assistant, fundraising coordinator and I did my best to make it fun. I would solicit local business for raffle prizes – nothing elaborate, movie tickets, $25 at a restaurant, the local spa used to give us hot tub session or massages, just fun stuff. I would very deliberately get as many prizes as employees who would participate. New employees would say “Oh, I never win anything” and I would say, “30 people usually give and there are 30 prizes, you will win something.” Employees would rate their top 5 prizes, so I could give them something that they wanted. There was a minimum donation ( like $25) to participate. Everyone enjoyed the raffle. We didn’t harass those who didn’t participate at all. I just tried to make it fun.

  40. Data Dan*

    I worked (very briefly) at a private high school. They had a similar program, asking all faculty to donate to their annual fund. They even offered to have it deducted regularly from my paycheck. Just like OP’s experience, the goal was 100% participation. Most of the faculty put in a small amount, but I still couldn’t afford even $5 on my salary. I managed to find a job that paid much better before they had a chance to really hound me.

  41. Ann Furthermore*

    Maybe the OP should ask for a raise, which would be what her contribution would be. Hee. Just kidding — although the boss’s reaction might be kind of amusing.

  42. Just a Reader*

    My friend works for a company that, on the same day, announced reductions in bonuses and laid down a goal of tens of thousands of dollars donated to charities by employees.

    Ugh. Work and giving to charity shouldn’t mix. Even if the charity is your work.

  43. Same situation*

    Same thing happened to me at the school I worked at prior to my current job. I was laid off over it, as was another co-worker. I would just give the dollar.

  44. majigail*

    So I don’t really believe in pushing 100% participation in giving.
    BUT as a development professional, you have to ask yourself why you are willing to work for a cause but not willing to give to it?
    How can you ask others to give if you aren’t?

    Like I said, I don’t believe in forcing people, but I really think as a development professional, if you’re making a compelling case for people to donate to your cause, your case should be inspiring to move you, or you shouldn’t be using that case.

    BTW, Nonprofit professionals SHOULDN’T be getting sub par wages for the joy of working there, if you are, you need to get out, because that’s a crappy nonprofit with a board stuck in the 1990’s.

    1. Mike C.*

      Because instead of contributing money, you’re contributing time or skills that would be paid much better elsewhere.

    2. Anonymous*

      There is a lot to be said for people who believe in a cause going out and robbing a bank and donating the money too. So, get on encouraging that.

    3. Jamie*

      So I don’t really believe in pushing 100% participation in giving.
      BUT as a development professional, you have to ask yourself why you are willing to work for a cause but not willing to give to it?

      I don’t see the logic here – money is a finite resource. If you care deeply about a cause and you can earn a living furthering that cause that’s great – and if you want to give of your own volition that’s also great.

      The argument is about it being an expectation. Maybe you do care very deeply about the cause for which you work – but you also care deeply about other causes and would like to contribute. Caring about X doesn’t mean you don’t feel moved to donate to Y, or Y, Q, and H.

      People should be able to look at their earnings and budget according to their needs and conscience. No employer should guilt someone into forgoing even a dollar they’d prefer to donate elsewhere, save, spend on a need, or spend on themselves. Once you’ve accrued earnings from your employer they lose their right to use of that money.

      If it’s going to be compulsory to donate, either overtly or by professional pressure, they might as well cut out the middle man and just pay you less to begin with and keep it themselves.

        1. Jamie*

          That was what the discussion about – the OPs boss wanting to make it compulsory. No one was arguing that people shouldn’t give if they choose to.

  45. Aunt Vixen*

    There was 100% participation in the recent election in North Korea, and 100% of voters voted for Kim Jong Eun.

    Your boss can pretty much look donors in the eye and tell them whatever he wants. Even if it happens to be true, it will still be meaningless.

  46. shawn*

    I worked for a non-profit that promoted to staff the opportunity to donate back to the organization. It was mentioned pretty often but I never felt pressure to do it or got the feeling there would be ramifications for not doing so. The staff were already paid relatively poorly so I would’ve been horrified if they had tried to make participation mandatory.

  47. Anon30*

    Another thought – If the OP has other passions that she would rather give to with her limited salary outside of work, she could also express that and maybe say something like – ‘While I respect your request, my husband and I usually give to a local/international (education, wildlife, community, etc.) organization as part of our planned annual gift to (name) organization.”

    Alison and others – I wonder if that’s appropriate? I know if I were working one job and had other passions, I’d probably feel the same way. It may be slightly off-topic, but it’s certainly a fair consideration.

  48. glennis*

    My employer has a charity option we can check off in our paycheck and it has a whole menu of causes to donate to, one of which is our own foundation. They encourage employees to participate in the donation – they leave it up to you whether to choose to give to our foundation or another cause.

  49. AHK*

    I work at a university, and at least in my experience, asking employees to donate back to the university is incredibly common. About once every two months I get either an e-mail or letter asking me to donate. The pressure from your boss makes the situation a little more uncomfortable, but one thing to keep in mind is that they tend to report percentages of employees/students/etc who donate. So if you feel like donating, just give a small amount. But do keep in mind that this is very common, and will likely come up again as long as you stay in university administration.

  50. Holly*

    I’ve worked at several nonprofits, and developed a policy of not donating directly to my current employer. I figure I already do plenty by donating time in the form of long hours and small “donations” by not always submitting eligible reimbursements (sometimes it’s just not worth filling out a form and cashing a check for $5!), and I demonstrate my commitment to the organization and the mission in lots of other ways. That said, I currently donate to most of the organizations I used to work for because I still believe in the work they do – I just want to separate my charitable giving from my current workplace.

    As a manager, I can’t imagine asking my team to do even more for the organization than they already do, regardless of what I do or don’t know about their financial situation. As far as your boss wanting to tell donors that the staff are fully committed, there are other ways to show staff commitment besides donations!

  51. Meow*

    I’m on the board of a local non-profit that is looking to do a capital campaign in the near future. We had a meeting with a capital campaign manager and were told to have a successful campaign, we needed to start with 100% participation, to the best of each person’s ability, from the staff and board. I was not prepared to make the type of donation they were seeking from the board. They were asking really for any donation from the staff.

    Frequently on college alumni campaigns, they are happy if you donate anything because what counts for ranking is the number of alumni participating. I try to throw them something even if it is just $5. It is such a stupid metric though.

    1. Mike C.*

      Your capital campaign manager is simply wrong. As in, “the sun rises in the west” wrong. There are plenty of campaigns that have been successful without every last employee donating $1.

  52. And Politics*

    Worse yet, I have worked places where the support of certain politicians was critical to the business. We would be expected to donate, attend and publicly support events of certain politicians regardless of whether those politicians aligned with our beliefs. I sought some advice on this and was told that political affiliation is not a protected class. They couldn’t control who I actually voted for but they could make attending out of work political events mandatory. My boss would personally cover my “donation” for entrance so I never got into the situation of having to pay for something that might not be legally reimbursable. It was so annoying and I do not work there anymore.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      OMG! That would simply be THE WORST.
      I would NEVER support a politician I didn’t follow or agree with and would absolutely NEVER be pressured into giving to one with opposing views from mine. It’s almost like being forced to go to a religious service or church you don’t agree with.

      I can only guess, but this sounds like a right wing conservative type of thing?

      1. ZSD*

        Honestly, I’m a Democrat, but I can imagine some liberal groups doing this as well. I think this is potentially bipartisan asininery.

      2. Princess of Swords*

        No, I’m pretty sure members of both parties do this kind of thing. (The boss I had who suggested it – but who never followed through, thank goodness – was left-of-center.)

    2. Mike C.*

      Your boss would cover your donation? Uh, wow, that’s really illegal if the portion of the cost which counts as the political donation puts your boss over campaign season donation limits. If nothing else, if it puts your boss over $200, then there is mandatory reporting as well.

      It’s the same issue that was brought up in season 2 of House of Cards.

  53. JW*

    I’m a development consultant. I’ve worked with some United Way organizations who get rewarded for 100% staff participation – they get birthdays off, extra holidays, and other benefits like free lunches. I would have no problem giving a small amount to my organization if it meant we all got to enjoy more vacation days.

    I also have written grants and solicited donations from foundations that look at 100% giving from the board, but not the staff. The board should give no matter what. The staff should give if they feel compelled to give.

  54. Editor*

    I used to do voluntary fundraising for my university, and I found out that alumni who begin by donating small amounts to the annual fund drive are likely to give more later and give more willingly. But I graduated when student loans were typically much less. In addition, in the last couple of years, I’ve encountered much more aggressive and unpleasant fundraising from my alma mater, which has made me rather hostile — particularly since I went to the same place my parents did and they are receiving an annual personal call or visit from the sweetness-and-light folks who are hoping to arrange for a bequest, so the contrast intergenerationally is pretty obvious to me.

    So, here’s a start on my top ten list for why your college or university has inappropriate fundraising policies:

    10. Your educational institution underpays employees but expects every employee to donate to the annual fund drive.

    9. Your educational institution forces competition between departments and other units by publicizing donation participation rates among employees and counts all staff members, even part-time workers who don’t get benefits, toward these participation numbers.

    8. Your educational institution asks students and the parents of current students to donate to the annual fund drive. (Yes, I know Ivy League universities do this and so do others, so maybe they have more rich parents. But I still think you could wait four years.)

    7. Your educational institution’s phone targets for donations include alumni with known student loans, particularly students with very large balances.

    6. Your educational institution doesn’t take no for an answer the first phone solicitation of each year and sends more than two written solicitations per year to alumni, calling repeatedly and sending four or more fund-raising requests in a year.

    5. Your educational institution does not look at patterns of participation for donors who give only once a year, badgering people repeatedly when their declared intention is the one gift per year.

    4. Your educational institution believes that one large memorial gift indicates that subsequent large memorial gifts will be forthcoming annually.

    3. Your educational institution calls deceased alumni for donations because record-keeping is not coordinated between alumni death records, memorial gifts, and annual fund solicitation lists or the updates are only batch-processed sporadically.

    2. Your educational institution has no way to suspend repeated solicitations of unemployed alumni until the beginning the following year’s initial roll-out of the annual fund campaign, so people who’ve been laid off have to keep explaining their situations.

    1. Your educational institution is secretive about finances, particularly the endowment, and it has not shown that it controls costs carefully while providing adequate staff and faculty salaries, a good education and high internship and job placement rates for students, and decent but not extravagant facilities.

    1. Anonsie*

      “8. Your educational institution asks students and the parents of current students to donate to the annual fund drive.”

      Oh man, this. My university would call my parents (which is annoying for an assortment of other reasons I won’t go in to right now) every semester and ask for donations… While I was a student. My mom would tell them “You know we are currently already paying tuition and fees to you guys, right? Stop asking us for more.”

      They never stopped, and after I graduated they just flipped to calling me and asking for alumni donations, with a suggested annual donation of $1000. This is an unranked state school in the middle of nowhere, for the record, not somewhere they might reasonably expect people to be able to toss them a grand immediately after graduating.

      1. Ruffingit*

        My mother used to get “give us money” phone calls from my university while I was a student as well. It was particularly egregious because I had a work-study job, scholarships, and student loans because my mother couldn’t afford to contribute to my education so calling her for a donation was beyond ridiculous. She couldn’t even pay for my education to begin with let alone donate to the school.

  55. Anonsie*

    Something something Skull Island something.

    The comments are actually surprising to me– as someone who does a lot of community service and who has always worked for nonprofits (including a museum and two hospitals), I’ve never been hit up for money like this.

    The hospitals would suggest donations and had workplace giving campaigns in the form of one email and maybe a piece of mail explaining that you can sign up for payroll deductions. They were generic and totally detached from your actual supervisors or coworkers, too, sent out by the fund raising departments. That’s the only way to do this appropriately, I feel.

  56. NH fundraiser*

    As a development professional, I have worked with staff who were happy to give – it gave them joy. Really. It is a powerful tool as a development prof to be able to ask a donor to join you in supporting X. I alway give to my nonprofit employers at the level I feel comfortable. I never think that I am already “giving” by working for them in the first place, because I have felt well compensated for my work. Do for-profit workers fee they are giving to their employers by working late? That being said, nobody should feel pressured to give. But almost anyone with a job can spare $5.

    1. Coffeeless*

      What a privileged way of looking at things. I’m sure there are plenty of people with jobs that don’t have $5 dollars to spare.

    2. Anon30*

      It’s also a matter of how they want to spend $5 (or less, or more). They may want to give outside of work too. I love the organization I work for and am more than willing to give, but if I were working for a university, I would most likely want to give to another organization (wildlife, community, etc.).

      And YES, I know many people that have jobs that can’t spare $5 at a given point in their lives.

    3. N.J.*

      It doesn’t matter how much money someone makes. When you accept a job with an organization, non profit or private sector, you accept the job as a collections of duties and responsibilities for which you are paid a certain wage. For a non profit, there is the added dimension of being genuinely connected emotionally and ethically to the work you are doing. You are “supporting” your organization by choosing, out of all the options that you have for paid work, to dedicate your professional talents, which have a value (for instance the market value that your position has in the job market), to that particular organization and cause.

      Employees should be no more pressured to donate then any other potential pool of donors. You can’t require or pressure a donation from anyone, under any circumstance, donations are voluntary, and if they are made compulsory, they aren’t donations. You can only make a compelling case as to why anyone should care about donating to your organization, that is the only tactic that should be used.

      I’ve worked two jobs at a large public university and various internship style stints at local based non-profits and I was never personally asked, nor did I see any other employees, pressured to donate to an organization.

      As for the argument repeated on this thread that Board members should be expected to donate to a cause, aren’t they already “donating” to the organization by serving on the Board in the first place? Last time I checked most non-profit boards were made up of unpaid volunteers. I’m sure there could be cases in which Board members are paid for their services, but by and large my impression is that they are already donating their time, ideas, thoughts, hard work and passion to the organization, which the non profit would have to pay for if they hired people to do the activities that the Board members perform.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        It’s very, very normal for board members to be expected to donate, at very high levels. The last place I worked, board members were expected to donate at least $100,000 each annually; that was clearly communicated before they joined the board. (These were, obviously, rich people. Which is much the point of a board, in reality — they do fundraising for you with other rich people.)

        That might not be true at very small nonprofits where their boards are made up of activists or movement volunteers. But it’s definitely the case at larger, better funded organizations.

      2. raise your game*

        ” would have to pay for if they hired people to do the activities that the Board members perform.”

        Employees and boards are different. Nonprofit boards should not be paid and it’s a bad sign to donors if they are. They provide governance and oversight, in return for no compensation. If you hired people to do those roles, they wouldn’t be a board.

        NJ, do you have any experience in nonprofit governance or management or strategy? I don’t think you do.

  57. Chris*

    If your organization gets 100% participation organically, hurray! Brag about it. But generally, if I see someone make the claim of 100% participation, I will assume that there was strongarming, or definition bending going on. I worked for a museum for a while (we got our memberships for free), and I donated regularly. Because I loved the museum, what they were doing, and how they worked with employees. My current job, at a library, I have never given a cent. Because I feel they radically underpay and cut hours to “make scheduling more flexible” (when they really mean cut people to part time and save on health insurance). My library is a great library, but I refuse to give the pittance I do make (with an MLIS at that) when the administration shows low regard for how its employees get by.

    And, unlike the museum, they DO pressure. HARD. “This money helps everyone in the system!” “Oh, is our branch getting any of this?” “…. no, it’s to remodel the branch on the other side of town.”

  58. Amber*

    When I was in the Army, we often were told that we had to “voluntarily” donate otherwise none of us were allowed to go home from the field.

  59. mel*

    Sometimes paying tuition really feels like just giving money away.

    “Well I gave [insert tuition cost] here, and our coworker’s gave [tuition & tuition]. How much did you donate?” ha ha ha.

  60. Not Me*

    I work for an institution of higher learning, and they ask us for money a couple times of year. I really resent this. What I resent even more, however, is getting mail from the last college I worked for, asking me for money.
    I was out of work for three years after they let me go. I feel like writing “*#@$ You” on the envelopes and mailing them back.

  61. Persephone*

    In reality- you should just give a token amt. Not worth the hassle and stigma- you will pay one way or another.

    1. Anonymous*

      Exactly. I fought it at some of the schools when I was younger and broker, but as I have advanced in my career I’ve learned it’s not worth the damage. Just give bare minimum and go about your day.

  62. Anonymous*

    I’ve worked in higher ed for about 12 years and this is very, very common. Not saying it’s a brilliant idea but it’s the norm. You give an annual $20 donation and just write it off as what you have to do to seem like a team player.

  63. resentful*

    I’ve worked at several universities and it is common to ask the employees for money but some are more aggressive than others. One university I worked at was a very small place so the development person could easily guilt people individually if they didn’t give. She too wanted 100% participation and said she was reward the staff with a party if 100% gave.

    I ended up giving $2 with the stipulation that they go back to my department to fund x initiative. Snarky I know, but I was very resentful to give my hard earned money to them and I just wanted her off my back. The funny thing is because I gave once they contacted me for years on end (after my employment there ended) to ask for more money.

  64. S*

    Who is getting the tax deduction for mandatory giving at a place of employment?
    If an employee is required to give of their own $ then they should get the tax deduction for donating their $. If the company is writing it off of their taxes as though the company donated as a whole, well, that would seem to be illegal to me. I’m not a lawyer, however there is obviously a benefit the company is getting form requiring. I wonder what the IRS rules are about that!

    If you want to donate it should be a choice. If it is not a choice, but required then it is not a donation.

  65. Janice*

    I work at a college and my boss and planned giving officer want to take my 403B account as a donation. It is needless to say that when I found out I contacted the company. They are not allowed to take my accout but they are pressuring me into making a planned gift. It got so obnoxious I had to go to HR about it. I am also being singled out. They think because I am single with no children I have a lot of money. I feel that the planned giving officer is going to be after me the rest of my life. I am actually quite frightened by this whole thing.

  66. Marie*

    A little late to this one, but at my nonprofit, our boss sat down and (with evident discomfort) talked about how funders and donors actually really care about the 100% figure, and become weirdly suspicious if we *don’t* have 100% giving from staff, so she had to at least ask us once, and then promised to never bring it up again.

    What finally solved the problem to everybody’s great joy was the advent of Amazon Smile. Everybody in the office is now signed up for Amazon Smile, with donations going to our organization, and we each just have to purchase at least one thing per year (which all of us were already doing, so it was no hardship). Staff do like being able to support the organization this way, so it achieves the good feelings of donating without the irritated feelings of having your boss reach into your wallet. We can legitimately say 100% of staff donate, and in the office we can joke about exactly how we donated (“Hey, did you get the 0.5% of the dorky vampire novels I bought this weekend? I know you were counting on it…”).

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