I have to pay to be “honored” at an event

A reader writes:

I was recently nominated by a senior work colleague and selected by a local organization’s committee to receive an award for making a positive impact in my community along with approximately 15 other community leaders. While I’m touched to have been nominated and selected, in order to receive this award, I have to pay $100 for my ticket to their annual fundraiser. The organization is also asking that I ask 10 friends to support the organization by purchasing tickets and making a $100 contribution.

While I feel touched to be nominated, I can’t afford to pay for my ticket and can’t commit to getting 10 people to attend and make a $200 contribution because of my circle’s own personal circumstances. This particular organization works in a limited geographic area and most of my friends and family are from out of town and wouldn’t be impacted by this org’s work anyway. In fact, I don’t even live in this org’s area.

I work for a nonprofit so I understand how fundraisers with honorees work, but this feels more like using me to get money than actually “honoring” me for my work, especially considering that that there are 15 other honorees. My colleague is thrilled they chose me and is going to the event, but I explained to her over text that I can’t commit to what they’re asking. She didn’t respond.

The event is next week. I got the notice earlier this week and I haven’t yet responded, but they are already billing me on their program. Can I or how do I get out of this graciously and without insulting the person who nominated me or creating bad blood in the workplace? I highly respect this person and I know she did it to try and help me in my career, but frankly, I feel insulted and think this “honor” is ridiculous. I’d really appreciate your insight.

It sounds like the event version of the old “Who’s Who” scam, where you get a letter or email telling you that you’re being included in the new edition of Who’s Who in American Teapot Making (or whatever your industry is) and you can order your own copy now for $100 … in other words, they gin up cash by “honoring” people and then charging them for it.

Whether or not this is really a scam (and it’s possible that it isn’t one, but the fact that they’re already billing you in their program before you’ve even said you’ll attend is pretty scammy), you can absolutely decline to attend. At a minimum, you could just say that you’re not able to attend and imply a conflict with the date. But it would also be perfectly reasonable to say, “I’m not able to buy a ticket or sell tickets for the event — how should we proceed?”

As for the colleague who nominated you, you’ve already told her that you can’t do what they’re asking. I’d just stick with that — and maybe add, “I’m flattered that you thought of me.”

Any chance she was a target of this same event herself previously, and now is being prompted by them to ensnare others? It wouldn’t surprise me if that’s how this went down.

{ 130 comments… read them below }

    1. INTP*

      Seriously. (15 nominees + 10 guests x 15 nominees) x $100 per ticket = $16,500 from the award recipients alone. Maybe it’s a scam for charity rather than profit, but they’re clearly out to make money from the award recipients and not just by being able to attract an audience because they’re giving an award that means something.

      1. Kyrielle*

        I think the nominees pay $100 but the guests appear to pay $200 based on the letter. So (10 * 15 * $200) + (15 * $100) = $31500 if that is the case.

        Blech. (Not that this makes it much more scammy, but it does raise the amount of money the scamminess might net.)

      2. irritable vowel*

        It’s probably not that much profit since presumably they’re paying for the venue and catering, but yeah. Not okay.

        1. Green*

          There’s no indication of catering or food, which could make it at least more acceptable to ask the award recipient (and only the award recipient) to cover the costs of their dinner.

        2. TootsNYC*

          even venue and catering aren’t going to be $100 per person, I bet! I’d imagine it’d be more like $25 or $30.

  1. Laura*

    Ugh. While I’m sure this isn’t a SCAM per say, it’s definitely a horrible position to be in. Alison’s advice is spot-on.

  2. Rowan*

    Since your colleague is going, perhaps they could accept the award on your behalf? (And yes, this sounds super-scammy.)

  3. Kms1025*

    I’m with Alison. Just send your “thank you” for the nomination and the award and your “regrets” that you find yourself unable to attend. Honestly the less said, the better.

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      The OP never contacted this organization herself, so she doesn’t necessarily even owe them a reply. If they’re legit, then it would be nice of her to let them know that she won’t be there, but if it’s a scam then I would just do what you do with spam, which is black hole it and DO. NOT. REPLY. EVER.

  4. Not a Real Giraffe*

    This happened to me before, but instead of $100 for a program, I was told to pay $750 to receive my award plaque. Yeah, hard pass.

    1. Green*

      ! I’ve gotten awards and then they give your name to a plaque company so you can order your own plaque, but you don’t have to buy any if you don’t want to. And they’re like $40-100.

    2. Ruffingit*

      That is just so outrageous, I can’t imagine anyone even thinking that was OK.

  5. Pokebunny*

    As a high GPA graduate, I get offers to be “inducted” and “honored” all the time for a low, low price, ranging from $89 to $170.

    1. Bookworm*

      Yeah, I was so excited – maybe in the 9th grade? – to receive this letter telling me that I was picked out of all these students to be considered one for this book of impressive students.

      It was a pretty disappointing moment when my Dad explained that the whole thing was a scam and anyone could basically qualify if they were willing to write a check.

        1. Christopher Tracy*

          Me too, only I didn’t have someone to tell me it was a scam (no one I knew had ever heard of Who’s Who). Thank god we were broke and I never asked my mom for money in high school, otherwise, we probably would have been duped into paying for it.

      1. TootsNYC*

        My son got “honored” with an invitation to attend an international track meet. He was pretty mad at us when we told him it was a scam and we weren’t going to pay for him to go; he may still be angry.

      2. Mallory Janis Ian*

        I fell for that one in ninth grade, too. My parents wouldn’t let me do it because they said it was a scam, and I was so mad at them when my cousin did it and got that book with her picture in it. I thought it made her better than me. Oh, how right my parents were!

      3. Jaydee*

        Sadly, my parents didn’t realize it was a scam. I tried to tell them that we didn’t need to buy the books – my inclusion in them was honor enough, I really didn’t need $100 of proof. But sure enough, I finally tossed those books in the recycle bin a few months ago.

      4. One of the Sarahs*

        I had a colleague who was so happy her child “won” a poetry competition, and would be published in an elite book that only cost fifty quid each, or whatever. The poor mother was crushed to hear it, but the google links convinced her. I hate this bullshit.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          That one’s been around for a long time. I almost got caught in that one myself, in high school. Luckily my mum saw through it and wouldn’t let me reply.

        2. Wendy Darling*

          I knew people in high school who included the fact that they ‘won’ a poetry competition on their college applications… the only excuse is Google wasn’t a big deal yet.

    2. BananaPants*

      I still get the “Who’s Who” emails and just laugh and laugh. More like, “Who can write a check?”

      1. BananaPants*

        Only now it’s the spam emails like, “You’ve been nominated by a colleague as a Top Working Woman Over 30! Call now to formally accept your award!” The best ones are the emails for business vanity awards; as if a midlevel individual contributor at a Fortune 100 company would be the point of contact for any sort of legitimate business award…

      2. Anna*

        I have a friend who was named in the Who’s Who of High School Students book. We didn’t know it was a pay to play sort of thing and I don’t think my friend did either, or she was too embarrassed to tell us when we were all “ooooh, ahhhhh” about it around graduation time. Knowing her mother, who in all other ways is a lovely human being, it wouldn’t surprise me if she didn’t realize it was a bit of a scam and wrote the check thinking my friend had genuinely been invited to be part of it.

        1. Snazzy Hat*

          My sister was in that too, and our mother had no idea it was a scam. It was quite easy for the scammers, as Sis was a phenomenal student with a variety of extra-curricular activities. She also got into a poetry “publication” similar to what One of the Sarahs mentioned above, and her writing skills caused our mother to fall for it once again.

    1. 12345678910112 do do do*

      Me too! My dear mother even bought me the book. She must have had the patience and poker face of a saint.

    2. Catabodua*

      I fell for it in college, along with like 25+ other people I knew. I had no idea it was a scam until we all started talking about our “honor.”

    3. Lily in NYC*

      I can’t believe it still exists. I just googled and they are selling the most recent edition for the low price of $789! And the “classic version” is sold out. I am appalled!

    4. JMegan*

      I fell for it as an adult, with a post-graduate degree…at work. :/ Fortunately, my manager was very understanding, and yes, I definitely learned my lesson!

    5. Three Thousand*

      I don’t think I ever actually bought the book, but I remember being really proud to be “nominated” for the “honor.” How embarrassing.

      1. NolongerMsCleo*

        Me too! I remember my principal making a huge deal out of it (he cared A LOT about awards and recognition).
        I remember thinking my dad was raining on my parade when he explained pretty much anyone could be in Who’s Who. Then I saw how many of my other classmates were nominated and I realized he was right.
        Geez, I had completely forgotten about Who’s Who. Crazy that they are still around and people are still falling for it.

    6. ThursdaysGeek*

      Yeah, me too. That was kind of dumb, wasn’t it?

      I’ve kept the book, mostly to remind myself that foolishness can hide itself in intelligence and good grades, and being smart isn’t near as valuable as being wise.

    7. Elle*

      My daughter got several letters claiming she had “earned a seat” at various prestigious camps and such. We were impressed until we actually read the letter to find out the fees to attend were exorbitant. She did win attendance at an honors workshop for top performing students in the state, but her high school paid for that, so I guess it was legitimate.

    8. SusanIvanova*

      I was a cynical kid – I was all “right, like anyone has heard of me outside the computer lab”. And it was 1983, so that computer lab was tiny.

    9. Rabbit*

      I did too :( and bought the book and everything. My dad is one of the smartest people I know, book-wise and people-wise, and he was the one who encouraged me to do it! Oh well–we’re out $100 and wiser for it, right? :/

    10. Kelly L.*

      We didn’t buy the book, but I’m pretty sure I listed it on things like my college applications, along with any real awards I got.

    11. The Other Beebs*

      In our collective defense, at least those of us who fell for this 20+ years ago . . . it’s not like you could Google stuff back then. If you didn’t know it was . . . let’s say, a not particularly exclusive honor, how would you find out? Not until you compared notes with everyone else who bought the book, too.

    1. esra*

      Yea. The nonprofit I worked for handed out awards. Award recipients do not pay to attend.

    2. BananaPants*

      Legitimate organizations giving out awards will give honorees free admission, often with a +1.

      1. Ann O'Nemity*

        See my message below about my local chamber of commerce. I’d say it’s a legitimate organization but it does charge award recipients to attend its annual recognition event.

      2. ExceptionToTheRule*

        I belong to a legit non-profit organization that gives out some pretty damn prestigious awards and you have to pay to go to the gala. You also have to pay an entry fee to be considered.

    3. KT*

      Yes, every non-profit I’ve worked at who had events like this had free attendance for the awardees +a guest

    4. TCO*

      I was just an awardee of an organization I volunteer with and I got two free tickets (which usually cost $150 each) to their annual fundraising gala last week. I did donate a small amount at the event, but it was never once requested of me. I was really, truly just intended to be a guest and a “face” of the organization to other attendees. I had a great time!

    5. Anonathon*

      Just did my organization’s Gala and none of our honorees was charged. Actually, they all got a free ticket, plus a guest, and valet parking. Sure, their names may have attracted additional ticket-buyers, but we wouldn’t make them responsible for bringing those people. For goodness’ sake …

    6. Rabbit*

      In fashion school, they *INSISTED* that as a showcased designer, I had to pay for a ticket to attend. It was cheap, but I didn’t attend in protest. I heard even the models had to pay admission to walk in the show! F*ck that.

    7. New Bee*

      Yeah, I just went to one such awards ceremony for a friend, and she was able to invite up to 8 people at no cost (at a banquet hall, with catered dinner, too). And we’re in one of the lowest-funded public school districts, ffs.

  6. Ann O'Nemity*

    My local chamber of commerce does this! I understand that they are trying to cover the costs of the event (conference center, food, awards) and make a little extra. But still!! It’s annoying when being “honored” means being asked for money.

  7. LQ*

    It is possible this is the annual charity fundraising dinner and people buy tables because it brings in funds to the organization and they are honored so they’ll buy tables and it’s a big round robin kind of thing. Like donate money and get your name on a brick and so you feel warm and fuzzy in the future and donate more and go to a big fundraiser to talk about all the generous people who donated bricks. I can see a world in which this isn’t a scam, but a fundraising activity.

    But I would absolutely google the information for the org (along with some good key words like scam or ripoff etc).

    (All that said, you don’t have to attend, even if you find out it is a totally legit place, you might want to point out that you are unable to afford to attend, depending on what kind of org they may or may not care.)

    1. neverjaunty*

      But legitimate community organizations do not charge THE HONOREES for the privilege of attending, nor do they assume the honorees will attend without ever checking in with them. And they’re very upfront about the fact that the event is a fundraiser for _______.

      1. LQ*

        Good legitimate organizations. But I can see some organization not having come across people who can’t afford to attend, or when they do they give them free tickets when they ask but they don’t advertise that they give free tickets because they Do Good Work and why would someone who clearly is invested in Cause not want to support the Good Work?
        This seems more like poor thought than actual scam. They say it is an annual fundraiser for the organization, so that part is clear. It doesn’t seem like a scam that vanishes right away (not that all do), they work in a geographic location. It sounds like someone watched a couple how to videos about fund raising and got this great idea to raise more money for the Cause so they can do more Good Work than a scam.

        1. Mike C.*

          Would you still agree even though the OP has been billed for their ticket already with around a week’s notice?

          1. LQ*

            Assuming it isn’t a real “bill” but more of a fundraising promotion thing then yes.

            That said I think the OP should definitely look into the org, there are lots of ways to do that. I just don’t know that jumping to “It’s a scam!” is helpful. Look into it, research it. It may not be that the OP is being played for a sucker, but that the org does want to honor the work she does, they just aren’t great at it. And that’s unfortunate for the population that is being served.

          2. Kelly L.*

            I don’t think she’s been “billed” as in dunned for her contribution, but “billed” as in listed in the program, unless I’m reading it wrong.

            It’s still scammy though.

        2. neverjaunty*

          Except that this isn’t “here’s the award, please pay to attend the dinner”. OP said that they are telling her she has to pay to receive the award. This isn’t how nonprofit organizations that award legitimate recognition for community work operate, period.

    2. One of the Sarahs*

      They’re asking her, and all other nominees, to each bring in a table of people that would pay over $2,000 at really short notice – if it’s not a scam, it’s a ridiculous model that could never work.

      (I used to attend these kinds of events in a work capacity when I was a civil servant, so I’ve been invited to a real range, and the best kinds of organisations absolutely want to honour the best people’s work, regardless of their financial status. In my experience, it would be absolute anathema to say “you only get an award if you can pay $100” from any company that actually understands community contribution.)

  8. Sarah*

    I would say that it is a common practice for nonprofits to do honoree dinners. If you can honor the right people (both for their impact and significance), you can get more people – and the right people (aka potential donors) – to your event. It gives you a great opportunity to tell your story and inspire new people to join your cause. However, I would never charge the honoree for a ticket and would not require them to sell/buy a table! Often friends and colleagues will buy a table to support the honoree, but there is never a requirement.

    1. sam*

      also, most of the time for a legit industry organization, an employer would pony up to buy seats or a table. Obviously if you work for a small non-profit, that may not be in the cards, but that’s certainly what my company does when someone is being honored. the honoree usually gets a comp ticket, but our company will buy a table for others to go/support.

      1. One of the Sarahs*

        Although I can see why tons of employers wouldn’t see a $2,100 spend good value for money each time they’re recognised for doing well… that adds up, and takes money away from front-line services, so I can see why even big national charities with good funding would say no.

    2. Ama*

      Yeah, when our nonprofit selects awardees for the annual gala, they do try to make sure at least one is someone that will help boost ticket sales (either because they are famous or have a network of supporters or both), but the honoree always gets their ticket and at least a few guest tickets comped — plus if they aren’t local, we cover their travel expenses.

      A couple of my colleagues have received professional awards for some of their initiatives and I don’t believe they’ve ever been charged to attend the awards banquet either (although they may have had to cover travel, which my org reimburses for because it is good publicity).

    3. BananaPants*

      Yes. A family friend was honored by the local chamber of commerce and a group of friends bought a table to attend the event and support him. It was not required at all, though.

    4. neverjaunty*

      And that’s why this reeks of a scam. It’s imitating what a legitimate nonprofit does – honoring worth people and using the ceremony honoring them to raise funds for the organization (or another worthy cause).

  9. chocoholic*

    Similar to the book of poetry my 4th grader’s poem was published in, and then I got to purchase the book for $30 or whatever it was.

        1. Christopher Tracy*

          Ha! I did too in elementary and middle schools, only, once again, I didn’t pay for the books. And I went on to get my poetry published in real literary magazines/compilation books in high school and college.

    1. ThatGirl*

      Yep, and the “photo contest” where I could pay to see my photo published in a hardcover book.

    2. Cath in Canada*

      I once bought a collection of e-books from StoryBundle that included a bunch of stories written by little kids – and not even kids that I know! I was pretty annoyed – I’m sure it’s super adorable if it’s your own kid who’s being published, but I think they should warn the general public up-front that something like 8 of the 12 books in the bundle were 4-page stories about how a girl saw a rabbit this one time.

    3. chocoholic*

      Yea, of course he knew about it and so he wanted it. Its all good, I also bought one for my daughter when she was in 4th grade. There are probably 1,000 poems in that book, so its definitely a money-maker!

    4. enough*

      My kids’ school had them enter a number of these “contests”. If was rare for everyone not to “win”.

        1. One of the Sarahs*

          I hate them anyway, but I *really* hate when schools promote such unethical scams.

      1. Lily*

        Fun fact: I once in school thought something which was a mandatory math competition (and did cost a – though small – amount of money to take part) was a scam, so I refused to pay. I think the teacher covered my part, and then the teacher came with the prizes and told me I had won a first place (with a rather cool and costly game and some other things), and said: “Well, either you give me the money now, or I’ll take your price”
        … it was a legitimate competition. I ended up participating every two years and always won something big. (And no, not everyone won something. I was just the best of my class in maths. And they had a lot of cool prices^^).
        … I think my former classmates still grin when they think about that situation :D

    5. SH*

      chocoholic – I fell for the same scam (except I was the one whose poetry was being published)!

    6. Anna*

      Or the “we found your Master’s thesis at University Library and would like to publish it for the low, low price of $850.”

      I received that email; I didn’t fall for it. I’m not even sure if it was an email. It might have been a Facebook message, if you can believe that.

      1. Gene*

        I got that email. An obvious scam because I don’t even have an Associate’s degree.

        1. Anna*

          At first I was flattered that someone outside my immediate circle of geeky friends had a read my thesis on gender switching in online role playing games. And then I realized no, nobody had and this was a vanity press.

          My topic is fascinating! Fascinating, I tell you!

      2. So Very Anonymous*

        I get email (with terrible grammar) asking me to submit articles to science journals. I have a bunch of degrees, but they’re all in non-science fields, so…. no. (And yes, I judge their grammar).

    7. TootsNYC*

      The local shopping mall had a contest they promoted to all the schools, for self-portraits to go on the Formica of the tables in their new food court.

      When it was time to open the mall, they wrote to all the winners and their families (they had to have padded that list, though they did only invite 2 kids from DD’s school) to invite them to the grand opening to see their kids’ artwork on the tables.

      Which guaranteed them a large-ish audience that they could cram into the camera’s field of view to produce footage they could submit to the local news organizations and use in other promotions.

      We found a self-portrait on the table that we think was probably DD, but she wasn’t sure.

  10. BRR*

    Depending on the award giver it very well might not be a scam but I think it’s very poor practice to honor someone who’s not raking it in (versus honoring a hedge fund manager or partner at a big law firm) and asking them for a donation just to be able to receive an award. It might just be someone who runs the thing has bad ideas. Not to mention asking you to raise additional funds which if you’re working at a nonprofit, you’re using any connections you have to raise money for them (and I say that whether or not you are a fundraiser).

  11. Rex*

    It’s entirely possible that they’re just bungling this. I think this falls under the don’t attribute to malice what you can attribute to incompetence ethos. Hard to say from here, but it’s not unusual to ask honorees to help with fundraising. Charging you for a ticket is a little gauche, but inviting friends isn’t that unusual of an expectation. At least they told you this going in!

    Just tell them you can’t do it. With 14 other honorees, it will go just fine without you. I’m sure they get this with some fraction of the people they ask.

    For the person who nominated you, just say thanks for thinking of me, but it didn’t work out.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      I don’t think it matters whether it’s an intentional scam or an accidental scam. If it’s accidental, that organization needs to get the message “Hey, when we keep honoring people with this award that we charge them to receive, they don’t seem to want to accept the award…”

      Seriously, if you’re charging $100 a seat to fundraise, charge $110 instead and let the honoree come for free.

  12. Meg Murry*

    If OP wasn’t at a non-profit and this appeared to be a legit award, I would have suggested she ask the senior colleague if the company ever paid for tables for this kind of event, or at least for the honoree to attend. If it’s a legit award, being able to put “Jane Smith won the XYZ award” in the company newsletter and to have Jane hang the award in her office might be worth it to them.

    But it doesn’t seem right to ask one non-profit to pay for a table at another non-profit’s fundraiser (and might not even be allowed).

    I’m not sure how far this falls into the scam vs slightly shady line, but I do think OP needs to have a conflict with the event and RSVP no today. If the award is legit, they will still contact OP to give her the certificate or plaque or whatever with no extra cash outlay. If not legit, they’ll hit her up for more money.

    Oh, and FYI OP – if you have to give the non-profit your information, give them your work mailing address, not home – becasue I bet it’s almost impossible to get off their “please send money” mailing list, and I prefer to get that kind of thing at work where I can more easily pitch it right away than mixed in with my personal mail at home.

  13. Ell*

    There has to be something you can figure out about this org to figure out if its a straight-up scam or just slimy, right? Does the person who nominated you have info? Do they have a legit-seeming website/staff?

    Either way decline the invite, but I’d still be dying to investigate.

    1. burnout*

      IMO a true “award” is just that — AWARDED. No money exchanges hands, the honorees are certainly not asked to buy tickets or a table. This may not be the same sort of icky as a vanity scam (I see those a LOT… I’m in the legal industry… lawyers looooove to award themselves and be on “best of ” lists… LOL) but it still doesn’t seem truly legit.

      OP, you didn’t ask for this, you made it known that you cannot contribute. I think it is on them if they’ve already printed your name on the materials. You owe them nothing.

  14. John*

    Just the fact that there are so many nominees tells you they are using the “nomination” process to fill the room.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Well, okay, so they were inducing Miller and not his band. This does not sound well thought out, but going with it the next step would be did they tell him that at the beginning or did they wait until he asked later on. It sounds like they did not make it clear from the start that they were honoring him and not the band. Sounds pretty nervy to me.

  15. David*

    I’m surprised by the number of people thinking this is a scam considering how frequently we see examples here of what some consider perfectly legitimate business practices that the rest of us simply can’t believe are real! I mean, who’s to say this isn’t just some clueless non-profit ED thinking this is a perfect way of fund raising while at least one of her subordinates is sitting there just waiting to write in to AAM?

    Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity yadda yadda yadda.

    1. Mike C.*

      Well, there are tons of letters that talk about practices which are completely illegitimate but are commonly accepted. There are also plenty of famous businesses that operate solely because they ignore labor and business regulations but have yet to have the courts catch up.

      This organization is attempting to coerce a decent amount of money out of the OP and her friends in a short amount of time, so why shouldn’t folks be wary?

      1. David*

        I’m not saying it isn’t a scam, just that we have enough examples from AAM of bad management/leadership/business practices to not automatically make it a scam.

    2. OP*

      I think that’s exactly what this is, David. I think they’re desperate for funding and thought this would be a great way to get contributions. This org works in low income neighborhoods and is honoring some people from the community, so this makes absolutely no sense. I think it really is a matter of being clueless and/ or out of touch.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Having worked in few volunteer organizations, the popular response seems to be silence. No show, no call. Not recommending this silence but just saying that many organizations are used to not getting a response from people.

        I suspect they picked 15 people because they expect only 3 will show up.

      2. One of the Sarahs*

        OMG, that makes it 1000 times worse – it’s basically saying only people with money to spare who happen to work in the neighbourhood can be honoured, and never the actual residents.

        (I am having so much rage right now, but also sending big love to my favourite local Community Foundation, who had this glorious event, bringing together amazing local projects with the rich and the powerful in the region, and just managed the whole thing with such wonderful political genius, and were especially great at presenting the work of the projects that might seem “risky” to firms to sponsor (support for street sex workers as an example) in ways that got them tons of support)

    3. PollyQ*

      While it may not be a deliberate scam, I think it’s still falls under the scammy/unethical umbrella. At a minimum, charging “honorees” could leave the impression that the honor is for sale, similar to the Cash for Honours scandal in the UK.

  16. Poohbear McGriddles*

    So I take it none of you are interested in being part of Wakeen’s WTF Wednesday Memorial Poster Club?
    For just $19.95 (plus shipping and handling), you’d get a certificate on resume-quality paper decorated with Windows 95 clip art. Frame not included.
    Only open to the first 100 posters to respond.

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      Seriously? No-one has responded yet? Where do I send my money? And I hope you’re using an actual computer with Windows 95 to print the certificate. Do you have any of that laser foil stuff so it has colors on it too? I’m getting very excited, and I would proudly hang that in my cube at work. (If any co-worker is not totally confused, then I’d know they were one of us.)

      1. Poohbear McGriddles*

        Sadly, this offer has been discontinued. Fergus went to check on the dot matrix printer in the copy room and found that it had been irreparably damaged. He wasn’t real clear on the root cause. Something about ducks.

        The computer was actually running a bootleg copy of Windows Me. Fergus assured me it was legal, but now I’m starting to have doubts.

  17. OP*

    Hi all! OP here. :)

    I love the Who’s Who references! Who hasn’t gotten nominated for that?! However, I can safely say that it’s not a scam. They’ve been doing this event as their fundraiser for the last 5 years or so and in fact, yes, my colleague received the award a few years back and I happened to have a conversation with her today. She said there was nothing like this when she was honored nor did she have to pay. I also learned an acquaintance was awarded at one point as well, and she was also not charged or had to get folks to attend. I suspect that this org is having funding issues and someone drummed up this ill-conceived scheme to secure some much-needed cash.

    Several posters also touched on the nonprofit practice of trying to get big names to honor to bring in revenue at the annual gala (and of course comping the honoree the ticket). My org does this as well. But the other thing I found odd is that this org works in fairly low income neighborhoods and some of the other honorees work in very grassroots community organizing and such, which most folks who do this work are not moneyed and don’t always have access to it. I really just want to get inside their planners brains and ask WTF they were thinking.

    Anyway, I was planning to bow out as Alison suggested, but my colleague was adamant that I call and get to the bottom of it, mentioning her name, so I did but got voicemail. To be continued…

    1. neverjaunty*

      Ah, if this is a new thing, then definitely it sounds like a case of Stupid New Director Syndrome.

    2. Anna*

      Hopefully this will be explained in a way that makes sense and not makes you worry for their sanity.

    3. Seianus*

      It is a scam, a vanity scam as someone called it here. And the fact that they’ve been doing it for 5 years only shows that (allegedly) P. T. Barnum’s phrase “there’s a sucker born every minute” is so true.

      1. OP*

        Seainus, if you go back and re-read my comment, I said that they have been doing the event for five years, but haven’t always asked honorees to pay or to bring people who can make a contribution. This is a new thing apparently.

  18. Artemesia*

    I am being ‘honored’ this fall at a perfectly legitimate professional organization to which I have belonged for decades (and which has honored me specifically twice before when I could be there and give a speech). But I am retired now and so it would involve an airline ticket, paying registration for the conference and hotel bills all of which when I was working would have been at least partially covered by my employer. At least they are still conferring the honor even without my presence. That will be the test on whether this is a scam or not — if you tell them you cannot afford to attend or sell tickets will they continue to list you as an honoree? Otherwise, it is just ‘Who’s Who’ that I think most of us have probably received over the years (and if you haven’t yet, you are bound to sooner or later.) I always giggled at advanced professionals who actually listed ‘Who’s Who’ on their professional Vitae or resumes.

  19. Sam P*

    I volunteer for a nonprofit that does this. I don’t love the practice, but the honorees buy tables and the money goes to charity. The awards are considered fairly prestigious in our region, and the gala is one of our biggest fundraisers, so I don’t know if that makes a difference.

    1. Aisling*

      It feels disingenuous that your org is using this as a fundraiser. Is that explicitly stated to the nominees? Do you only choose nominees that you feel can pay the price of a table- meaning other worthy nominees who are not paid well, are never nominated? Honestly, this devalues the “honor” for me. If you want to award someone for good works or whatever the award is for, there shouldn’t be any strings attached.

  20. DeMecia Wooten-Irizarry*

    I guess the MS Society is not a legitimate nonprofit. They require each honoree to commit to raising $3,000.

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