my employer is pressuring me to donate my retirement savings

A reader writes:

I work in a development office at a college. This development office does the fundraising for the college from alumni, friends, companies, staff, etc.

Representatives in my office have been trying to cultivate me into donating the savings in my retirement account (part of the college benefit package) to the college as a donation.

I am going to be 61 in February. I am single with no children, and they think that because of this I have a lot of money. My retirement account is not big, and it is all I have to live on when I retire.

I earned a 30-credit masters degree from a discounted program from this school. It is supposed to be part of the benefit package, and nowhere in the employee handbook does it state that I am under any obligation. I have been a donor to the college for the last 11 consecutive years. What they want is a planned gift, bequest or significant gift.

I went to HR recently about this and some of the pursuing has stopped, although I did not mention that it is my retirement account they are after. I only said that they want money from me because I wanted to keep it as soft as possible. They did stop asking me personal questions. However, they have all mostly ignored me for the last 11 years that I worked there and now they are being overly nice to me, patronizing me. 

I am starting to think I may have to leave even though it will be better if I can stretch out my work time. I also think that when I leave the college, they may come to where I live uninvited. Do you have suggestions for me to get this to stop?

Wow, asking someone to donate their retirement savings — let alone repeatedly — takes a special sort of audacity. And by “audacity,” I mean “total disregard for common sense and the barest minimum of courtesy.”

There’s a basic fact here that I’m not sure if you realize: Your coworkers are batshit crazy. What they’re asking — nay, pressuring — you for is so beyond the realm of what any normal person would ever consider that they don’t deserve to even be taken seriously.

And that’s really where the answer lies. Stop treating the requests as a serious thing that requires a serious response. The next time they approach you about this, call them out on it: “You don’t seriously think I’m going to give up my retirement savings and have nothing to live on when I retire, do you? It’s not going to happen.”

And then if it continues: “I’ve already told you no. Stop asking.” And: “I’ve told you repeatedly your requests are unwelcome. If you ask again, I’m talk to (person above their head) to figure out where we’re miscommunicating.”

But you’re getting stressed out by this to the point of considering leaving, when the far better approach is to just see this as crazy — and remember that they have no power to make you do anything you don’t want to do. You can just keep saying no, and you can escalate it above their heads to get them to stop hassling you if you want to.

Also, if it continues, make sure that you tell whoever you’re complaining to (HR or the perpetrators’ boss) that it’s your retirement money they’re after. You said you didn’t mention that part when you talked to HR, but that part is highly relevant — it’s what takes it from “annoying persistent fundraisers hassling a coworker” into totally crazy, outrageous territory. If you don’t explain that part, you’re not explaining a core element on the story.

And as for your worry that they’ll come to your house after you retire: If they do, you can tell them to go away. You’re not beholden to these people. Somehow they’ve made you feel that they are (or your desire to be polite is making you feel that way), but you’re not in any way obligated to entertain crazy requests or accommodate crazy behavior, especially from people who won’t even be colleagues at that point.

{ 223 comments… read them below }

  1. Sharon*

    Just have to say that the headline alone raised my blood pressure by 25 points. Now, back to reading the article…. sure it’s going to be a doozy!

    1. Amanda*

      Yes!!! I had a long list of four-letter expletives that came to mind– THAT is what I would tell whomever has the audacity to tell me what to do with money I’ve saved that is none of their dang business!

  2. The IT Manager*

    OMG! Terrible. Yes, LW, say “no.” Say “no” in full confidence that this is an outragious request. This is not normal. Frankly no one should ever pressure anyone to donate retirement savings – by definition you need that to live on once you retire.

    1. Annonymouse*

      OP you need to see their behaviour for what it is: completely unreasonable and not something you have to comply with. EVER.

      You’re acting like they’re just being impolite instead of straight up crazy.

      One thing I learned is being reasonable and polite with people only works if they are reasonable. If they aren’t you can be blunt or even go over them to find someone reasonable to deal with.

  3. Sharon*

    Ahhh, welcome to WTF Wednesday! This is a good one, Alison, well done! And to the OP, Alison’s advice is excellent. Those wackos don’t deserve to be taken at all seriously.

      1. John B Public*

        Just chiming in a “Me too!” here… They are CRAZY! Most Americans’ retirement funds are underfunded… You’re not alone, but that doesn’t mean you should be expected to dig the hole deeper!

        Ask if you can live with them since you won’t be able to afford rent if you give them money… And let them know you expect to bring your 30 cats and pet Black Mamba with you.

  4. AnotherAlison*

    Is the OP sure they aren’t just looking for an estate gift so that whatever retirement is left after the OP’s death is left to the school? This wouldn’t seem so crazy, since the OP is single without kids, but the retirement account would have to be something like a 401k rather than a pension that would stop when the pension-holder died.

    1. BRR*

      That’s what I thought as well. My response would be, “I already have my estate plans in place and I will not be changing them. Please stop harassing me.”

      1. Jazzy Red*

        This is the best response the OP can give, perhaps with a stern look and a firm voice.

        OP, I just retired and I know how difficult it is to make ends meet now. Don’t let anyone take any of your retirement money. You’ll need more than you think you will.

    2. The IT Manager*

      +1 I was so shocked by the question I missed something on first read:

      What is meant by planned gift, bequest, or signifigant gift?

      Bequests occur after death so LW would not be donating something she needs to live on. Is the planned gift also planned to be gifted after death?

      Still, if you prefer to bequeth whatever remains to someone or something other than your employer, keep saying “no” forcefully.

      1. Lia*

        Former fundraiser here. Yes, a planned gift would be designed to be given after LW passed.

        That said, I have seen employees “encouraged” to donate the remainder of the retirement account to the non-profit after the employee passed on, or to designate a portion of the remainder to the institution. I have NEVER seen any encouragement to give over the retirement fund while the employee was still living, though.

        At the non-profit I worked for, it was expected that all employees would donate something annually (usually a payroll deduction) and the amount was to increase as the employee rank did. Executives were strongly encouraged to have planned gifts to the institution and about half of ours did.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          I’m on an advisory board for a university department, and the alumni are definitely hit up for planned gifts, so I wonder if the OP being a masters program alum has something to do with it, too, in addition to being an employee.

        2. tt*

          I ignore those requests. I refuse on principle to give my money back to my own employer, no matter how worthy the cause (and I do believe it is). I contribute by working here, and use my financial contributions to other causes I care about. And they will not appear in my will either, even though we don’t have children to inherit from us.

          1. Cheesecake*

            this +10000. Even if i work at nonprofit where cause is truly appealing to me to the point i want to make donation as a part of my will…and colleagues say one word about “planned gift”out loud – thats it!

          2. Laurel Gray*

            It’s amazing how they do not understand that you work for them to make financial contributions to other causes like rent/mortgage, gas, electric, water, cable, insurance, entertainment etc. How can an employer have no regard about the life expenses of an employee?

          3. Anonymouss*

            I feel much the same way.

            They pestered us to give back to our organization something on the basis that the higher percentage of employees who give back gives them a stronger case when approaching other donors (ie Look! 95% of our employees give back because they believe in what they’re doing. You should give us money too!).

            And since our development office is keeping track of the % there was a lot of pressure to give something.

            The only reason I caved in and gave is because I don’t have tenure yet and they said you could give any amount (so I gave something like a one time $5). But there hasn’t been a cost of living increase in years and years and years and rent is skyrocketing. So every penny hurts a bit and the donating thing leaves a bitter taste in your mouth.

            1. Robin*

              Wow, this is the worst. I would definitely have a major problem with a nonprofit that allowed this to happen.

            2. AnotherAnon*

              Yep, this happened at my organization. They pushed and pushed, and then they told us that all of our interns were giving, to shame us into it. Meanwhile we’re all paid dirt.

        3. Juni*

          Advancement officer here. OP, if you want them to shut up, ask them for a planned giving form, and make a revocable planned gift. They will leave you alone. Then, once you retire, revoke it. End of story.

          1. Cheesecake*

            I think what they do should not be tolerated in any way possible. They have to get obnoxious reply in return. But i feel sorry for OP who is simply tired of that all, so might be a solution

          2. Turanga Leela*

            I would never do this. Not to be morbid, but if you get a sudden illness or get hit by a truck (and it could happen to any of us), you won’t have a chance to revoke the gift. Your bequests and planned gifts should request what you actually want to do.

            1. Adam*

              I agree. It may get them off your back, but your still making a commitment you don’t actually want to do and if there really is somewhere or someone else you’d rather your estate go to if you pass on unexpectedly things may well be stuck as is.

            2. NYCRedhead*

              Especially if she works for Hudson University (bum bum). (What- is that too obscure a Law & Order reference?)

              1. Stephanie*

                I got it. :) It seems like that university must have a giant staff of crisis and trauma counselors given all that shit that happens there.

              2. Turanga Leela*

                This makes me so happy! Don’t things occasionally happen at New York City University as well? I think of that as their CUNY stand-in, whereas Hudson = Columbia.

                1. Stephanie*

                  I always thought of Hudson as NYU, since it didn’t seem like a contained campus (like Columbia) and wasn’t uptown.

                2. Turanga Leela*

                  I’m now very curious. It turns out there’s a whole Wikipedia article on Hudson! It’s been filmed all over the city, at NYU and Columbia but also City College and a bunch of others.

            1. Jean*

              +10,000! In my imagination, I’m asking these solicitors, “What part of NO don’t you understand?”

          3. fposte*

            Agreeing with the disagreements. This doesn’t deserve encouragement. And I speak as somebody who’s giving for something fairly significant during her lifetime–if they bugged me like this I’d shut down all gifts right quick.

          4. Patrick G*

            Yea, bad idea…People need to be called out on bullshit like this. It’s for the betterment of society.

          5. BRR*

            I have to disagree (also in development). One, turanga leela’s reason. Two this pushy development officer needs to have a softer approach. I’d worry this is how they are approaching donors this way.

        4. Koko*

          That’s crazy to me! At all the nonprofits I’ve worked at, the pay cut we take to work in this sector has been considered our contribution to the organization/cause. I donate to many other nonprofits but I can’t imagine being expected to give part of my paycheck back over to my employer–why didn’t they just pay me less in the first place?

      2. AB*

        I’m pretty sure it’s the height of tackiness to ask someone for something when they die. Imagine going up to your grandmother and saying, “Hey, you’re old… when you kick the bucket can I have your house?” I can’t imagine how unbelievably tacky and rude it is for an employer or coworkers to even hint let alone pester someone to leave their estate to the school when they die.

        1. SJP*

          AB you’re spot on, it’s sooo tacky and rude and I think if they stepped back and looked at something like your example they’d maybe realise how out of line they are!

          And TT, right on!

        2. Ezri*

          I was going to say exactly this! It’s one thing for a person to bequeath some money to an organization in her will… it’s entirely another to ASK someone to do it. Let alone repeatedly. On top of being crazy disrespectful, it’s creepy.

          1. Koko*

            Planned giving is very common in the nonprofit world, but it’s usually handled in a much classier way than this. It’s typically a flier/brochure with information about including the nonprofit in your estate plans that is distributed to the likeliest prospects–donors who have given regular gifts to the organization for a long period of time or major donors who have given 5- and 6-figure gifts to the organization. Not people who barely or have never donated to the organization, and certainly not as a direct hard ask that is made repeatedly! Here’s an example of one that my local animal shelter makes available on its website, which is quite typical:

            1. AnotherAlison*

              I agree, it’s normally done with more class.

              I don’t really think it’s tacky like others here are saying, as long as it is done as Koko describes. I would love to endow a scholarship to my alma mater, if I had that kind of money when I die, and I even have two kids. BUT, if I had not listened to the fundraiser’s speeches for the past three years, this probably would not have occurred to me. It always seemed like something OTHER people did, not regular people.

              1. Selkie*

                I work in legacy fundraising, and that’s the big problem in the field. Everyone thinks that leaving a gift in their will is something that rich people do, or that better off people do – in reality, anything is welcome, whether it’s a percentage of an estate or a fixed sum. Every little helps.

            2. Ezri*

              That’s a fair point – I don’t think a flier in OP’s mailbox or a general information email would be inherently offensive. It’s really the repeated asking that makes this situation so icky.

        3. soapyme*

          Actually, my delightful younger cousin did ask our grandfather whether she would be getting his car after he died.

          1. ThursdaysGeek*

            I asked my mum if I could have the piano when she died, and she did not appreciate the question. But I was a kid at the time.

              1. Sharon*

                Ooh, my mom gave me her yellow pyrex mixing bowls when I moved out. Three sizes that nest together, heavy as boulders; I adore them and use them constantly. I love having something older than I am and yet they don’t have a chip on them anywhere. Some slight scratches showing that they’re loved, but otherwise good as new. That old fashioned pyrex was just the best stuff!

            1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

              We have season tickets to a baseball team – which has a long wait list – my (adult) daughter once asked “how come we (she, husband) have to sit in the bleachers for a big game, and YOU keep the good seats? When do we get the good seats for the World Series?”

              Answer = “When we die. You are the heir to the ticket account.”

          2. Tenley*

            My cousin asked our grandparents if he could have his inheritance now rather than later. Like we’re a family with big money that passes down through the generations.

        4. TheAssistant*

          “Giving money after you die” is an actual field of fundraising called “planned giving” – a gift through a bequest (like in a will or a trust) or a portion of retirement savings, etc. It’s a particularly attractive option for folks who do have the desire to give a major gift to a preferred charity, but have illiquid assets or fixed income during their senior years. While pestering is not a great fundraising tactic, making donors aware that charities can accept all kinds of assets (including, yes, your house after your death!) can be very valuable, especially to donors without heirs.

          Why yes, this is what I do every day.

        5. Artemesia*

          This is the job of the development officer — to ask people for bequests when they die. It isn’t ‘tacky’ — it is the job. And it is not unusual to ask employees to make such bequests. My former non-profit did this although I have kids and there is not a snowball’s chance I would have given my not-insubstantial estate to my employer anyway. But the key here is ‘estate’ — i.e. they want the money when she is dead not to give it to them before she retires.

          The issue is not that they asked but that they keep asking. She needs to shut it down with a ‘I have completed my estate planning and won’t be doing this.’ And then she needs to ignore any subsequent requests.

    3. AnotherAlison*

      I meant to add what BBR and The IT Manager said, too. Even if they do mean a gift upon death, you still shouldn’t be pressured into doing it!

    4. ThomasT*

      This. And actually, I suspect it is probably clear to the OP that they’re asking for a bequest or planned gift – not asking for all of her retirement savings. I suspect if she makes clear that she doesn’t have the capacity to give that they seem to think she does, this will stop. But that can be an awkward conversation as well, since they’re coworkers and not just development officers from a school she attended. I think that BRR’s response below is right on, with as much detail as the OP feels comfortable giving about what her circumstances actually are. “I have really treasured my career and education here at Walden College. But my financial adviser has told me that my current savings are just sufficient to cover my expenses after retirement, and I don’t wish to discuss a planned or major gift with you further.”

      1. Mephyle*

        I suspect if she makes clear that she doesn’t have the capacity to give that they seem to think she does, this will stop. But that can be an awkward conversation as well,…
        More than just awkward; it shouldn’t be necessary for her to relinquish privacy about her financial situation to make it stop.

    5. cheeky*

      I agree. This seems to be what they’re asking for. I mean, you still don’t have to agree to it, but this the more likely explanation.

  5. UKAnon*

    Wow, OP, that’s awful! Alison’s advice is great, but it might take quite a force of personality to make it happen. If it were me, I’d be more tempted just to go straight over their head at this point, but even that entails rocking the boat, and I know a lot of people who wouldn’t feel comfortable with that.


    You don’t have to be there for much longer, so please, please be as forceful as it takes to make them go away. You’ve donated already (and presumably you didn’t have to do that) and the fact that you’re single with no children has nothing to do with anything. Indeed, don’t even get into discussions about having nothing to live on if you don’t want to. You could be perfectly well off, that’s still your money you’ve worked for to do with as you will.

    I just wanted to say good luck =)

    1. Ezri*

      “Indeed, don’t even get into discussions about having nothing to live on if you don’t want to. You could be perfectly well off, that’s still your money you’ve worked for to do with as you.”

      This this this + infinity. It’s not relevant whether or not you need the money in your retirement fund to live on – it’s your money, and you get to decide where it goes. You don’t owe this school anything, that’s why it’s a donation when you give. You also don’t owe these people an explanation, and trying to provide reasons will just validate their insane requests more than they deserve.

    2. Lily in NYC*

      I think OP should just keep giving different crazy reasons why she can’t donate the money. “Sorry, I plan to become a Juggalo after I retire and need the money for face makeup”

  6. Phyllis*

    Usually a planned gift or bequest is done in one’s will and of course occurs upon death. Having said that, no matter what type of donation they’re asking for, if you’ve said no, then that’s the answer.

  7. Journalist Wife*

    When I first read this, it seemed to me — with the comment about having no children or spouse — that maybe what the college was after was a planned gift of the retirement principle upon death. Which is no less macabre and out of line to be approached about at work, but still, I wonder if that’s what they were attempting to communicate; rather than the actual “when you retire, we think you should live on nothing and give us your monthly checks,” maybe they meant, “When you plan your retirement, obviously some sort of will or other document will itemize what happens to your money after you die, so please consider making the college your beneficiary upon death.” Again, still a horribly awkward request to receive from your employer ESPECIALLY when you work in development yourself and are not even retired yet, but…did anyone else read this and think that’s what they were meaning? Just wondering.

    1. UKAnon*

      ” a planned gift, bequest or significant gift”

      This made me think that they want to know a specific amount that they will receive, though – which would, of course, mean OP was unable to live off of that amount whilst retired even if they did intend for it to kick in at a later date.

    2. AdAgencyChick*

      I agree — I don’t think the coworkers are thinking about this from the point of view of “OP should give us all her retirement funds and have nothing left!” Rather, they’re probably making assumptions: “OP doesn’t have a spouse to support or grandchildren to put through college, so she can afford to give us more!”

      It’s still obnoxious to make these assumptions, but it’s not malicious in the same way that the first mindset would be, I think.

      I wonder if, as an alternative to Alison’s wording, OP could say something like, “I feel uncomfortable because these requests make me think my coworkers are just waiting for me to die. Please stop asking.” Basically, some sort of statement that gets the obnoxious coworkers to realize how such a request makes OP feel, and thereby makes them feel uncomfortable asking in the future.

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        I thought the assumption was “OP doesn’t have kids or a wife to leave their money to, so they could make the college their main beneficiary in their will.”

    3. Jipsy's Mom*

      This was my take on it too. Planned giving or bequests are generally set up so that all or a portion of the donor’s estate will go to the organization. The college likely figures that since the OP doesn’t have children s/he may not have other beneficiaries designated, and might be willing to leave a bequest to the college. I think the development department sounds a bit too pushy, but I don’t see anything really offensive about the college asking “Hey, would you be interested in leaving any amounts left in your retirement account to us after you die?” I mean, it sounds crass to type it out like that, but every donation form I’ve ever filled out includes an option to have the organization contact me about “planned giving” after I’m no longer around.

      1. kozinskey*

        Asking once is fine. I’d even think it’s fine for an office-wide email to go out annually saying “Please consider including College in your estate plans, contact Joaquin to find out how.” But it sounds like OP is getting constant pressure about it, which is rude and gross.

        1. Ezri*

          That’s a great point. A generalized informational email wouldn’t be so tacky or thoughtless, because it’s good for people to know that’s an option. But to pester an individual about giving them money when she dies is just wrong.

          1. Zillah*

            Agreed. A general email seems quite reasonable to me, but targeting a specific person because she’s old and has no spouse/children is just gross.

            1. Green*

              Yes, the *reason* for specifically targeting her is gross. It says, “There are no meaningful people or causes in her life; she’s ALL ALONE! We’re it for her!” Quarterly/annual updates or fliers to everyone (or all retirees in a retirement information packet) that are generalized are enough to make sure everyone is aware of the option would be appropriate, instead of treating her like she’s a sick antelope and OverEagerDevelopmentPerson is the lion.

  8. LBK*

    Sadly, this doesn’t surprise me at all. I’ve worked in retirement planning education for a few years now and you would be shocked how little regard people have for their retirement funds – people pulling $50,000 out of their 401(k)s 20 years before they retire because they all they see is money that belongs to them that they can spend now. The idea that it’s intended to be your income when you’re no longer working and that they’re screwing themselves for the future is lost.

    My point being, it probably doesn’t even cross these people’s minds that there’s a reason this money exists and that it’s intended to be meted out over time. To them it’s just dollar signs that could be spent now.

    1. Graciosa*

      Well, yes – but in this case, it’s someone else’s money. The OP seems to understand exactly what it’s for – the really offensive part is persisting in demanding someone else’s money after a first refusal. I do understand that the fact that its retirement savings is especially obnoxious, but it would still cross the line for me even if it was not.

      You should never have to justify why you don’t choose to give your money to any person or cause.

      1. LBK*

        Oh, the whole act is still obnoxious, for sure. Pressuring people to donate money, especially a considerable sum (or what you assume is a considerable sum), is extremely rude. But the lack of added sensitivity due to the money being retirement funds doesn’t surprise me at all.

  9. Turanga Leela*

    Alison is right. Shut down the pressure now with a clear, final “No.” Don’t worry about hurting their feelings; they’re the ones being rude. You can continue giving, or not, at whatever level you feel is appropriate. This is entirely your decision, you’ve made it, and there’s nothing else to negotiate.

    1. Frances*

      Yeah, their actions as described here go way beyond what’s considered acceptable practice in development and donor cultivation. I wonder if part of the problem is they don’t think they have to follow the usual policies because you are a coworker. (The schools I worked at, which were all incredibly aggressive in fundraising, actually had *more* restrictive guidelines when it came to soliciting employees than alumni and other donors, so OP’s office is not at all the norm as I understand it.)

      Does your institution’s donor database have a “do not solicit” checkbox on its donor records? If so, you should ask to be treated as an external donor who asked not to be solicited.

    2. Meg Murry*

      Yes, I wonder if part of the problem is that OP has not said “No, and don’t ask me again”. If OP is being “polite” and saying “maybe” or “send me some more info” or “let me think about it” – its time for a hard and firm “No, and don’t call me again and take me off the mailing list.” And then like others have said, if you are NOT removed, escalate it up the chain and let the person’s boss know you don’t appreciate being badgered. Ignoring them won’t make them go away, so give them a firm “no” and move on. If necessary, threaten (and do) stop your current annual giving if they won’t leave you alone.

      1. HumbleOnion*

        I wondered that too, especially because of this line: “I only said that they want money from me because I wanted to keep it as soft as possible.”

        OP, don’t worry about keeping it soft. It’s not rude to be your own advocate and assert yourself. In fact, it’s essential!

        1. AnonAnalyst*

          That line stood out to me, too. I agree with Meg Murry that if the OP hasn’t (or isn’t sure if she has) given the person asking a firm ‘no’ I think it’s reasonable at this point to give one final ‘no,’ saying something like “No, I have other plans for that money. Please stop asking and remove me from your mailing list.” Then escalate it up the chain if the requests continue.

          If the OP HAS given them a firm ‘no and stop asking,’ I would just escalate this up the chain now. Like several others, I read it as the college asking OP to donate part of her retirement account after she passes away, so I don’t find the request totally out of line but the fact that it sounds like the requester(s) is badgering OP is obnoxious and unacceptable.

      2. Turanga Leela*

        Learning how to give an unambiguous “No” is a huge, neglected life skill. Add it to the list of things we should teach in high school. A lot of us have been trained so well to be polite that we get very uncomfortable shutting people down—even though there’s no contradiction between being pleasant and saying, “You know what, I’m not interested, and I don’t want to discuss this any further.”

        1. Heather*

          Let’s also teach them how to accept the unambigious “no” instead of seeing it as “Sorry, ask again later”!

      3. grasshopper*

        Often people think that saying “I’m not interested right now” means no, but what a fundraiser hears is “ask me later.” A clear ‘no’ is the way to go. You don’t have to be rude about it, but be clear that you will not give.

        The fundraising office should have an option in their database that you can request not to be solicited at all. Ask that this note be put on your file and respected. If they don’t have that kind of option, I would check to see if they follow any fundraising codes of ethics which gives donors the right to refuse. If they don’t have that kind of code, go to the top of the food chain to make sure one is put in place.

        1. Joolsey woolsey*

          I work with a lovely lady, who is so polite that she cannot bring herself to say no to any request, but the funny thing is that she thinks she has said no when what she’s actually said is “maybe later” or “I’m not sure, I don’t think so” and I find it really frustrating, I just want her to say what she means!

          1. Today*

            Well, we all have to learn how to say no and stop pleasing ridiculous people. It’s hard but we must do it!

            This post hit a cord with me today because this morning I had to confront the Trust and Estate Lawyer who is preparing my will and stuff, because of the wording in her Power of Attorney for my fiduciary. Basically, she left in wording that allowed the POA to change the will, change the beneficiaries and DONATE GIFTS to herself. What the … ? No!!!!!!!

            That, along with the referral to her husband for financial planning – uh, no. Self-dealing is a very serious offense and I had it. And – this was a large and well respected law firm here in Arizona, and when I spoke to the accounting department she was aghast and immediately notified the Executive Director. End of day, the relationship is ended.

            We must take care of ourselves even if it means ‘offending’ someone, that’s what predatory people are relying on with nice people.

            1. dejavu2*

              You should report your attorney to the Arizona Bar. I’m licensed in a different state, but I would be completely shocked if that were not a significant violation of Arizona’s code of attorney conduct. If she’s doing it to you, she’s probably done it before and will do it again. Seriously, you should (1) find a new lawyer and (2) report her to the state board of bar overseers.

  10. INTP*

    Maybe I’m being affected by the WTFery in this post (on the coworkers’ parts, not the OP’s!), but I’m thinking that if none of Alison’s suggestions (which are all smarter than what I’m about to suggest) get them off your back, it might be time to tearfully disclose some sort of tragic reason that you don’t have or will need this imaginary fortune that they apparently think all single women wind up with. Something emotionally affecting enough to shame them out of ever asking again.

    “I have never told you this, because it is so hard for me to talk about without crying. But 15 years ago, my goddaughter/neice/whatever developed a rare form of leukemia and her parents had no insurance and little savings. I spent most of my life savings at that point on different treatments for her but little Sally still passed away. *sniff*” Or your mother is showing early signs of a debilitating illness and you are concerned that you will need your savings to afford care so she doesn’t have to go be neglected in some awful nursing home. Or you paid for all your nieces’ and nephews’ college educations because their parents gambled away their college accounts. I mean, it’s insane to make up such awful stories but insane employers sometimes necessitate insane behaviors from their employees. I bet it would make them shut up.

    1. Graciosa*

      I understand why you proposed this (the OP is dealing with crazy people) but I actually think it’s better to refuse to engage. What if you get continued questions about the exact illness? Offers of financial help? Referrals to respite-care resources?

      Lying can create an even bigger problem for the OP which, if ever discovered, will completely negate any sympathy the OP might have received for being a victim of this type of bullying.

      You should not have to debate whether or not you wish to give to any cause. “No thank you.” is a complete sentence.

      1. Adonday Veeah*

        “No thank you.” is a complete sentence.

        Leave off the “thank you” and you are still gramatically correct.

      2. Turanga Leela*

        +1 to not engaging/lying. If OP feels she must give an explanation, make it something firm but nonspecific: “I’ve already made my retirement and estate plans, and I don’t want to discuss them any further.”

    2. Rex*

      Eh, this doesn’t seem like a good idea, although I guess I understand why it would be tempting. She shouldn’t have to risk being caught in a lie — what if people decide to raise funds to help her? Remember the grandmother who got office money to go to her granddaughter’s funeral and then didn’t go, and how that completely broke everyone’s trust in her?

        1. Heather*

          It does! Except I’d be convinced that karma would get me by dooming my godson and mother to horrible illnesses ;)

        2. LJL*

          I’d make up the story anyway, as outrageous as I could make it (putting retirement savings toward saving a planet from destruction, for example), just for my own amusement.

          1. Mochafrap512*

            I wouldn’t because this needs to be nipped, not only for her sake but for others that they will do this to. Also, how are they asking for alumni and donors for money? If it’s like this, then they aren’t going to get as much. This needs to be addressed.

    3. grasshopper*

      There is never any need to lie. A clear ‘no’ should be all that is required.

      I work in fundraising. One of our donors lied and said that he was dead in order to not make a donation. Imagine his embarrassment when his family received a handwritten card signed by our staff expressing our condolences for his loss. If he just said no, that would have been the end of the story.

      Also, giving a reason just leaves the opportunity to continue in the conversation. If you say “No, because….” then the conversation can continue with rebuttals for your reasons. If you just say “No thank you.” the conversation is over.

    1. C Average*


      I was working for my alma mater after graduation and got downsized due to budget cuts less than a month before Christmas. And I still owed money on student loans at the time. And they STILL sent me solicitations for donations.

      I sent an absolutely scathing email to the vice provost, whom I knew personally, and copied everyone important I could think of. I briefly described my situation and demanded that I be removed from all mailing lists, permanently, right away. I may have used some profanity.

      I haven’t heard a peep from them since.

      1. MissDisplaced*

        We’re laying you off but we expect you to still give us money!
        Granted they are different departments, but still!

      2. SleepyJean*

        Ugh. My alma mater never even notified me when my name and SSN were stolen from their computer system–I found out via newspaper, which quoted school reps as saying they didn’t know the addresses of all its graduates, so some may not be notified. But the school kept sending me requests for donations, so plainly they had my address–my incipient identity theft just wasn’t as important to them as bugging me for money.

        I may have sent a pissed-off letter as well.

      3. Jean*

        You have warmed the cockles of my grouchy heart!

        Anybody up for a new business venture? I’m dreaming up T-shirts with “I may have used some profanity” on the front and “I haven’t heard a peep since” on the back. It will have black or white letter on colors such as “Enraged Red,” “Beside Myself Blue,” and “Apoplectic Purple.”

        1. Today*

          Yes! I totally want one of these shirts. For SURE!!!!!

          It’s amazing how healthy anger can really help you to set good boundaries and take care of ourselves. If we speak respectfully and clearly, (and are not abusive ourselves) I have found it works most of the time. Sometimes a few good swear words help as well. : )

      1. Juli G.*

        “Here’s a quick tip graduates: no four cylinder vehicle should have a racing stripe.”

        Such a great speech.

    2. cuppa*

      I worked for a small, private, specialized school part time for about a year and a half, in the evenings and on weekends. The school was known for attracting extremely smart kids that were fairly well-off to afford the high tuition. The career that these kids went into was also known for paying extremely well. I still get solicitations for $1,000 at a time. I realize that I’m just a name in a database, but come on.

      1. Ezri*

        I had to make routine bi-yearly calls to my (very large state) university bursar when I was a student to clear up financial problems – lost paperwork, missing loans, extra loans, you name it and they screwed it up. One year they accidentally gave 1/3 of the students double their loan amounts, and a week later we found out that they’d left our SSN data exposed on an insecure site. So yeah, if they asked me for money I’d probably laugh at them. They’d just lose it.

    3. AdAgencyChick*

      Seriously. First there was “the gauntlet” of tables we had to run before being allowed to graduate — among the items you had to check off, besides paying your library fines, picking up your cap and gown, and confirming the spelling of your name for the diploma, was stopping by the alumni giving table. The people sitting at the table wouldn’t stamp your card and let you move to the next station until you’d listened to a guilt trip.

      Then came the numerous solicitations after graduation, many from fellow alums who claimed to be “a friend from school” to get my roommate to pass messages along to me. I knew that I didn’t know these people and didn’t call back. Finally I wised up and deleted my phone number from the alumni database, and I pitch all printed solicitations into the garbage unread.

      Sorry, guys. You have one of the biggest endowments in higher ed and you stopped requiring undergraduates to take out loans…the year after I graduated. Yes, my student loans are now paid off, but I consider those my lifetime contribution to the school.

    4. Stephanie*

      Yeah, I’m convinced a university development team could expose someone in witness protection with repeated requests to give to annual fund.

    5. Artemesia*

      I know of a case where development officers of a college so swarmed and invaded a rich elderly person’s life that a development officer held her hand as she was wheeled into surgery for breast cancer. They did suck up a huge bequest when she died.

      I sat next to a development officer for a medical school in a restaurant and heard him convince the widow to change the bequest made by a long time major (primary) donor to a small college so that it would go to the medical school instead. The med school had lots of donors — this small college few and didn’t have rich alumni since they trained teachers — but this shark talked the widow into changing the guy’s bequest.

      They are despicable people in many cases. But asking an employee to put the place in their estate plan is pretty routine; perhaps if the OP actually clearly says ‘no’ the matter will end.

  11. ZSD*

    Even if they’re just asking for you to change your will, this is still awful. I work for a college, and if anyone pulled this crap with me, they’d get a firm No and then some.
    (Also, Alison, I think, “They have no power to make you do anything you want,” should be, “They have no power to make you do anything you don’t want to.”)

  12. Katie the Fed*

    Yes, because you’re working for the sheer joy of it. What the everloving eff are they thinking?

    FWIW, I’m not a lawyer but I wonder if they’re doing this to younger employees. Because if they’re harrassing the older person in the office about wills and retirement, that sounds an awful lot like a hostile work environment based on age.

    1. Adonday Veeah*

      I don’t know about hostile, but this crossed my mind too. OP mentioned she’d been donating for 11 years, and now that she’s 61 they’re beginning to molest her for her retirement money. Makes me wonder if she’s risen to the top of the hit list because of her birthdate or something.

    2. Zillah*

      This crossed my mind as well. If the OP is being targeted because of her age – and she certainly seems to be! – this sounds like it’s getting into legally iffy territory.

      1. Artemesia*

        Seriously? Of course people ‘target’ campaigns like this based on demographic characteristics — how is that ‘iffy’?

  13. Rex*

    As someone in the fundraising industry, OP, I want to let you know that 1) this is not standard practice and 2) you should absolutely feel comfortable saying no, and if your no is not respected, going over their heads. I also agree with other commenters that you might be slightly misunderstanding their request, but even so, you should feel absolutely no obligation here. I think the most likely explanation is a bumbling/awkward asker. If they are bringing up your masters degree, they are just doing so in order to (hopefully) evoke pleasant memories of the good things you have gotten from the school, not to imply any obligation.

  14. 2 Cents*

    OP, please don’t feel obligated to donate because you got a degree at a “discounted” rate either. Correct me if I’m wrong, but those who work in higher ed usually don’t pull down the same salary as those in other private sectors. Plus, it’s a part of your benefits package that they expect you to use. You don’t think they’d be expecting your 25-year-old coworker to “pay back” the difference with her retirement savings, right? You got a degree, you paid your fair share, and you are no more obligated to give to the college than the next person (or coworker). And I agree with Alison; you could even say your financial adviser is handling your affairs for you!

  15. Seal*

    As an academic librarian at a large public university, I don’t find this particularly unusual. Both our library and the university itself have very active development offices that raise millions for our institution. Everyone who works for the university is on their mailing list and regularly receives requests for donations, including planned gifts and behests. While some employees are annoyed by the entire process, a surprising number of them (mostly long-time faculty or administrators) either donate on a regular basis or make provisions for part or all of their estates to be donated to the university upon their death. However, beyond the mailings there is no further pressure on anyone to donate unless that person reaches out to the development office on their own; I believe it is against university policy to aggressively pursue their own employees – many of whom are not well-paid – for money.

    Perhaps the OP is being more aggressively pursued because they received a masters degree from the same institution. I have a couple masters degrees – including one from the institution I work for – and have found that alumni are pursued more often than employees for donations.

    1. Seal*

      Also, I received an invitation to join the alumni society and a request to donate to the university where I got my first masters during my first semester in the program. They seemed very confident that I would graduate!

    2. Meg Murry*

      Yes, is it possible OP is simply getting hit up more because she is on 3 different lists – the list of people who currently donate (and are nearing retirement age), the list of people who work at the college, and the list of people who have received a masters degree? Its possible she’s being hit up by 3 people in charge of these different aspects, not knowing someone else is also hitting her up if they don’t use a single contact management system. Poor management, but definitely possible, and probably with slightly different targeted mailings for each group.

      Like I said above – make sure you give a firm “no”, and then escalate if it necessary. And no being “soft” at HR – tell them you are being badgered, and you want it to end, period.

      1. Kelly L.*

        To me, a big question is whether this is all just mailings and emails, which might just be mass mailings (and therefore annoying but not personal), or whether they’re actually trying to confront her in the office about this. It kind of sounds like the latter, which is much less OK, I think.

        1. cuppa*

          Absolutely. And even if they are calling her or contacting her in person, how often it is happening. If it is only happening once per fiscal year and ends after she says no, then that’s not really out of the ordinary.

    3. cuppa*

      This is a good point. I get calls regularly from my alma matter, but only get mailings from the university where I worked. Also, IIRC, where I went to school planned giving was a different department than annual giving, and they may have two different approaches to solicitation. You may be on the planned giving list merely because you are a recurring donor, an alum, and approaching retirement age.

    4. fposte*

      I would also say that I’ve never heard of an advancement person going to somebody’s home unannounced to beg them to make a donation.

      But I also think it’s legit, as somebody who’s been donating, for her to say any further donations are conditional on being left the hell alone. Good advancement people are perfectly capable of understanding that some people find solicitation, especially this pressuring kind, to be a detraction and to note that in their copious records.

      1. MsM*

        Yeah, I like being told “This is what I can give and this is the frequency with which you can expect me to give it.” That means I can put you on my annual check-in list and save the intensive outreach for people who want that kind of attention.

        1. fposte*

          It’s been interesting for me to be advancement-adjacent and see how many people really do like the closeness and engagement of the experience, where even when I’m giving I mostly want to be an ACH transfer, a tax receipt, and a Christmas card.

        2. Kyrielle*

          …people WANT that? Seriously?

          If I give to an organization and they proceed to badger me (aka “reach out to me” frequently – more than once or twice a year), I instantly stop all giving to them. I don’t care how awesome I think they are, I am not paying to be pestered.

          1. MsM*

            One person’s “pestering” can very much be another person’s “thanks for the reminder” or “I’d really like to know more about X.” If you’re not at least asking these organizations to take you off their contact lists and seeing whether they’re responsive to that or not, I think you’re doing them a disservice. Most of us really do want the feedback, and will do our best to adjust accordingly. (Also, if you just stop giving without any other communication, we’ll probably keep sending you reminders or other messages in an attempt to figure out why for at least a little while after, so you’ll just feel even more pestered.)

            1. Kyrielle*

              This is why I was shocked, because I seriously…I can’t imagine why anyone would, for example, want to receive a solicitation for funds in the *receipt* for their donation of funds. Or get mailed one a month later. It never occurred to me; I’m kind of shell-shocked. It’s such an inherently _rude_ thing in my world-view, a greedy grabbing “I only exist to give you money” thing, that it never occurred to me that there was any legitimate reason for doing it.

              If they call, I tell them straight up. If they mail, I toss it in the trash. Apparently, I need to re-think the latter.

              I still don’t understand why anyone would want to be treated that way, though. If I had extra money to give, I think I would have…given it. And it’s not like I can’t find the web site again, that’s how I gave in the first place.

            2. Kyrielle*

              I will add, you probably lose a LOT of people the way you lose me…yes, we’re small potatoes. Just $25 here or there. But when I post a rant to FB about companies who get a little money and hound me for more, I get likes and “oh I hate that!” like nobody’s business. Seems like most of the people I know have the same reaction, considering it rude and abandoning the organization in annoyance.

              Maybe it would be good to provide some easy way on donations forms for people to self-select into the ‘high attention’ pool or out of it or something.

              (And, seriously, how is it that people like giving money only to be asked for more? It’s like having a really annoying teenager in the house, except for probably not having to argue with them about cleaning their room!)

          2. Mallory Janis Ian*

            I’ve only been advancement-adjacent and not in advancement myself, but at the state university where I worked, the people who enjoyed the development relationship were major donors who would be invited to football games, receptions, meals at the chancellor’s residence, etc. Our chancellor would, for example, donate his football box so that each dean on campus had use of it occasionally. Our dean and development officer would make the guest list, and it always included the same regular “friends of the school” plus anyone whom they hoped would be a prospect for becoming such a “friend”. Also, those donors served in sort of an informal advisory capacity to dean and development officer, so I guess they probably enjoyed having a degree of influence and an inside track for having their opinions heard.

            1. fposte*

              And even at a slightly less grandiose level, people can really enjoy being a part of things–we’ve had a donor-funded position where the donor receives a dossier of the position’s accomplishments and comes by to see events and visit. It’s great. For people who know they’re not in danger of running out of money and feel that any family is adequately taken care of, it can be really rewarding to be a part of something, even stuff well below the building level, that has an impact.

      2. Felicia*

        I got pestered so much by the university I attended immediately after I graduated to donate money and eventually I told them “Look, I was considering donating some money to you guys once I have a job and am a little more financially stable, but you bothering me all the time is making me not want to do it, and if I get another call, email or letter asking for money from this university again, I’m never donating a thing.” Someone from the Alumni department (someone different) called me about a month after I said that. I am now in the position to be a little charitable, and i’ve donated elsewhere but because of that interaction i don’t really want to donate to the university I went to .

    5. Pennycrest*

      +1 – As a development professional at a public university, I would agree with Seal. Given the OP’s giving history – 10+ years and their position within the institution and their life, it makes sense that a development officer would be assigned to get to know them better, see what their interests were within the university and ask for a major gift or bequest. Statistically speaking individuals that have over 10+ years of annual gifts are proven to be most interested in the gifts the OP listed the DO talking to them about. As a DO, it’s really easy to tell us that it’s not a good time, you have other priorities, you’d like to do something but don’t have the assets they think you do, etc. I’d encourage the OP to decide what they are comfortable with (that might be continuing their annual donations, or nothing at all) and being honest with the development staff. Honest communication is the best policy – going to HR first seems really odd to me since I don’t think most development staff are hard selling people like the OP has said, at least that would go against a lot of the fundamentals of development/advancement training. They probably used wording like: “Would you consider a proposal” or “Have you thought about including ABC Organization in your estate plans” its easy to say no, and it seems that is the best option for the OP.

  16. SJP*

    Op listen to Alison on this… so so so much truth in her reply. Her reply to them about coming out and telling them ““You don’t seriously think I’m going to give up my retirement savings and have nothing to live on when I retire, do you? It’s not going to happen.” ” is SPOT ON.

    Don’t feel pressured to be polite because you’re already being polite and it’s not going in. Alison blunt reply I think is exactly what they need to hear. It bluntly put and even if you follow it on with “You’ve asked me this so many times it’s gotten out of hand. I’ve tried being polite but evidently it’s not going in. So stop asking” and walk away.
    Sometimes when people are so set on that goal that they want, this being for you to donate your retirement fun, that they just don’t hear polite no’s and still think they can crack you.
    Spell it out and hope they get it. And if they don’t do go and see whoever it was before and tell them it’s your retirement fund and anyone with at least half a brain will be mortified that their staff member is harassing a colleague, hound them even!

    1. Artemesia*

      There is just NO way that the OP is being asked to donate her retirement funds while still living. She is misunderstanding the meaning of planned giving. All she has to do about a ‘substantial gift ‘ request is say clearly ‘That is not something I am able to do, so please don’t ask again.’ And with the estate bequest — well if she doesn’t want to do that, same thing. If I didn’t have kids and grandkids, I would make an estate bequest to some organization or organizations — many single people do, so asking is not out of line. It is harassing if that is going on that is out of line. And as others have noted, it is possible that vague responses are encouraging the development officer to pursue. “Maybe” or ‘Let me think about it” translate to ‘keep contacting me.’ So a definite sign off is in order.

      There is just no way they expect her to sign over her retirement funds at 61,, but almost certainly they hope to be her beneficiary.

  17. Allison*

    Weird thing is, OP seems to have been working in that development office for a while; theoretically, it’s been drilled into OP’s head how important donations are to the school, and what a difference they make. If OP hasn’t already decided to put the school in their will by now, they probably don’t want to, and pressuring them to do so seems kind of terrible. The school can suggest the possibility once, and that’s it. Repeated requests? No.

    The school sees someone with no spouse or children, hence no grandchildren, and people like that do seem like good candidates for estate gifts or bequests. However, what the school may not see are nieces, nephews, or godchildren who may be in the will. People like this also prefer to give their remaining money to charities, advocacy groups, community organizations, etc.

    Sadly, these departments tend to see people as cash-stuffed pinatas that should be hacked at repeatedly until ALL the money comes pouring out.

    1. Adonday Veeah*

      “Sadly, these departments tend to see people as cash-stuffed pinatas that should be hacked at repeatedly until ALL the money comes pouring out.”

      This sentence is desperately sad, and yet made me laugh out loud.

  18. Adam V*

    Honestly, the first thing that came to my mind (after the whole “these people are insane”) was “I wonder if someone with a similar name as OP won the lottery recently”. Why else would they suddenly start asking for money they assume you have, out of the blue? Maybe it’s just one of those tropes – someone wins the lottery, people start coming out of the woodwork and saying “oh hey, can I have $X? You’ve got all that money now, you can afford it.”

    1. Kelly L.*

      It sounds like she may have hit an age milestone that triggers a more aggressive approach, or if they’re bugging her in person, it’s that someone in the office noticed she was nearing retirement.

    2. sam*

      This reminds me – I went to Penn for law school. Strangely enough, someone with the same name as me, but a guy (at least if you use our common nickname) had graduated from the business school (Wharton) years earlier (and, i mean YEARS earlier. 20 years before I was born earlier). But at some point, when they couldn’t find current contact info for him, most likely because he had died (class of 1955 and all!), they somehow re-associated his contact information in the alumni directory to my account. So not only did I get all of my school’s fundraising campaign letters, I also started getting all of Wharton’s solicitations (and publications, and invitations to events, etc.). I repeatedly tried to get them to stop and to fix the situation. The only thing that worked? Threatening to start telling people that I actually had a degree from Wharton, since their registrar’s office would clearly confirm it to be true. Given Wharton’s somewhat inflated idea of itself as the holy grail of business schools, that got them to fix the situation post-haste.

  19. Adam*

    Allison is exactly right: the best thing to do is to change your thinking to see these people as having escaped from the asylum rather than taking them seriously. It’s much better for your stress level.

    Because seriously, it’s not often I get angry reading AaM postings, but this one really made me twitch. It’s bad enough when a non-profits pressure their employees, who are very likely taking a bit of a pay cut to work there, to donate back to the cause, but when a college of all places is hassling you to dip into your own retirement fund, that’s a whole new level of Moonbeam space case.

    These ridiculous requests are not worth any more of your time and energy than what it takes to say “No. Leave me alone.”

    For the love of…

  20. Snarkus Aurelius*

    I used to work for a charity, and, no offense, OP, this fundraising strategy is terrible. It is desperate panhandling and nothing more. It is the mark of a fundraiser who thinks fundraising is about asking anyone and everyone for money and waiting for dollars to roll in.

    AAM’s advice is spot on, but I also would have no qualms saying it’s plain bad fundraising.

    1. puddin*

      Snark – right on. Fundraising is about so much more than just asking everyone for money and hoping enough people will say yes (in large enough amounts).

    2. JMegan*

      Agreed. And I also agree with other commenters that either the OP is confused, or the fundraisers are confused, about what a “planned gift, bequest, or significant gift” actually is. That type of request is not unusual, whereas asking someone to actually dip into their retirement savings really is well into the realm of crazy. So my guess is that they actually are asking for a planned gift etc, and just doing a really bad job of explaining what that is.

      Which again, suggests that these are some pretty terrible fundraisers. It would seem to me that it would be a fairly basic requirement of the job, to be able to describe the types of giving opportunities that are available, and to make sure your prospective donors understand them.

  21. K.*

    I wish my coworkers WOULD ask me for my retirement funds. First request would get them laughed out of the building, any further requests would get them cursed out. And I’d go to HR and their higher-ups each and every time it happened. I might consider quitting too, not because of fear of reprisal but because this shit cray, and I wouldn’t want to work with loons. And that would be a hell of an exit interview.

  22. Laurel Gray*

    As a parent, who also has two living parents and siblings, I am VERY bothered at the idea that people seem to think they have the answers when it comes to a worker’s life on the basis of them never getting married and/or starting a family. It’s completely inconsiderate for ANY employer to think/guestimate whatever about an employee’s plans or expenses based on these things. I hate when employers have a one track mind about the life of their employees. Everyone is not going to be married or have several mouths to feed. Never having to raise children and pay their tuition doesn’t necessarily equal a huge savings. And even if these factors did contribute to OP having more money, people still need to be considerate about how you choose to live your life. Life is about choices, you may not have grand children to leave that money to but you may very well have people and causes in your life you plan to take care of when you are no longer here. And that is your prerogative.

    I have caught myself defending my single and childless friends and colleagues from comments about their lifestyle and how they choose to spend money – from people with families. It isn’t anyone’s place. OP, take some of the good advice given about getting these people off your back. Continue to work and retire when you are good and ready. Enjoy your retirement and the money you saved to live on. Give to people and causes that YOU want to for whatever reasons YOU choose.

  23. Chriama*

    I really can’t imagine the OP’s colleagues asking for her retirement account *while she’s still alive* unless the college has some sort of defined contribution plan where they contribute to an account on her behalf. If this is different from her registered retirement accounts, maybe coworkers are assuming she’s got self-funded accounts and the one from the college is additional money. (I don’t know a lot about how retirement funds work in the US so I’m really speculating here). That would be offensive, but if the amount in the account is nominal and many employees have separate accounts then I could see how they don’t realize the extent of what they’re asking.

    Overall though, I’m inclined to agree with the other commenters who assume they’re asking for a donation in your will or something. That’s pretty common in higher education, but you’re well within your rights to decline by saying something like “I’m happy with my current estate plans, thanks”.

    Also, Alison is spot-on when she says you’re giving these people too much power over you. Is it common for development employees to visit the houses of potential donors? If they show up uninvited, call the police if they don’t leave when asked. However, if the scenario is more like they’re calling to try to set a meeting to “discuss your planned giving options”, then I think you just need to become comfortable with the fact that “No” is a complete sentence.

  24. Joey*

    Id ask “are you pressuring everyone or just me because I’m close to retirement age?” And Id specifically raise that with HR if that’s the case. Just raising the possibility of age discrimination will get HR to take you seriously.

  25. Zillah*

    Alison, I know you don’t like the WTF Wednesdays thing, but… surely this qualifies. Oh my god.

    1. Kyrielle*

      Though we also have WTF Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, etc., some weeks. Alison gets so many WTF letters, I think she’d have to work hard to keep them off Wednesdays!

      And oh, this one qualifies.

  26. Fabulously Anonymous*

    I used to work in development. I agree that your co-workers are crazy. Have you tried being very specific, “no, and please put me on the do not ask list”? Or do not call or do not contact, every development office has some version of this.

  27. Student*

    Is there any chance that there is some miscommunication between you and the fundraiser you’ve been talking to?

    As I read your article, I kept wondering if maybe the fundraiser person is trying to get you to mark the college as a beneficiary on your retirement account, so that it goes to the college in the event that you die before it’s all been spent out (they don’t get to take money from it while you are alive, in that case). I could easily imagine ways to miscommunicate over a complicated donation process like that. I could also see the internal logic in a fundraiser trying to secure that kind of commitment from you, especially when you mention that you’re single and childless and approaching retirement-eligible age. For donors who are on-board with such an arrangement, it’s a win-win where the donation costs them nothing while they are alive, but the college gets a potentially sizable donation many years down the road.

    It’s a lot less outrageous than asking you to donate your current retirement savings. It’s also less legally questionable – depending on your retirement account, you probably can’t make charity distributions like this without a heavy tax penalty or something.

    That’s not to say you should do such a thing. It’s your money, and you should make the beneficiary of your retirement account someone / something that matters to you.

  28. Malissa*

    I’m guessing that either they are after the OP to lock in a bequest from her estate or they are looking to get a direct donation from her (non-existent) IRA account. Both of which are vehicles to get bigger one time donations.
    I have a time honored policy that I donate to nothing that call me or asks personally more than once. If you want at my money write your request down and mail it to me. I would suggest that the OP quickly adopt a similar policy.
    If I were the OP I’d probably raise a stink (very professionally of course) about the fact that I am getting closer to retirement age and it feels like that seems to invite more than her fair share of donation requests. Especially after 11 years of hardly getting noticed for donations.

  29. Terry Moore*

    Having worked in a very large University Development Office, I can say that this practice is somewhat common among middle and upper management. That makes it no less repugnant. The money paid to you by The University is renumeration for services provided, and you have no obligation to, essentially, return a portion of your pay to the institution you have obviously served well.
    I was laid off in major budget cutting in 2010, and was actually asked if I wanted to donate the cash value of my earned unused vacation time. Needless to say, I said no thank you.

    1. AdAgencyChick*

      God. Some of the stories in this thread make me want to vomit! I’m so sorry that happened to you.

  30. Not an IT Guy*

    Call me crazy, but since the OP is an employee can’t they be fired or otherwise punished for not complying with this request?

    1. MJH*

      No. And it’s a pretty extreme place to jump to.

      I mean, employers can fire you for lots of things. But this is not a thing that people get fired for.

    2. Joey*

      That’d be an an ADEA claim waiting to happen- a close to be retired person that was singled out partly because shes of retirement age.

  31. MsM*

    Ugh. I hate it when other fundraisers think it’s okay to use hard-sell tactics. LW, tell them that if they don’t back off, you’re going to write the Chronicle of Philanthropy about whether this is acceptable practice. (Heck, you might want to do it anyway, complete with a cutesy little nom de plume that doesn’t preserve the organization’s anonymity in the slightest.)

  32. Benefit World*

    Yikes. Now, I’m going to make an assumption here…. that you’re in the US. There are such things as ERISA (Employee Retirement Income Security Act), IRS, DOL (Dept of Labor), EBSA (Employee Benefit Security Administration) which falls under the DOL, etc. that govern all retirement plans. That being said, there is also fiduciary liability and responsibility. I’ve spent the better part of 20+ years managing benefits for various companies – non of which were non-profit – but I agree this is just downright audacious and possibly in non-compliance with the rules and regulations that govern retirement plans particularly if you’ve repeatedly asked them to stop and you take Alison’s reccommendation and go up over their heads. It may be common in the non-profit world (my daughter’s daycare/preschool asked parents who were “graduating” from the school to elementary school to consider leaving part of their deposit with the school) but when you’ve asked them to stop they should abide by your request. Ask them to stop again and if they don’t in a polite and non-threatening way let them know you’ll be contacting the govenment agency to speak with them about it. Whether you follow through or not is up to you. Now, I don’t usually take this tact, particularly becasue I believe your employer should abide by your request but let’s face it – some employers just don’t make great decisions….

  33. NinaK*

    wow. If this is how the fundraisers treat a donor they know and interact with daily, how do they treat potential donors they don’t know? Yikes.
    Any chance there is pressure on them from above to meet goals at any cost? I used to be a fundraiser for a very large national organization. One of my annual donors died a few months before the annual appeal was mailed to him. My boss suggested I go to the wake, slip a pledge card to the widow and whisper “Joe would have wanted you to make this donation.” Yes, he was probably joking, but I think he would have been DELIGHTED if I had the moxie to actually do it.
    Hang in there, OP.

  34. undercover one*

    Worked at a small credit union who did something similar. Every quarter we were blasted for charities and giving money. People complained and it got better for a while. But people who work in certain industries don’t make a ton of money… so begging for money gets old and unprofessional after a while.

  35. Karyn*

    So, a couple things.

    First, this is like a bigger-scale version of those annoying people who fundraise/collect gift money for people at work. It’s bad enough to pressure someone at work for money, and it’s even worse in this case because they’re pressuring you for your RETIREMENT SAVINGS. It’s mind-boggling.

    Second, Alison’s advice is spot on, but even if they’re asking for a bequest from your account after you’ve passed, it’s incredibly tacky and unprofessional even to ask for that. Especially after being told no multiple times. It’s YOUR decision who to bequeath what to, and while I can understand a college suggesting it once, when they’ve been told no, that’s where it needs to end.

    Third, I’m sure you can’t really do it because you work there, but every single time my law school calls me asking for donations, my response is the same: “I’ll donate money when I get some sort of return on the investment in this piece of paper I bought from you guys.” (I’m bitter, though – my law school just had a big PR nightmare when it came out that the president of the school used $8.000 of school money to charter a private jet for what would have been a two hour drive to the state capitol for a meeting with the governor – so I’m pretty sure the college doesn’t need my money to keep functioning).

    1. Natalie*

      I totally get the bitterness.

      A good friend of mine graduated from a state university, which had raised his tuition at least 10% every year, during the recession. Naturally given the job market he did not have a job offer immediately upon leaving college. But he did get a call from the Alumni Pestering Department within days of his graduation. They got a 15 minute lecture on the state of the economy and a terse demand to never call him again.

  36. Jennifer O'D*

    We’re not even a week into 2015 and I think we’ve already found the craziest coworkers of the year! Wow! What audacity!

  37. Annie O'Mouse*

    Well, if that isn’t the most bizarre frickin’ thing I’ve seen in a while! That’s just WRONG.
    I work for a college and every now and then the development folks ask if we’ll contribute to the “University Fund” or some such thing. I think it’s pretty weird that they ask the employees to donate money to their own employer, but hey…I usually donate the bare minimum. I’m an alum and I paid my tuition, thank you very much.

  38. skepticalacademic*

    The OP said, “What they want is a planned gift, bequest or significant gift.”

    This sounds like a reasonable request to someone who has been donating for over a decade. A reasonable response to this request is, “No.” Has the OP actually said no in a clear way (perhaps with a smile if she wants to make it “soft”)?

    Development officers I know have no interest in spending time cultivating donors who don’t want to give. A clear no is typically all they’d need. Going to HR seems like an unnecessary escalation if “No” hasn’t been communicated.

    If the OP said no directly, and they’re still pursuing this, I’d say no once more and then go to the head of the office.

  39. just laura*

    I’m glad people have brought up the fact that it’s likely the OP misunderstood the request– it’s likely for an estate/planned gift after her death. It does make a difference on the audacity of the request, although the frequency is still obnoxious. Perhaps if she’d been clearer with HR they could have explained the true request.

    Clearly, the development people aren’t very good salespeople if this is the understanding their potential donors have!

  40. JennyS*

    I’ll echo what others have said – and note that I have been a professional fundraiser for 15 years, including 5.5 working in planned giving – SHUT IT DOWN. Say “no” and mean it. If they persist, tell them that you’ll no longer make your annual donation if they don’t stop, and then follow through with that. Kick it up to the next level of management if need be, but don’t let them make you feel pressured into doing anything you don’t want to do. They are bad fundraisers if they continue to bother you when you’ve clearly say “no”. As you likely know, a donor-funder relationship is supposed to be a feel-good transaction for both parties, and benefit each party equally. That’s not what’s happening right now.

      1. fposte*

        Equally may be a stretch, but our donors are really pleased about donating, and if it’s a planned gift during their lifetime, they get the tax advantage and a lot of interesting involvement with what they’re supporting. As with so many things, of course, you get somewhat more advantage if you can spend more money.

        1. Joey*

          Most big donors I know seem to get more a kick out of the power trip or social status and the cause seems to almost be secondary.

          1. OOF*

            Joey, that statement alone tells me you haven’t spent much time with philanthropic people getting to know their motivations. I have. I do it for a living. And yes it is *equally* beneficial when someone has the opportunity to impact a cause they truly care about in a meaningful way. Don’t believe me? Read the research linking giving to happiness and health.

          2. KerryOwl*

            But then they’re still benefiting, right? Whether it’s a “power trip” or the feeling one gets from altruism, they’re getting something out of the deal.

  41. Development professional*

    As many other fundraisers on this thread have noted, the pressure is completely not reasonable or okay. And yes, the OP might be misunderstanding the request. But it is not necessarily so.
    Recent legislation allows individuals to make charitable contributions from their IRA retirement accounts without a tax penalty. This legislation is intended for people who inadvertently have too much in those accounts (we should all be so lucky) or who have enough in them to make contributions as part of their routine expenditures (the contributions don’t have to be huge) to make good charitable use of their funds without being taxed. The law applies only to those over age 70, which is not the OP. It’s a niche scenario, but it’s not inherently crazy. You can read more about it here:
    The OP may be one of many people getting communications about making this type of gift now that OP has reached the age when she could take IRA distributions (60) and the requests may not be as specifically targeted at her as she imagines. As others have just said, just say no, clearly and unequivocally, and even a mediocre fundraiser will stop wasting their time.

  42. lowercase holly*

    WTF!! this is so out of line.

    “You don’t seriously think I’m going to give up my retirement savings and have nothing to live on when I retire, do you? It’s not going to happen.”just keep repeating that over and over and over and over.

    how many of these jerks have already donated their retirement savings???

  43. Rocky*

    The worst bit is that they thought your being single and childless gave them the right to dictate your Will. OP, spend your hard-earned retirement on whatever you like! How about a specific bequest to the local Cats Home for sardine-flavoured ice cream? :-)
    Seriously, my partner and I recently assisted an acquaintance, my partner’s previous landlord, who was dying. He had no family and no real friends (he was kind of an ornery old man). We organised hospice care for him, I took a day off work to drive him up the Island to the hospice, and we paid for his cremation. He had no-one else, so we didn’t mind stepping in. I’d love it if he happened to remember us in his Will, but I have absolutely no claim to any money he may have had. I hope that gives some perspective on why I think your employers are money-grubbing insensitive loons!

  44. Mena*

    I would adopt the attitude that this request is a joke: “Donate my retirement savings? Sure!! I’ve always wanted to be homeless.” Think up three of these types of responses and trot them out as necessary. “Why wouldn’t I donate my retirement savings and live in a homeless shelter? That sounds like fun!” “And did you sign over your retirement savings also?” Perhaps someone may take the hint but then again, perhaps not.

    The reality is that the requests are inappropriate and crazy. You can simply say, “Stop asking me that” and nothing more. You do not owe ANY explanation as to why you don’t want to donate your retirement savings to this institution. You work for them and you are paid for that work. That is the end of the relationship.

    PLEASE PLEASE update us on how this turns out for you.

  45. Kris*

    Get a picture of darling little Jimmy, your beloved great nephew who has just been born and bore everyone to tears with pictures and updates on the color and regularity of his poop. Turn the conversation to this every time the subject comes up.

  46. MeUnplugged*

    This is so crazy! OP, Do Not Do This! Alison is right, tell them, whoever they are, that your retirement savings are not available for donation.

    Your coworkers are absolutely ridiculous.

  47. Dawn88*


    Tell them do it themselves—they can go first!
    Seriously…when is your Estate Planning any of their business?

    (I have visions of a 2×4 in my hand…..)

  48. ReanaZ*

    A) I also assume this has to be a bequest or an annuity… I’m pretty sure it would not be legal (or rather, not without a lot of tax penalties…?) to just pull out retirement savings from a tax-sheltered account in order to donate it?
    B) It’s my understanding from working in NFPs that there’s no way an organisation can make you “prove” a bequest. I mean, you could show them the will of your own volition, but they can’t legally make you. Most “known” bequests are simply on the word (or non-binding filled out form) of the donor. So while I am definitely on Team Tell Them to Fuck Off, I think Team Just Lie to These Motherfuckers is also an option.

  49. julietta*

    Ask to be made “no call, no mail, no solicit” in the database system. It CAN be done. Tell them you will give as you wish. I’ve had alumni tell me they will “NOT give if anyone ever solicits them again”. If you are an annual donor, that’s great! You should feel good about that and not give in to bullying. I’d go to the manager of the soliciter or HR if it does not stop immediately. Good luck!

  50. Ed*

    This reminds me of a caller I heard on some financial radio show that had saved religiously their entire career. They had no children or spouse, were getting ready to retire and wanted some suggestions of what to do with their “massive” savings to do good for others. They were talking about setting up a trust fund with a yearly scholarship. I was shocked when they said the amount was $250K. Even if they had a good retirement package (which is rare these days), it’s not uncommon to live another 20 years after retirement. $250K is not a lot of money when stretched over 20 years. And with no kids or spouse, you are much more likely to need assistance earlier than others which is amazingly expensive. My grandfather was paying $80K a year for around-the-clock assistance during his final few years.

    My married friends that are parents always tell me how lucky I am to always have money and free time but I remind them things cost more because I’m not sharing expenses and I have to pay people to do things like mow my yard or petsit when I’m out of town. And I need to maintain a larger emergency fund because I’m on my own if I lose my job. It’s hard to argue the extra free time but I also need to do every household task for myself. Nobody is getting my groceries, doing laundry or making me dinner (of course I have some married friends, usually the wives, that might as well be single in this regard:).

    I certainly wouldn’t even consider voluntarily switching jobs at 61 though. Tell them firmly that you are in no financial position to donate anything more than the average donor. After that, I would become more aggressive and tell them you consider this to be harassment and you will soon be forced to stop your other donations in protest.

  51. Janice*

    I am the OP. I appreciate all the comments. They made me feel much better.

    I lost a 16 year job in 1991 and had $3,000 to my name. I asked my mother for help and she would not help me. I ended up heavily in debt. For many years I was afraid of ending up in a homeless shelter. As time went on and with real diligence I paid off the debt and saved up a little bit of money. The money my office wants me to donate. The money isn’t a lot and after 20% tax is taken out and the remainder spaced out over about 20 years it isn’t a lot at all. The crazies in my office are so delusional.

    I had posted a discussion on the web site of the financial institution where my retirement account is at. Many suggested this is extortion and to see a lawyer. I did see a lawyer and he agreed it is extortion but not to act on it. He said to lay low until I leave. He said it sounds like they would rather have you dead so they can get something from you. I had thought the same thing.

    I have been very distraught since this has been going on and am now seeing a psychologist to help me (who it ends up is also a lawyer – LOL). And yes, I know about my options of DOL, ERISA, PB and Elder Affairs). With Elder Affairs it seems that when a person turns 60 they fall under the umbrella of Elder Affairs. There is a category of Elder Financial Exploitation. These are my last resorts. I don’t want to hurt the organization I work for. I just want the crazies to get lost.

    1. shellbell*

      Thanks for commenting. Are they asking for you to leave the money to them in your will or hand it over now and have no retirement? I think people were confused about that.

    2. Fabulously Anonymous*

      I’m a bit confused on the extortion and what they are doing. Can you elaborate? What did they say when you told them no? What was their reason for not honoring your request to stop soliciting you? Have they been coming to your house?

  52. Janice*

    From the OP. They want an irrevocable gift now from my retirement account. Since I only have a small amount of money I cannot possibly do this. I don’t know how long I will live and I need to have my retirement account in tact. I have no one to help me if I encounter any financial difficulties. I tried to explain all this to my boss and everytime I did it made it worse. I was being ganged up on by other fundraisers in the department. It is extortion when, for example, a boss is trying to coerce a lower level person into donating money. They way I got it to stop was by going to Human Resources and no one wants to resort to this. I can tell my boss has not given up. The college I work at relies heavily on federal funding and could lose the funding for doing something like this.

    1. Mander*

      Holy mackerel, that is insane! Not only is it horrible on their part but why on earth would they jeopardize their funding for what is presumably a relatively small amount of money? Unbelievable.

      I hope you get it sorted out soon!

    2. Linguist curmudgeon*

      Wow! I can’t believe this wasn’t simply a misunderstanding about a bequest in your will! Dang. Good luck dealing with these crazies, and please lawyer up (and/or go to HR) if it seems remotely necessary. Good luck!

  53. 2horseygirls*

    I work for a community college, and yes, we get the heavy hand from the always new staff in the development office. Now there are giant posters with my smiling colleagues’ faces expounding on the joy that donating to the college brings to their lives.

    To each their own. People have their own personal causes, whether it’s education, or nurse mare foals, or breast cancer, or the Malaysian Trumpet Snail.

    When I get the heavy pitch, I say “No, thank you.” The next time, I repeat it. The third time, I say “What part of ‘no’ is unclear?” with a pleasant smile.

    The fourth time, I would have materials for my favorite cause handy, and turn the tables on them, badgering them for a planned gift or bequest to the Malaysian Trumpet Snail Conservancy. When they get defensive, reply with “It’s not that much fun when your personal choices are not respected, is it?”

    After that, I would toss it in the trash as soon as it was handed to me, or delete the email without reading. If they use Constant Contact or another service like that, they get reports on the open rate of their emails.

    Finally, report them to (I believe) it’s the FCC, who maintains the Do Not Call list.

  54. 2horseygirls*

    OP, I would go straight to the president of the college. They need to have a ‘Come to Jesus’ talk with the head of development.

    No means no – in any situation. No explanation is necessary. What a HORRIBLE bunch of vultures you work with. ((hugs))

  55. Jane D'oh!*

    You’rre being hassled to give money you can’t afford back to your employer. Sounds like a good argument to ask for a raise.

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