employee quit after decorating expense disaster, can my wealthy family donate to my nonprofit employer, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. Employee quit after decorating expense disaster

I hired an employee in February. When she started, our reception area and conference room were very bare, and I gave her a budget of $3,000 to decorate the office. I gave her two company credit cards to use, and asked her to use them because i didn’t want to mess around with reimbursements. However, she put many items on her personal cards and then asked to be reimbursed. I did so by check twice, then in April reminded her to use the company cards and told her to submit any remaining reimbursement requests right away. I reminded her of this process in June and July. She never did. (I suspect this was because she had already gone well over the original $3,000 budget.)

After several months of increasingly odd/erratic behavior, last week I met with the employee to see what was going on. She blew up at me and quit in a fit of rage. It was shocking, but I gave her time to collect her personal items. She emailed me three days later with a list of other “personal items” she wanted to come collect. These were all clearly items she bought for the office but never put in for reimbursement. My instinct was to say that she’s not entitled to come collect these office items, and that the failure to timely put in her expenses does not make the items personal items. But was wondering if you had any thoughts?

If she paid for them and you haven’t reimbursed her, those are indeed her items! Even if they were clearly bought for the office and even though she ignored your reminders to submit reimbursements. If she brought them in and you haven’t paid for them, they’re hers. That’s true even if they’re obviously not the sort of thing anyone would buy for their home — even if it’s name plaques for other people or a fancy door number for your suite. If she paid and you didn’t, it’s hers. (Do make sure that the items on her list really are things you didn’t already reimburse, of course. And you could offer to reimburse her for them now if that would make more sense.)

For what it’s worth, the idea of someone going way over the office decorating budget while using their own money and then never submitting for reimbursement is … strange. The whole thing is so odd that it’s worth reflecting on what happened with this employee and whether there were signs you should have intervened earlier or more assertively. (Maybe there weren’t — but whenever something blows up spectacularly, it’s always good to do that reflection. Hell, even when there’s not a spectacular blow-up and a hire just doesn’t work out, it’s good to do that.)

2. Can my wealthy family donate to my nonprofit employer?

A few months ago I started a new job at a nonprofit. My org is one of many nonprofits working in a particular field, but external evaluators have identified us as one of the best nonprofits in this field in the world.

My dad is pretty rich (tens of millions) and quite philanthropic. He’s made significant, long-term gifts to other nonprofits in this field. I think those donations would be better spent if he gave them to my organization instead; we’re better than the places he’s currently donating to! He has a high opinion of my org, and I think I could convince him to learn more about our work and consider donating.

I cannot overstate how much I care about this cause area, and I truly believe that my dad’s choice of where to donate will make a difference in the world. But also, my inherited financial privilege has already given me a million unfair advantages, and I really really really don’t want to add to that.

My org has a development team that works with donors. I am not part of this team and they don’t directly supervise me (I’m on the program side). Is there a way for my dad to talk to them to learn more about the org without it affecting my role there, like if I asked Development to keep it secret from my supervisor and anyone else in management? (I think talking to them would significantly increase the likelihood that he donates.) Or is the only safe option for him to donate anonymously through a third party, without telling even Development who he is?

Well … the organization will be glad to have the money, momentarily glad that you working there is what brought it to them, and then forever afterwards uneasy about you being an employee. It can be really tricky to employ the family member of a major donor; they’ll have to worry about whether your reactions to things at work will affect future donations, they might limit what you’re exposed to if there’s something they don’t want to risk reaching a big donor, they’ll feel much less able to give you really candid feedback if there are problems, firing or laying you off will be seriously fraught if it can even be considered at all, and your coworkers will assume you’re getting special treatment, whether or not you are.

So yes, the best way to do it would be for your dad to donate anonymously or after you’re no longer working there.

3. My resignation imploded

I turned in my two week notice on Thursday the 6th at noon and said my last day would be Tuesday the 18th. My boss freaked out and said I was “stabbing him in the back” after all they’ve done for me, that it wasn’t even a “full” two-week notice, and that this was “not very Christian of me.” I’m leaving because I have Crohn’s Disease (which he knows about) and the job has gotten much harder for me after having Covid. I’ve found a job that’s still in our niche industry but is much easier physically and one where I won’t be out at a job site in the winter time.

I will say this though. If I had any doubts about my decision, I don’t now after he said that to me. I offered to come in next week on Wednesday (which I haven’t been working due to my illness) and to push my last day to Wednesday the 19th but must be off at noon for an appointment. So AITA? Was this too short of a notice?

No. It’s true that you didn’t give a full two weeks — but only by a day! That is really not a big deal — and even more so since you’re normally out on Wednesdays anyway (the “missing” day). Your boss’s reaction — stabbing him in the back! not very Christian of you! (WTF?) — is bizarrely over-the-top. We’re talking about a single day. A single day!

You are fine and he is a loon.

Read an update to this letter

4. Can I suggest my interviewer hire my friend instead?

I have an interview coming up for a job that I’m not at all sure is going to be a good fit for me. (I know, that’s what the interview is to find out and I do have a list of questions to ask them.) Yesterday I was talking with a good friend who I didn’t realize is looking for a new job. The position would be so perfect for her! Is it okay, if I get to the end of the interview and am not interested, to hand them her resume and recommend they get in touch? Is that a thing?

You can do that! It might be a little odd to whip out her resume right on the spot, but you could email them afterwards, say you reflected on the job and it’s not for you, but here’s a candidate who might be exactly what they’re looking for. (Make sure your friend is interested first to save everyone some time, though.)

Read an update to this letter

5. Interviewer asked if they could call my references, but nothing has happened

What’s the best way to handle post-interview, when the interviewer asks, “Okay if we call your references?” and “We’ll let you know one way or another in the next couple of weeks” and my references have told me none have been contacted and it’s now been five weeks, and not a word? I did a follow-up thank-you the day after the interview.

You can check in by email and ask if they can update you on their timeline for next steps. But after that, you’ve got to just assume you’ve been ghosted and move on. Unfortunately it’s really, really common for employers to ghost candidates, even after multiple interviews and even after telling you they’ll definitely get back to you in X amount of time.

Also, a lot of interviewers routinely ask “Okay if we call your references?” at a certain stage in the process without it meaning they are definitely going to. They’re getting your permission/notifying you that they’re reaching that stage in case they decide to move you forward, not committing to doing it — something candidates often don’t realize.

{ 368 comments… read them below }

  1. Cold and Tired*

    I really want to know what the employee in #1 wants to do with all this stuff! Like, I could see wanting a good office chair for my home office, but I assume by decor you aren’t talking furniture. I can’t imagine any decor from work I’d want to bring home with me.

    1. AnotherLibrarian*

      It maybe a matter of principle at this point- I was never reimbursed for these items, the job fell through, and therefore I am taking back what is mine. Regardless of the reimbursement situation (clearly, this hire was erratic in other ways), I agree that these objects are hers if the office never paid her back for them.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        Or she was scared to submit for reimbursement because she ran way over the budget, but now that she’s tanked the job, and probably not getting a good reference, she feels she should at least get the stuff back. I strongly suspect there is not a logical train of thought that explains the whole sequence of events, however.

        And Alison is right – if she hasn’t been reimbursed, it’s still hers. I’d be inclined to get the list, assemble them myself, and have her pick them up at the door, rather than having her come in and root through the conference room.

        It’s not clear how senior a position this was. If someone was an experienced admin, used to handling company funds, then a corporate credit card and a budget would be a reasonable approach. If she were junior and someone who hadn’t had experience with corporate cards and purchasing, then it would make sense to have her come up with a proposal and then approve it first, rather than letting her do it without much oversight.

        1. Ama*

          Even then, for someone in a brand new job I’m raising an eye at OP telling her “decorate this space for $3000” with no guidance on what is most important, no oversight and no follow-up. A couple guest chairs and a decent sofa is already pushing $3000, and I have no idea whether “make it look nice” means art work for the walls and a nice vase or a water cooler and filing cabinet.

          Ideally an experienced employee would have at least known to ask rather than try to hide it using their personal card, but OP could have just as easily made the task “plan how to decorate the office for $3000 and give me a spreadsheet with all the items you plan to buy and their costs, then I’ll show you how to use the company card to order them.” That would have made it easy to modify things if OP’s expectations and the employee’s were out of sync.

          I think it’s ok that OP didn’t know what to do at the time, but they come across as if the responsibility for this situation rests entirely with the departing employee and I don’t love that. Being human is learning from experience but that holds true for both parties here.

            1. Snow Globe*

              Yes, I would imagine the LW was just being brief. Why list all of the guidelines for decorations in the letter, when it isn’t relevant?

              1. Scout*

                You don’t have to list all of the guidelines in order to mention they existed.

                Adding the words “and some general guidelines” is quite brief, and gives important context.

                The fact that LW thinks they maybe can keep the items without paying for them kind of makes me think they themselves don’t understand appropriate guidelines for this type of project.

            2. Ellis Bell*

              I certainly think it’s worth OP reflecting on what guidelines were given and whether they were appropriate for this level of employee (which isn’t mentioned, so we don’t know either). Telling an employee to order a list from a set catalogue of office-standard furniture is hugely different to trusting their judgement on what constitutes as “decorated” and their ability to budget. Either the employee they hired wasn’t up to the job (reflect on hiring), or the level of the job was too junior for the task (reflect on guidelines).

          1. Nancy*

            Or she was senior enough to make that reasonable or $3K isn’t a large amount of money to this business. It’s a short letter, we don’t have all the details, we can give them the benefit of the doubt.

          2. Meep*

            We moved into a newer space almost 2 months ago and the conference room is still bare bones (we had a table from our old space literally next door that was crammed into a tiny conference room and the new one is twice the size). Luckily, the old tenant left the lobby chairs because all of the mismatched chairs in our office went to filling desks. Matching chairs alone would cost $3,000. A sound conference system is $4,000 max. And we spent $1,000 on a nice TV. We also bought two lovely pieces of art for $1,100 – which we only got for that price because the photographer is a friend. And this is just us picking barebones necessities!

            I can see how she could easily go out of budget if not experienced.

        2. Expiring Cat Memes*

          Yes, you can’t argue with someone who’s not on a logical train of thought, and this employee does sound kinda… unstable. Whether she was or wasn’t reimbursed you still have to weigh up whether the cost/usefulness of the items would be worth it. If the list she gave isn’t anything especially contentious or expensive, I would not spend any more time questioning it, just send it all back to her and be done.

          If she wants to ride out on a plume of steam with an armload of your pot plants and throw cushions, let her. Buying a ticket to argue with her along the way will cost a lot more than money.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            The difference between UK and US English phrase for “plants in pots” just gave this American the funny image of her decorating the front lobby with tall fragrant ferny foliage…ie cannabis plants

              1. Expiring Cat Memes*

                Ha, now there’s a UK/US translation fail I wasn’t aware of before! But it’d coincidentally explain so much of the strangeness in this letter =D

            1. Calpurrnia*

              This comes up occasionally between me (American) and my (South African, hobby gardener) husband.

              It’s especially hilarious because we live in a region that is well known for its thriving cannabis production industry… to the point that the county has regulations written into its zoning laws about where, how much, etc. cannabis is allowed to be grown, and many residences have been modified for indoor cannabis production. (You go out with a realtor to look at a house listing, and they’re just casually like, “By the way, the garage has been modified for growing. But we can always ask the seller to remove it if it’s not your thing. Or we can ask him to include the equipment if it is.” This is a very normal, common thing.)

              So when my husband talks about how nice it would be to keep pot plants on the porch, I can’t help laughing. Every time.

          2. ferrina*

            I don’t think this rises to the level of “unstable”. It’s still possible she’s on a logical train of thought, just not the train you thought she’d be on.

            It’s possible that the employee has trouble with executive functioning. I’m ADHD, and most reimbursement processes are extremely difficult, if not impossible, for me. And only one company I’ve ever been at has actually been forthcoming about their reimbursement process (every other one you need to go on a weird journey from one cube to another until you finally find the Person Who Knows, who will then point you back to your manager, who won’t be sure quite how you submit, but maybe you can try this thing and ask Accounting, and you’ll only know if it worked by watching your bank account and seeing if it shows up).

            Especially if the employee wasn’t used corporate cards and would mix personal and business shopping in the same trip. And now that she’s left, rather than be out hundreds of dollars, she’s recouping some of the cost in the only way she knows how- by getting the stuff back.

            1. The OTHER Other*

              That the employee exploded at the LW and rage quit definitely points to being unstable, IMO. Likewise they were directed to use corporate credit cards precisely so they could avoid any PITA reimbursement process.

              Maybe the LW chose the wrong person to do this, and maybe did not give enough guidance, who knows, but the employee’s instability seems beyond doubt.

            2. yala*

              “I don’t think this rises to the level of “unstable”. It’s still possible she’s on a logical train of thought, just not the train you thought she’d be on.”

              I’m inclined to agree. Getting back the stuff she bought actually seems…pretty logical to me?
              She handled everything wrong, but I’d be willing to bet that it all made logical sense to her. I’ve definitely done some weird, stupid stuff because Avoidance seemed easiest, even though it made everything worse eventually.

            3. Yorick*

              Ok but she wasn’t supposed to be doing any reimbursement processes, she was supposed to use the company card. She could have asked if something about that was confusing.

            4. Clobberin' Time*

              Don’t armchair-diagnose others (“it sounds like your coworker is autistic/has borderline personality disorder/etc.”). We can’t diagnose based on anecdotes on the internet, these statements often stigmatize people with those diagnoses, and it’s generally not useful to focus on disorders rather than practical advice for dealing with the person in question.

    2. CB212*

      I mean it could be coffee maker, nice decorative file boxes, planters, water carafe/tray setup – who knows what kind of decorating the office/conference room needed, but if she was trying to make a workspace she thought looked nice, a lot of things could go home with her.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        I’ve got stuck on the $3000 – it feels like a lot for just paint/plants/coffee machine, but nowhere near enough for furniture, telecon pod, networked LCD, etc. I wonder if there was a disconnect between what was needed and what she understood was needed, and as she bought piecemeal the increasing total spend wasn’t obvious.

        Fully agree with everyone that she needs to be given back or reimbursed for any item not already accounted for. And internal processes need to be reviewed.

        1. Ama*

          OP says the reception area and conference room were bare, so I’m thinking more like rugs/lamps/artwork and buying that from an office supply depot could easily cost 3k. But I agree that buying piecemeal likely also contributed to the problem, especially if she overspent on smaller ticket items (e.g. a really nice vase) and then didn’t have enough money for things she didn’t realize were more expensive, like a decent-sized area rug.

          1. Triplestep*

            I work in office planning and design. In my personal life, I can always tell which offices I visit were outfitted by a member of the staff. They always spend on the wrong things, use residential furnishings, etc. Commercial furnishings, lighting and textiles meet specific standards and fire codes. I don’t like going to an office and seeing something that looks like it looked better in the photos on Wayfair and was put there by someone who wished it was in their home. To me, it shows not great judgement by the business owner. I realize most people won’t notice, but I can’t NOT notice.

            1. urguncle*

              Our meeting rooms (with the exception of the board room), are all outfitted with residential chairs and it drove me absolutely insane when we were in the office 5 days a week. The legs were constantly loose because no chair for a house is designed to be sat in by 8 different butts for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. I hated it so much. They’re still there, but barely anyone is in the office anymore, so it’s not as much of a problem.

              1. The OTHER Other*

                I worked in a store where the manager brought a chair from home for the back office because he claimed he needed it due to his bad back. But it wasn’t an ergonomic or even office chair, it was a cheap wooden dining room chair with an ugly plaid cushion in what I guess you’d call colonial style. It didn’t fit the style of the store at all and every time a regional manager would visit they’d see this chair and say “WTH is this!?”. Vendors would see it also and I could see them thinking the same question, and also concluding “this company is so broke-ass the staff is bringing in crappy furniture from home. I’d better not extend them any credit”.

                This guy’s answer to later budget cuts was to decree that we would not use post-it notes, instead using scrap paper and tape, so it was kind of par for the course.

                1. Aaron*

                  Post it note thing is weird, but the chair makes sense to me, I use inebriate at home instead of an office chair. I think it forces you not to slouch, and if your bigger ergonomic office chairs can fit you badly in a lot of ways.

                2. JustaTech*

                  At one lab where I worked they would do paid blood draws about once a quarter ($25 per 50mL from undergrads who were happy for the money). The problem was that there’s a specific shape of chair that makes this easy and safe (if someone faints, which happens a lot), but phlebotomy chairs are very expensive, and this was an academic lab.

                  So the prof decided the best option was to bring down his fabric-covered Ikea Poang chair (very comfy armchair) from his office for people to sit in while they had their blood drawn.
                  From a user perspective this was great. From a biosafety/cleanliness perspective this was beyond disgusting (no fabric chairs in the lab! No potentially blood-spattered chairs in offices!).

            2. Meep*

              Well I feel attacked. We bought a series of six L-desks from Wayfair for our office. They are horrendous, but cheap ($200). lol

        2. CB212*

          No way to know, of course. But since “the place was very bare” doesn’t suggest it was unfurnished, I guessed it was more atmospheric details. If I’d gone to town at a home goods store, trying to cheer up an office suite, I’d probably want to bring a lot of those things home if the office didn’t reimburse them. It’s very easy to drop $1K on, say, an armchair and a Nespresso machine, and 500 at a plant nursery, and then a rug….

          But I agree with you – no matter what it was, she bought them and brought them in and at present they’re hers.

        3. bamcheeks*

          I got stuck on this too! I can’t work out what level of “make it look nicer” $3000 works out as.

    3. Ama*

      Given that OP assumes she went over the 3k budget, this could be anything from wanting to return/resell them to recoup her losses to just not wanting to leave thousands of dollars of stuff behind. Even if I didn’t want it, if I assumed I wouldn’t get reimbursed for it I’d want to take it home with me.

    4. CharlieBrown*

      Maybe she’s going to set up a reception area at home? I got very strange vibes of when Kramer got a hold of all that furniture from the Merv Griffin show and set up a show in his living room.

    5. KayDeeAye*

      What I really want to know is: Why was she so resistant to use the company credit cards? I can more or less understand all the rest even if I don’t agree with most of it – that she went over budget and didn’t want to admit it, that she got mad and quit in a huff, that after quitting she wants the stuff she paid for, even if she doesn’t have any real use for some of it. (I mean, she’s obviously pissed off, so of course she doesn’t want to subsidize this company against which she believes she has a grievance.) All that sounds at least comprehensible to me.

      But why not use the company credit cards from the first? Why why why? I’m afraid that’s a mystery that we’ll never have solved for us.

      1. CharlieBrown*

        I have a credit card that I get anywhere from 1-4% back, depending on where I make the purchase. So getting $30-$120 back would be very attractive to me.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          My thoughts were like you some sort of reward card that she wants the perks (but then you need to have an actual conversation with the person handling reimbursement and if they say no, accept the no).

          Or it could have been a case of mixed shopping and she didn’t want the pain of splitting tickets at a cash register. Which, um, in the vast majority of stores it’s really not complicated to ring things up on two separate orders.

        2. Librarian of SHIELD*

          I was thinking along these same lines. Most of the purchasing where I work is done through the finance department, but there are some purchases that people are allowed to submit for reimbursement if they prefer, and a lot of people like to use their own cards for the cash back or travel points.

          1. The Rural Juror*

            We’re allowed to do that for a lot of things. Luckily, our expense/reimbursement system is easy and our accounting department is quick. They do reimbursements weekly, though our paychecks are biweekly. I like getting the cash back on my credit card, but if they were slow to reimburse I would not like the thought of paying interest or having to cover it from checking to avoid paying interest.

      2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        She might have been out shopping for furnishings for her own home and saw something that would look nice in the reception area, didn’t have the work card on her and decided to get it straight away rather than come back another time with the right card.

      3. SpatulaCity*

        If you can float the company money and know that they’ll pay you back timely, those credit card reward bonuses can totally make it worthwhile. Maybe it’s cashback, maybe airline miles, maybe points for other purchases.

      4. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

        If she’s an entry level employee, she may not be at all familiar with corporate credit cards and just thought the OP was giving her a personal card; or maybe anxiety that the vendor will think she isn’t authorized to use it and she’ll get in trouble; maybe there actually was an incident that she wasn’t able to complete a purchase on a credit card. If the OP gave her TWO cards for a budget of $3,000 I’m guessing they are very low limit cards.

    6. M2*

      I actually disagree! If she was given $3k and went over that budget that’s a problem and the office shouldn’t cover it. The person should have mentioned it would cost extra and see if that would be possible.

      I understand why people put in personal cards for points and such but if you don’t use the company card and use your own most places have a time frame where you need reimbursement and it’s usually something like 30-60 days.

      A friend of mine said someone who was let go from their company took clients out and spent $2k on a bottle of wine (?!!!) and the finance department made them cover it personally because that is just crazy! They were very important clients but still, totally unacceptable.

      There are guidelines at organizations! Another person at my org but a different department stayed at a Four Seasons (?!) and the finance department came back and said explain this… some excuse and finance said the policy states you can spend x amount unless it’s more than that for other hotels. (One time all hotels in Europe were 500 euro a night). I’m making the number up but finance said the average for that night stay at that city was $200-$259 a night. I think that’s fair.

      This person was given guidelines and went around it for whatever reason. That’s on them not the LW. We are adults! That being said if they had to order furniture not just art and plants and one rug then that would be a lot more than $3k. Maybe there should have been more oversight or a meeting or two since this person was new.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Yeah, we bitch about not being refunded for sides of guacamole, but these rules are in place because of this person not knowing how to budget.

      2. Ellis Bell*

        I’m assuming that the people who were asked to cover those expenses chose to do so, and choose to because it meant they could keep their jobs, and that the jobs were also good enough that they were able to cover the expenses (and so the job was worth more to them). That’s not the case here; the employee actually chucked their job in rather than lose the money they’d laid out. Policies aren’t really worth a rat’s arse when you’re no longer an employee. She paid for these items and she’s claiming possession of them, so it’s more a legal matter than one of policy.

          1. Ellis Bell*

            “I met with the employee to see what was going on. She blew up at me and quit in a fit of rage….. She emailed me three days later with a list of other “personal items” she wanted to come collect.”

      3. Mallory Janis Ian*

        I’m at a university so it’s different, but we are straight-up told that personal reimbursement is to be a last resort if there isn’t an alternative, and by spending personal funds without prior approval, we risk the claim being denied. This person has been repeatedly told that they are not to use personal funds, and it seems like a logical consequence of doing that (and especially exceeding the budget) is that she risks being declined a reimbursement.

    7. Meep*

      *shifts eyes and looks around the office that I have shrouded in plants with my own money* Probably plants.

      Mind you, I will be taking the real ones home if I ever quit or leave (they are all in my personal office anyway – sans the potted plant you get at your desk when you join), but I have about $30 dollars of $5 fake ones you get at Target in our conference room because it was looking a bit bare and driving me bonkers.

  2. Bluebird*

    Letter writer 1: As a past nonprofit employee, I wouldn’t be surprised if the fund development team already knows exactly who you are, who your dad is, and is already trying to figure out how to make an ask. I don’t recommend offering up the information yourself for exactly the reasons Alison says, but don’t be surprised if bring it up first.

    1. Jade Rabbit*

      Yep! They (and others) will have a database full of past, present and potential donors, with all kinds of information in it, including family members’ name, charities supported.

      1. Not A Raccoon Keeper*

        Yes all this, plus since he’s a donor to this field and in this region already, possibly a powerpoint presentation or brief about his interets, quotes he’s given media, exerpts from speeches, list of his children’s education, their jobs, etc. There’s a reason development research is an entire career path!

        1. Emmy Noether*

          Wow, I had a really visceral reaction to this! If someone I didn’t even know made a powerpoint about me and my children (!!), I don’t think I’d ever donate again. It feels extremely invasive.

          Not everyone who is at that level of wealth is a public persona. Sure, if there are speeches and press releases, that is fair game. But often, there aren’t! For example, I’m fairly sure my former landlord was in that range of wealth. We googled him once, and turned up a single press release about selling a car dealership, no other info. To get at anything more (his son, for example, whom we only knew because he lived in our building), you’d have to really dig. I don’t think he would have liked that – he seemed really private.

          1. Not A Raccoon Keeper*

            Don’t worry, unless you’re very prolific, this would not be done! I was not a fundraiser so I don’t know the details, but saw the presentations/discussions. Not sure if it was actually in pursuit of the leads, or more of an exercise for how to consider and strategize around transformational donors (I’m talking giving capacity of $100M+). It was at an educational institution, and affinity through own or family’s alumni status is a big boost when you’re approaching someone, so it’s not so much creepy as just someone reading through the first 10 pages of google on a public figure.

            One thing that us normies don’t tend to realize is that major gift fundraising isn’t about convincing people to give money, like it is when your college or Greenpeace calls you to ask for $50. It’s about seeking out philanthropists who already want to give, and helping them figure out if you’re the right place to put it, and if so, to what, how much, and how. Researchers aren’t looking up any random dude who owns a few properties, they’re looking at who is giving to what/saying what publicly/owns relevant businesses/is connected to the org/etc. to understand what that person cares about, to see if it’s worth approaching them about the cause.

            1. Emmy Noether*

              LW cites wealth of 10s of millions, which is of course a lot, but is actually possibly a random dude owning a few properties in the right places (there are more millionaires than one would think). Not a level that makes one a public persona automatically. So assuming there is research on him seems weird to me, unless he is somehow really unusually public about his giving.

              1. Duna*

                She also specifies that he has given multiple long term gifts in the past, so he is likely to be well-known in the non-profit realm whether or not he is a public persona more generally. And that means other non-profits will have done their homework. This is why development research exists! They aren’t doing the quick Google search you did on your former landlord, they are tapping into a wide network of resources in their area.

              2. KRM*

                But when I go to concerts or the ballet, there are lists of donors to the organization and the levels they give at. If I’m running fundraising for a smaller music/arts organization and I have a program from the symphony that tells me larger scale donors, of course I’m going to research them, have a file, and maybe reach out to them! These people are not necessarily “public figures” but their giving is certainly recorded in places easy for me to find, so why wouldn’t I do some research and plan to reach out?

                1. Emmy Noether*

                  Sure, getting just a name and maybe contact info off a related, public, list is reasonable. If someone doesn’t want that, there’s always the option of opting out of being mentioned on the donor list. But researching their children, what they do, where they went to school, etc. is really invasive (the children didn’t donate!).

              3. Calliope*

                Will nobody think about the ten millionaires? Sorry, not that worried about people collating publicly available information on the mega wealthy.

              4. fhqwhgads*

                Right but he also has a pattern of giving to this sort of thing. Hence all the research. Basically, the devo person’s job is to know enough to know if he’s a person who would want to give already if he only knew the org existed. And the power point isn’t something he’d ever see. It’s the devo researcher giving it to the devo officers. Basically, the big donors (or potential donors) should never have a Don’t You Know Who I Am moment with any devo staff. –Not saying said donors are the type who’d use that phrase, but part of the job is making sure the prospects know that the devo officers know who they are. A regular person sure would find it invasive but in the context in question, the vast majority of donors would expect someone soliciting them to know about them.

          2. Marketing Unicorn Ninja*

            I can’t speak for Not A Racoon Keeper, but I can tell you what I have done, when I worked in development/advancement.

            The PPT isn’t about the donor’s kids*, it’s about the donor’s interests and things the donor has said publicly that interest them.

            Ex: ‘Potential Generous Donor, we saw your speech before the Beekeepers Association of TinyTown USA last year, and were impressed by your commitment to the creation and maintenance of native pollinator species of plants in Tiny Town. we are working to raise money to acquire this piece of land that we could turn into a garden like what you mentioned, and we’d be honored if you’d consider donating to help fund the purchase.’ etc., etc., etc. The presentations are tailored to their publicly stated interests as they align with what your org’s mission is.

            * Unless you are a school soliciting donations from a parent or grandparent, in which case, you do talk about how Little Paris just loved her time at Chilton Prep School and although she was fortunate enough not to need scholarship help to attend, not all children are so lucky, and would you like to endow a scholarship in Paris’ name to help other children attend Chilton and then Yale?

            Advancement is a contact sport, and it can be invasive as hell, but a lot of it is just tailoring what you’re talking to the person about to what they have said they’re interested in.

            I once created an entire PPT on forensics (like the debating club thing) for my boss because he had a potential donor who had forensics in school and wanted to support the next generation of kids who did it.

            1. Emmy Noether*

              Like I said, public speeches and public info, sure, fair game (though I’m unconvinced that most millionaires do those). The post mentioned info about what their children do, which is beyond creepy.

              1. KRM*

                It’s not though! If the kid goes to an arts school, that’s publicly available, and the arts organization then knows that maybe the parents are more likely to give to them because of where the kid goes!
                I understand that you think this is creepy, but it’s literally ALL publicly available info that is being pulled out. Nobody is hiring a private investigator, nobody is stalking anyone to see what they buy or trying to trace their activities.

              2. hot buttered anon*

                It’s creepy. I work in academia and have seen how prospects are hunted. It’s really gross.

              3. Not A Raccoon Keeper*

                I did clarify that I was working in a post-secondary context and regarding alumni status, but maybe I should have clarified that I meant adult children. Although, if a philanthropist is publicly giving to a K-12 school for their child (i.e. there are press releases, or they have mentioned it in an interview, or their name is on something at the school) then that would probably be noted.

        2. Empress Ki*

          I didn’t even know iy was legal to record so much information about a donor.
          This is very invasive.

          1. Mongrel*

            I’d imagine it’s collected and collated from public information and not as invasive as what Google or Facebook siphon off.

          2. That'sNotMyName*

            They’re not sending investigators after people. It comes from news (especially more industry specific news), social media, and things like annual reports from other organizations (e.g. “We want to thank your platinum donors ($25,000+)”). I’ve never seen these things put into a power point, but for major donors, it is standard to find out about their background, especially if an existing donor gives us contact info or they express interest in the organization. Also, the very wealthy often give through private foundations, which have to file records of their giving.

            If you are donating at the level that you’re called a philanthropist, it generally is expected that the fundraising person you’re having lunch with already knows a lot about you and has a well-honed pitch based on that knowledge. I was having coffee with a donor who mentioned something about themselves and apparently I looked a bit surprised because he then said, “You didn’t know that?” This was the first time we’d met or had anything bigger than a scheduling conversation. Many people at that level also give through private foundations, so info about their giving is public record and they often have interviews/profiles in trade publications.

          3. ferrina*

            There’s nothing illegal about collecting publicly available information. A lot more companies keep info on you than you realize.

            -My dentist takes notes on the stuff we chat about. She has notes on who my kids are and how old they are. Why? Because she only sees me every 6 months, I’m one of hundreds of people, but she still wants to provide a personalized experience. And I love that she does this.
            -Anywhere you have ever shopped. A retailer who isn’t analyzing the buying patterns of their customers is missing out on a lot of potential revenue. A good marketing team wants as much data as possible to know when and how to reach you. They don’t care about you individually, but as a subset of their customer base.
            -Any website ever. Cookies collect a lot of data on you, and the online software company can trace plenty of data on you. I used to work for a website, and we had a lot of data. For the most part we kept that data in-house to customize ads and improve user experience, but when I left, the owners were trying to figure out how to monetize individual’s data

            1. Eldritch Office Worker*

              Yeah I wonder now if people who have never handled donor/patient/customer information on the back end don’t realize how much information every place you interact with has stored about you.

              It can be overwhelming if it’s new to you! But it’s also a big reason I am not super paranoid about privacy stuff (like google spying on you, not bank/password/etc info). There’s no privacy, we are well archived.

              1. Emmy Noether*

                Sure, but this is why data protection exists. In theory*, at least, that info cannot be shared. Only those I gave it to can have it, and they have to delete it on request. An organisation I have never donated to or had contact with should not have my info.

                * I realize reality may be different.

                1. Eldritch Office Worker*

                  A couple states have *better* privacy laws than the federal protection but generally yeah companies can store and share your data as they like in the US without your consent.

                  But based on the spelling in your comment I assume you’re not in the US. I’m sure that changes your experience quite a bit.

                2. Emmy Noether*

                  (ran out of nesting)

                  Yes, EU, which apparently colors my perception quite a bit. I take my right to privacy seriously *lol*. I’m aware that info about me is out there, but you would have to muck about in sites that really shouldn’t be there anymore – it’s not clean info.

            2. Texan In Exile*

              Even before covid, many of my work relationships were with people in other offices (and other countries) whom I had never met in person. We were never on camera, so I had a name and a voice. I am really good at remembering things about people if I see their face, but if I never see their face, I lose a major cue.

              I kept notes by each name in my contact list – “PhD in physics, he and partner are re-habbing an old farm, raising horses,” “born in E Germany when E German was still E Germany, father was a coal miner” “bought his father the house next door to his, volunteers on hospital on Saturdays” – because I really wanted to get it right with the people I talked to and have a relationship that went beyond “Tell me the details of your new patent.”

              1. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

                At an old job, my boss kept dossiers on his clients so he could personalize conversations with them. I found some of it okay (interests, schools, sports teams, etc) and some of it weirdly invasive (marital status, alcoholic or not, etc). In the end, I thought it was smart- but creepy and one of the reasons I decided against heading in a sales capacity. I had no interest in tracking anyone this way, business or not.

                1. Jen*

                  Marital status sounds like one of the first pieces of information I’d save about someone. Their job might come first, but I’d imagine spouse and children are the next things I’d ask about, certainly before sports teams.

                  Alcoholic sounds a bit strange, but maybe he wanted to be sure not to share any anecdotes about drinking with someone who’d prefer not to hear about it.

            3. Anon for this*

              My day job is in, in part, cyberprivacy/security education for a specific population with specific needs (including explaining, in a US context, the impacts of companies buying/selling data, how that data gets online). And my moonlighting involves researching clients who are vulnerable to harassment (e.g. because of their activism) in order to be able to show them where bad actors could find sensitive info on them and help them mitigate the risks. As well as digging up info on people who are already harassing or threatening them.

              Moonlighting clients, and also people I interact with in the day job, are nearly always shocked at how easy it is to find gobs of information on most people over the age of 25 or so in the US (for non-USians it’s harder because of stronger data privacy laws, but there’s often still some). It’s why I always ask for consent before doing a deep dive on a client, warning them that it can be really invasive. For most USians…your name, close relatives, home addresses current and past, phone number, possibly email address, are freely available online through data brokers unless you’ve opted out of each data broker manually or paid for a subscription service like DeleteMe or OneRep to do it. And that’s the low-hanging fruit.

            4. KateM*

              When do you chat with your dentist about your children?? My dentist does things in my mouth that render me literally speechless.

              1. hot buttered anon*

                Presumably there are a few moments before they dive in. My dentists always manage to chat a bit before pulling out the drills.

              2. Lightning*

                My dentist never, but my hygienist, for a minute or two at the start and end of the appointment.

                (She must do the note thing mentioned; I have no idea how she’d remember everything she does otherwise.)

            5. OyHiOh*

              I keep notes in my Outlook Contacts – last time this person met for happy hour with my boss, the time that person came in to a project meeting to help sell our community to a client – for the same reason.

              I sometimes help our data geek cleaning new data. Every time, I am amazed by how much information is available. Example – in our website analytics, we can see which companies click the site, what industries they’re in, the phone number associated with the computer that visited our site, state/city located in, and six or eight other fields of information as well.

              1. EPLawyer*

                This is called a “farley file.” Started with politicians.

                There is nothing nefarious about it. People who are in jobs where they meet a lot of people can only remember so much. So they keep notes so they can personalize their interaction with a particular person.

                1. Sylvan*

                  Emmy Noether, this is all info freely given by the person to the general public.

                  I personally find this creepy, but nothing about it is illegal and it’s easy to understand how useful the information is.

                2. Emmy Noether*

                  I’m in the EU, which apparently changes perceptions quite a bit. It would absolutely be illegal here. Cannot collect or keep personal information on someone without permission.

            6. yipyip*

              Yeah in the vet world, it’s also common to put notes in the files like “owner’s son attends Dr Teeth’s alma mater” or “owner is Chicken Trainer for the Great Gonzo”

              I don’t feel it’s an invasion of privacy if the information was freely admitted and also freely available.

          4. L-squared*

            Is it? Most of this information is public anyway. Its more like just curating all of it into one place.

            People google coworkers all the time, but somehow find googling potential donors and using the info that comes up as too much?

          5. A Reader*

            Invasive is right, even for donors who aren´t giving millions.

            When we donate, we make the donation conditional on anonymity, and insist that all of our information is deleted from an org´s database except for that legally required to support the org´s tax financials. We make it clear that failure to follow through means NO further donations. We insist that our information not be shared with other orgs.

            We also make our donations conditional on no further solicitations — ask us again, and/or put us on a list, and that´s it for you –nada!

            This has spared us an immense amount of aggravation, and kept our donations private — exactly what we want them to be. And no org yet has violated their agreement with us, leaving us free to continue to support them.

            1. Emmy Noether*

              This sounds like a good idea. I’ve had one before where de-subscribing to the newsletter (that I never subscribed in the first place) just never worked, until I responded that I am never fucking donating to them ever again. That seems to have worked.

      2. LW #2*

        This thread taught me a lot about nonprofit fundraising! But I think it’s unlikely that my employer knows about my dad. He is not a public figure — no interviews, no speeches, no press releases. When you Google him, all that comes up is his LinkedIn and Quora accounts and one talk he gave at a professional conference (totally unrelated to his philanthropy). Also, the field he gives to is a national/international field and he gives to big organizations, so he’s a small donor compared to some of the biggest donors they have — nobody is publishing his name anywhere. And he gives through a personal DAF, not through a foundation. So I think the only way for my organization to know he’s a potential donor would be for them to access the list of donors to other organizations in the field — but those are “competitors” in some ways for fundraising so why would they share their lists?

        1. Anonymous Badger*

          LW #2, two things.

          They could have more info on your Dad than you know. Giving through a DAF doesn’t mean he’ll be anonymous, and there are databases that have information on what people give. Your Dad probably knows those exist, though, and there are ways to hide that info if a donor cares. His name is also likely being published somewhere if he hasn’t specifically requested anonymity, too, even if it was a small amount. It would depend a lot on the org, but most do publish a full list of donors at least once a year. As for sharing lists with other non-profits, it can happen within the context of collaborations or projects but isn’t typical.

          The second, and more important piece, though, is that if he gives through a Donor Advised Fund, he would need to be very careful about giving money to your org. Part of the rules with DAF is that there be no private benefit, and since you work there, that could potentially be considered a violation of it if the funds given are unrestricted since that would at least partially support your salary. It would ideally need to be a donation targeted to a specific project or another part of your organization that you’re not directly connected to, but he would need to be very careful about it. His financial advisor probably knows this, but I’ve found a surprising amount of the non-profits I’ve done finance work for are not aware of the rules and restrictions surrounding DAFs.

        2. Birdie*

          Most non-profits publish their annual reports online. Believe me, I’m constantly pulling peer organizations’ annual reports to see who is donating to them, what big special projects they’ve launched (and how they funded it), etc. I also pull annual reports of other non-profits in our region to see what other organizations our donors support, and at what level, as a way to suss out their giving capacity.

          This goes double for donors who give via DAFs. If you have a DAF, you have capacity; I want to know how much, and what are your interests. Say you give $100 via DAF to an environmental group, but I see you gave $10,000 to an arts organization. I know you have the capacity to give more, but arts is much more your thing. However, this gives me an opening to invite you for coffee to get to know you better, learn about philanthropic goals and how we fit into those, and highlight how your gift, all $100, helps advance our work. All laying the ground work to hopefully increase your giving over the next few years.

          If you have a DAF, you may also be a community leader of some sort. Someone who maybe isn’t going to give a ton, but has a background that might be a good fit for our Board. I’m checking out what Boards you may currently be on. I want to build a relationship so I can learn more about you to see if you would be a good fit and if it’s something that might interest you.

          Basically, the second someone makes a gift through a DAF, I start researching them.

          Non-profits, particularly the big national ones, are constantly sharing lists. Big Social Justice Organization A trades names with Big Social Justice Organization B because both organizations are hoping to add new donors. Buying, selling, and trading lists to acquire new donors is non-stop.

          Finally, fundraising folks move jobs, and they bring knowledge about who the donors at their previous organization are. Just as an example, there’s a lot of donor crossover from my previous job to my current job, even though the focus areas are completely different (education vs. conservation). I’ve been able to ID those donors and tailor our asks more specifically. Joe Smith really values hands-on learning? Great, we want to launch a free community native plant propagation program. Joe would be a great donor to pitch this idea to! Or, I know a donor from my old job would be really interested in what my new organization is doing, even though she has never donated here before. Because I’m good at my job, I have an existing relationship and I invite her to catch up over coffee and start laying the groundwork.

          I know how most everyone else feels about us fundraisers. I know we are largely viewed as manipulative and butt-kissers, poeple who are a resource suck on the organization and don’t do any actual real work. But in most non-profits, we keep the lights on. The work we do is valuable. And for me, I don’t actually enjoy asking for money–but I do love sharing the stories of the work we do, the impact it has, and how our donors are helping us accomplish our mission and make the world a better place. And to do that mission, I have to figure out who has the money to fund us and convince them that we, out of all the organizations they could support, are worthy of their philanthropic dollars.

    2. Yellow+Flotsam*

      Although hopefully they are also considering whether it is right to target their employee’s family to milk them for donations! There are so many ways this could go really wrong.

      Personally I’m really uncomfortable with asking staff (or their families) to make significant donations to their employer.

      1. That'sNotMyName*

        I worked for a nonprofit that asked employees for donations and hated it. I was in their development department and did budgeting, so I knew how much everyone was paid. It wasn’t a lot. I didn’t like that it happened but the executive director insisted and made the ask herself. I never saw any preferential or negative treatment of employees in line with giving (or not) but it still made me uncomfortable.

        1. metadata minion*

          Yeah, my employer does that too. “Hey, we just paid you, but…can we have it back?”

        2. breakfast burrito*

          All nonprofits I’ve fundraised for (no longer in development) asked employees to donate. It always felt bad.

          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            I’ve heard of this but never experienced it personally, it feels incredibly awkward!

            Pestering board members to donate I’m quite familiar with though.

            1. Texan In Exile*

              I was on my neighborhood association board years ago. We were planning our annual fundraiser – a home tour – and I was in charge of ad sales for the booklet that accompanied the tour. I told the president I would do it only if I sold all the ads, not if I were in charge of the board members selling ads.

              She wanted board members selling ads, telling me that it is the responsibility of board members to either donate themselves or raise money, which I had never heard of before. “That’s what a board DOES!” she insisted.

              (Board, not surprisingly, voted for me to do it the way I proposed, and I increased ad revenue 32% over the previous year.)

              1. NLR*

                Very common particularly with larger non-profits for board membership to include a dollar commitment, often six figure or higher ones.

              2. breakfast burrito*

                Depends on the size and location of the non-profit, I think. A place I worked on the East Coast had a THIRTY person board. They were chosen specifically for their capacity to donate and shame/challenge/cajole their other rich friends into donating.

                When I moved back to the Midwest, it… did not work like this. My board was willing to help plan the fundraiser and attend it. They were not providing even mid-level annual gifts.

                1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

                  This also probably varies by field as well as region and size. I’m on a board for the non-profit that puts on some local conventions, and there’s no expectation that board members donate money. While some of our board members probably have enough money to afford minor donations (it’s not something we track), others work retail jobs or otherwise aren’t exactly in the “major donor” income bracket.

                  On the other hand, there is an expectation that, in a pinch, board members will end up volunteering large amounts of time if one of the conventions has a staffing need we’re having trouble recruiting for and we don’t have a better plan at that moment. (We almost had a quorum of the board of directors while applying protective plastic to a hotel room floor on a Saturday morning last year, just because that’s who we could throw at a problem at that exact moment, and there have certainly been times when a board member has ended up being the one who has to drive the truck to the storage unit and help get it unloaded.)

              3. Birdie*

                Many Boards are “give or get.” Not all, but it’s not uncommon. And every non-profit I’ve worked at has a very clear expectation that all Board members will give at some level.

                Though admittedly it seems a little unusual for a neighborhood association to be give or get, unless they majority of the budget was raised through donations rather than HOA fees.

                1. the.kat*

                  I’ve heard it called “time, talent or treasure.” In other words, volunteer your time, your skills or give money.

                2. Le Sigh*

                  There are also funders (wealthy individuals, foundations) that want to know the composition of the board (what is the mix of expertise, is it diverse/reflective of the audience), as well as what percent of your board gives (either directly or by raising those funds from others). They view it as an indication of commitment to the organization. Boards are designed to govern an organization and the people you select are designed to provide range of strengths, which if you’re a nonprofit, includes fundraising.

      2. Mabelline*

        This is a HUGE pet peeve of mine! I work in a nonprofit and last year as part of our big fundraising push there was an interdepartmental contest to see who could get to 100% participation in donating to the company that we all work for. This is a company that tells us our salaries are low for the field because of the philanthropic nature of the work we due. Well, consider your savings on my salary my “donation” for the year!

        They also try to target our friends and relatives. I have an older relative who made a small donation before I worked here, so I was contacted by our fundraising office and the conversation strongly implied that the organization was angling to be included in my relative’s will and hoping I could help them achieve that.

        LW, I’m sure your company isn’t this egregious, but please tread carefully. Sometimes if you give an inch, fundraisers will take a mile and you could find yourself in a very sticky work environment. I’d advise keeping information about your family’s wealth to yourself while you’re working there.

        1. Texan In Exile*

          “angling to be included in my relative’s will”

          My college sends those messages. I appreciate my education but I’m not donating to a rich school until all the hungry are fed, the unhoused have homes, and those unjustly imprisoned are free.

          1. UKDancer*

            My university did that, until I told them to take me off the distribution list which they didn’t until I threatened to report them to the Information Commissioner’s Office. I would always prefer to support charities that help the poor, refugees and certain health issues and that doesn’t leave me money over for university.

        2. I Talk About Motorcycles Too Much*

          @Mabelline ” I work in a nonprofit and last year as part of our big fundraising push there was an interdepartmental contest to see who could get to 100% participation in donating to the company that we all work for. This is a company that tells us our salaries are low for the field because of the philanthropic nature of the work we due. Well, consider your savings on my salary my “donation” for the year!”

          I could have written this. Perhaps not worded as well but this is exactly what my company does and my thoughts on the matter.

    3. KatEnigma*

      This. Many nonprofits would have hired her BECAUSE of her Dad, and we’ve all seen the letters to Alison and other agony aunts where the nonprofit made fundraising amongst friends and family a basic requirement, or all but, of employment.

      1. That'sNotMyName*

        Even if they weren’t planning on asking dad directly, dad might feel moved to encourage friends to make donations.

      2. NotBatman*

        Yes! I worked for a nonprofit who made no secret of the fact that they hired the younger brother of [famous politician] because he was the brother of [famous politician]. It did work, in that it got the nonprofit a massive influx of funds, but IMHO it’s a cruddy policy that creates all kinds of role confusion. I hope LW2 isn’t in a similar situation, but I’m adding another voice to the chorus encouraging LW2 to leave their dad out of their job by encouraging him to donate elsewhere.

    4. Yvette*

      I kind of wonder if maybe that is why the letter writer was even hired. But I am crotchety and cynical.

      1. Bluebird*

        I didn’t want to say this directly to the OP but it was in my mind with my original comment as well.

    5. Spero*

      LW 2, the way that I would handle this is to have your dad hire a lawyer or financial agent to manage the donation and have that person collect the additional info your dad is requesting (maybe even record the agent’s convo with your development team?), or he could approach your local community foundation and interview them regarding your agency (with the understanding they will not share source of donation). That way, it’s enough distance that even if they DO somehow figure out it came from your dad, it’s sent a clear signal you don’t want the direct connection and they hopefully won’t pester you for further donations.

      1. LW #2*

        Thank you for the great advice — this is what I’m going to do! What I wanted was a way for my dad to learn about my organization and potentially talk to the development team, but still stay anonymous from the organization. Having someone be an intermediary to get him information and ask questions on his behalf but still keep his identity secret is perfect. Thank you!

    6. The OTHER Other*

      I was surprised Alison was so downbeat on having the father donate and suggesting it be done anonymously or after she leaves the organization. I suppose it depends on the specific nonprofit, but most that do really vital work generally need all the money they can get.

      Some foundations and nonprofits in the arts have so many people seeking to work there that they often provide only token salaries and in some cases basically demand that employees fundraise for their own positions. It was a rude awakening for some people I know who graduated with expensive MFA degrees and had student loans instead of rich parents.

      1. Yvette*

        Because it can represent a conflict of interest. Suppose LW sucks at her job, they might not want to fire her because of Dad$$, or suppose LW gets a promotion, even if LW deserves it, there may be the underlying feeling it was because of Dad$$. Organization may end up providing special treatment to LW so they won’t quit because of Dad$$. It provides LW, even it they don’t want it or have no intention of taking advantage of it, with leverage other employees don’t have.

      2. SyFyGeek*

        When I worked at a non-profit, we had to ask Development for the names of anyone who specified their donation go towards our division. They closely guarded the names of the donors, but we just wanted to send thank you notes to people who thought of us when giving money. And then we found out Development was trying to poach our donors and convince them to give to the “General Fund” which meant we’d never see any of it. Development/Fund Raising is a “doggy dog” world.

    7. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      Yep, as a professional fundraiser I disagree with Alison here – if he’s interested in this cause, it makes total sense for him to reach out to the team! He can give anonymously which means the development team and ED will likely know where the gift came from, but no one else – inside or outside the org – should know. (Of course, this is a “know your org” situation – if you have reason to believe the development team or ED have loose lips that should weigh heavily on your decision, but that would be a violation of the fundraising code of ethics.)

      Assuming the organization has more than a handful of employees and the OP doesn’t report to the ED, I think she can feel pretty confident that her connection to this generous anonymous donor will remain confidential.

    1. neurodivergent office queen*

      same. I’m dying to know what she wants all that stuff for and why she quit so abruptly.

      1. Ama*

        I don’t actually think it’s anything salacious. The employee was just not a good employee – maybe personal life or mental health issues, maybe just one of the millions of incompetent people we hear about all the time on this website. That’s evident both in how they disregarded instructions to use the company card, bought too much stuff and tried to ignore the phone problem by not submitting reimbursement requests, acted erratically and then quit. Sometimes people are just flaky. And I would assume they want this stuff because they paid for it and don’t think they’ll be reimbursed for it. It’s potentially hundreds of dollars worth of stuff. If I were in that situation, I wouldn’t be ok with leaving it all behind even if I had no use for it.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          Yeah I don’t think there’s a big story here, just odd behavior that should have been addressed earlier and a weird fallout.

    2. Sylvan*

      Me too! I’m just confused. Why didn’t she use the company credit cards? Why did she leave these things behind if she wanted them? (Did she buy anything too big to take home easily with her own money?)

      1. fhqwhgads*

        I assume she kept using her own card for the points or similar and just thought there’d be no consequence. She probably turned in the receipts for reimbursement on such a delay to try to obfuscate how much over budget she went (which is a stupid plan if the reimburse is hitting the right budget line anyway, it’s not like no one looks at totals but maybe she was banking on incompetance; why she kept buying more and more is a mystery to me tho). She wants the stuff she bought but hadn’t yet put in to be reimbursed for back because it’s literally hers – she paid for it. She can theoretically return or resell it.

    3. breakfast burrito*

      This is one of those letters where I really want the subject of the letter to see it and write in from their side.

      1. Sabine the Very Mean*

        Fantasy Letter—totally made up: I was given a credit card and told to redecorate at my discretion. Each time I tried to use the card to make a purchase, I’d find the daily limit was only $200 and they never got it increased for me no matter how many times they said they would. So I stated using my own credit card to make purchases because it was easier. My boss seemed irritated by this and would ask me why I did it and I’d ask for a limit increase but the next day the same thing would happen. But he never outright told me to stop using it. I then found out after I submitted some of my expenses that the credit card had a max of $3000. This was never communicated to me. I guess I was just supposed to know I should stop spending at $2999.99.

        1. The Rural Juror*

          Ha! I once had a company credit card with a $200 limit! It was automatically set that low because the person before me who was issued a card was the receptionist and would spend too much ordering lunch for the office of only 8 people (they always picked expensive restaurants). I think $200 was the lowest the bank would set the limit. Mine was corrected pretty quickly after my first supply order was legitimately over $1,000!

  3. Reluctant Manager*

    LW1, did you set up any kind of progress updates, benchmarks, or approval? It sounds like she went a little crazy, but I wouldn’t dream of giving a new employee cards or a four-figure budget without some supervision–especially after she did not follow your instructions involving company funds.

    If you didn’t get an itemized list from her of what she bought, from where, and how she paid for it, I would ask for that before letting her take anything. Receipts or it didn’t happen.

    1. Letter opener*

      i also thought it was strange to immediately trust a new hire with so much money… something is going on and I need an update!

      1. Somehow_I_Manage*

        Assuming it’s a professional office I don’t think it’s outrageous. It’s all relative, but for a business with multiple employees, micromanaging $3k is probably not a good use of company time. It’s reasonable to give the staff you interviewed, vetted, and hired the benefit of the doubt.

      2. Student*

        It depends on the job and company. I’ve had plenty of jobs where this would be normal, at large employers who have healthy budgets and expect most of their employees to be experienced.

        I can see how this would come off as a loony risk for small employers, or places that hire people with less experience.

      3. Librarian of SHIELD*

        It feels off to me because I’ve only ever worked for government departments, and every single thing I’ve ever purchased for work had to be approved first, come from a pre-approved vendor, and I had to prove I’d selected the vendor with the lowest price.

        I know theoretically that non-government offices handle their money differently, but every time I hear a story like this I get a definite culture shock.

    2. MugShot*

      This was my thinking too.
      it seems utterly ridiculous to me that a new person was give so much autonomy with not one but TWO company credit cards. I think you got off lightly that she used her own cards for many of the purchases and didn’t max out the company ones.
      What were your thinking!?

    3. Not Australian*

      Yup, my reaction too. I might have given her $500 to make a start on the most urgent items and then based any further spending on the results… but then I’ve notoriously struggled to get previous employers to pay out for things like individual pencils in the past, and the thought of anyone spending $3,000 without supervision just makes me queasy.

    4. MK*

      Also, the timeline is perplexing me. I am assuming the office was basically furnished and the admin was supposed to buy smaller items and some decor. That shouldn’t take months to do, it’s not as if you hired an interior designer to make you a magazine cover-worthy space. It would have made more sense to give the employee a list of things to get, or have her make a list of things, not hand her credit cards and let her spend months on this project.

    5. Anon5*

      I think this really depends massively on the scale of the company. If it’s 7 people in a little suite in a backwater office park, that’s ludicrous. But if it’s a more sizable company, that doesn’t seem out of line to me at all. My spouse works for a very large company, and when they redid their lobby recently each decorative chair cost well over $3,000 individually. A new reception desk, some side tables, and a piece or two of art would churn through that budget quickly even with very economical choices.

      1. Ama*

        Yup, especially since it’s much more convenient to buy new stuff at corporate rates than trying to trawl Craigslist and garage sales like you might do if you were trying to furnish your own home.

      2. Triplestep*

        Larger companies do not entrust their office design to members of the staff and don’t randomly purchase pieces here and there without a comprehensive plan. (I work in this field). So I assumed this was a small office. Lots of people think outfitting an office is a no-brainer and hard to get wrong so I was not surprised the LW went with this plan.

        1. KateM*

          Sounds like an owner of a 3-people company to me as well, what with the lack of plan and supervision.

    6. Allonge*

      I wouldn’t dream of giving a new employee cards or a four-figure budget without some supervision

      Eh – yes and no. 3k is a large sum for a lot of things, but it may be almost-nothing in the budget of a company. Once you have that kind of budget, one of the things you hire people for is to so you don’t have to supervise spending every 100 dollars.

      Obviously this did not work out in OP’s case but it’s not an unreasonable expectation to start from. It sounds like OP did check in on the spending of this amount about monthly (I imagine it comes with the reminders on which card to use etc), which, again, for a low-risk task that should be within the capabilities of most people should be sufficient supervision.

      1. Ama*

        > Once you have that kind of budget, one of the things you hire people for is to so you don’t have to supervise spending every 100 dollars.

        But also, this was a brand new employee who disobeyed direct instructions to use the company credit card. It would have made sense for OP to check in at that point and reevaluate if the employee was up to the task. It’s also not clear whether the reimbursement requests took several months or the employee was continuing to make new purchases but for a 1-time task like “decorate the conference room” there should have come a point where OP went “wait, I’ve reimbursed $2000 and it seems like there’s more to reimburse/a lot more stuff being purchased. I need to get a final number here.”

        1. Allonge*

          Sure. If the only thing we are looking at is this task, than that is perfectly reasonable.

          But I think this could have been a case of this being task number ~156 on the employee’s to-do list and task number ~4,728 on OP’s – there is no way ‘decorate’ is a priority as long as there are chairs / desks.

          In which case ‘reevaluate employee’s capability to do this’ can feel like a waste of time and has no immediate solution – are you really going to fire someone who is doing ok-ish on everything but this / reallocate a task that already took more energy than it’s worth? I certainly have tasks that I just cannot dedicate more time to, no matter how badly they are going, and my boss would 1000% agree on this.

        2. ferrina*

          Yeah, I agree. Though I guess it depends on the employee’s prior experience. For most new employees, the first time they are given a budget, I keep an eye on them to see how they handle it. But the reimbursement process also def makes a difference.

        3. KRM*

          I also think it would have been good for OP to say “I asked you to use the company card and you submitted for reimbursement on your card. We will not do this again going forward, I need you to use the company card for company purchases.”. After this first instance of not following directions, I certainly would have been giving her more oversight and laying out the rules much more forcefully.
          Also at this point–should you be giving her the things, or are they already set up and you’d rather just give her the $$ so that you just keep what’s there? She’d have to give you the proof that she bought XYZ and hasn’t been paid back before you can give it back to her, so is it easier to just send the money? Just a thought.

        4. WonderWoman*

          This is the part that jumped out at me – it doesn’t matter whether this assignment was appropriate or not for a new employee, they chose to ignore one of the most significant instructions which was to use the corporate credit cards. That alone is a big red flag for me.

      2. Lilo*

        3k sounds like a lot but I know because I helped an employee get a standing desk (she was supposed to have one but the previous office holder had turned it down) that a nice adjustable desk and chair and you’re in that territory already.

        1. That'sNotMyName*

          You could easily blow that budget on a modest couch, especially if you have to get one that is commercial grade rather thana residential.

        2. Sylvan*


          I looked at commercial-grade furniture for a home office at some point in lockdown, because it’s made for working all day, right? I immediately found that office furniture is made with strong materials and designed to last for years and years, and its cost reflects that. (I didn’t buy it, lol.)

      3. to varying degrees*

        Yeah I don’t 3 grand is that much and I also don’t think trusting a new employee with the task is that weird, but once the employee started directly disobeying the instruction of putting it on a cc I would have pulled the task.

        I just don’t get why the employee went reimbursement as a payment. Reimbursement is much more work. I feel like there’s something here with the employee that is going to end up being really weird and far out there.

        1. Poison I.V. drip*

          It could be as simple as the employee getting rewards points on their own credit card (which is considered a conflict where I work). Or maybe they tried shopping online with the company card but it didn’t go through because they didn’t know the billing address. Regardless, it looks shady and I wouldn’t have tolerated it.

          1. to varying degrees*

            Ahh, I didn’t think about the points. I had a friend who always purchased stuff for her office with her personal card and racked up an absolute ton of points, but than she was also the one doing the reimbursements (it was a large farm but not a huge office) so it was pretty simple.

            Points definitely would have been a no-no at my job as well.

      4. Reluctant Manager*

        You say “every 100 dollars.” I say “a significant portion of the annual salary of an entry level FTE.” ($3k, I mean.) I have worked for huge multinational companies and 5-person companies, none of which worked ever dream of handing over 2 company cards and a budget of $3k without supervision.

    7. Ama*

      > If you didn’t get an itemized list from her of what she bought, from where, and how she paid for it, I would ask for that before letting her take anything. Receipts or it didn’t happen.

      I would only advise OP to do this if I thought they were acting in good faith. Given that their first instinct was to claim the adult equivalent of “finders keepers” I don’t love the idea of letting them feel like they can just have the employee jump through hoops to prove this stuff belongs to them when OP has made it clear that their issue is how long the employee took to ask for reimbursement rather than confusion over which things were reimbursed by the office and which weren’t.

      OP should have credit card statements of what was reimbursed so it should be pretty easy to tell what they have actually paid for. It’s quite possible that the employee doesn’t have receipts, especially if these were online orders where purchase confirmation was sent to a work email she no longer has access to.

      To make it clear, I’m not suggesting that OP take ex-employee at her word if they believe she’s claiming personal ownership of stuff the business paid for. But I’m not ok with encouraging OP to put unreasonable burden on ex-employee to justify stealing from her. And keeping stuff they know they didn’t pay for would be stealing, regardless of how they try to hide behind the plausible deniability of “well I paid for some of it and it’s too hard for me to figure out what I paid for vs. didn’t so I’m just going to keep it all.”

    8. Yellow+Flotsam*

      Are company credit cards not typical? It’s been part of on boarding at a few jobs I’ve had – and with substantially higher limits.

      My job requires spending money – I need cards to do that. There’s always been company training – but without the cards you either need someone else to double up on my job, or you are asking me to purchase work stuff from my own salary.

      1. Asenath*

        Company credit cards are not always typical. I think it depends on your employer, the level at which you work and whether your job requires a lot of spending. I had one job with a company credit card, but in another I got very familiar with paying for things myself and submitting an expense claim, requesting an advance (if I was anticipating spending a lot and/or couldn’t or didn’t want to put it on a personal card) and later submitting proof of what I’d spent on what, arranging for the person who held a kind of general company credit card for our department to authorize its use (usually for smallish purchases) and, especially for approved suppliers for certain types of purchases, getting a purchase order and providing the number to the supplier, There were lots of ways of spending company money, and knowing or finding the person in Finance who knew exactly the right procedures and forms for each method was very useful.

      2. hbc*

        Highly variable, I think. I didn’t blink at the two credit card thing, but that’s because I’ve been part of a small company that was limited to $5K across all cards in *secured* credit, which really limited the damage you could do. If these were cards with a high limit, that would be a little more risky.

        1. ferrina*

          Yep, highly variable. My company has multiple reimbursement processes, including credit cards for certain employees. I’ve been at other companies (100-200) where only the C-suite had corporate cards and everyone else did reimbursement.

      3. londonedit*

        Publishing is notoriously tight, but everywhere I’ve worked company credit cards were only for people above a certain level of seniority. Right now, my immediate boss has one, but with a very modest limit – it’s really only meant to be able to cover the cost of lunch with an author or train travel to a book launch or something like that. I’ve never had a job at a level with access to a company card.

      4. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        I’ve never had one, and I have needed to be reimbursed for a work-related expense twice in like eighteen years.

        1. londonedit*

          Yeah, I think last time I had anything reimbursed it was biscuits for a meeting (which must have been pre-Covid!)

      5. Alternative Person*

        Depends on the field/company.

        It’s only been recently that I’ve been in contact with procurement at work (I don’t get anywhere near a card) because it’s only been recently that I’ve been in a position to get a say in what the department purchases.

        The rest (99% commuting fares) is done on reimbursement which is not ideal, but standard where I live. The higher ups get cards I’m sure, but I don’t need to spend money to do my day-to-day (I wouldn’t mind a yearly stationary stipend though).

      6. to varying degrees*

        At my last employer (+1500 employees) it was more job dependent that seniority. We had guys in the field who had credit cards issued to them within the first couple of months and people their 20 years who never had them. Because of my (strictly office) position I had 3 issued to me, but they were each for different projects/purposes. And if you had a card issued to you, you better have a damn good reason why you’re asking for reimbursement. Finance didn’t mind doing them but it was understood that the process was more for those who had to do it that way.

    9. NotBatman*

      Yes, LW1 very hands-off with the process, and it seems as though that might have compounded the issue. I agree with those speculating that the employee may have been uncertain, accidentally overspent, sought reimbursement for the overspending without directly disclosing it, and then quit because she felt she failed at a major job responsibility. It suggests that the immediate path forward is what Alison said — offer to pay for the items or else give them to the employee — but that a longer-term path forward might be giving more structure to this employee’s replacement.

    10. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Yeah, unless it’s a big company, which doesn’t sound like the case here, I am very surprised that a brand new employee was trusted with company credit cards right off the bat, and I’m even more alarmed that OP didn’t immediately take action when she realized that the admin wasn’t paying for the new items the way she requested that admin pay for them. Like, it’s fine if you want to trust a new employee with financial stuff (obviously you have to do that with new financial staff), but once it becomes clear that the new employee isn’t doing the financial stuff correctly, you tighten the reins, you don’t just lecture the person.

      Sorry, OP, I think you learned a good lesson here and I hope you can find a new employee who will do the decorating you want in the way that you want them to (and the way they should – your plan is sound, the execution just wasn’t so great). Good luck!

  4. Banana*

    #3 – your boss is a nut. It’s totally normal where I am, to submit notice on a Monday and have Friday of the following week be your last day. This is one more calendar day of notice than that. You are fine. Your boss clearly doesn’t want to lose you and reacted poorly.

    1. Momma Bear*

      Agreed. My last resignation for various reasons I wanted to resign to the big boss and not the PM. Due to schedule conflicts I couldn’t have that conversation in person as quickly as I wanted. He opted to “backdate” my resignation a few days and accept that as my two weeks. I think this guy is just upset he’s losing an employee he didn’t expect to, not that LW is wrong.

    2. learnedthehardway*

      I feel like replying back that it is not very Christian of the manager to react so negatively to an employee leaving a role because they have a health issue they have to deal with. Yeesh.

      1. Ellis Bell*

        That remark about being a good Christian really raised my eyebrows. I feel like an assessment of how you’re doing in your religion at work is probably only appropriate if you work for a church.

    3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Agreeing here – OP handled this just fine, but their manager chose to behave like a toddler upset things didn’t go their way. OP, keep your head high and act professionally, over time it will balance out.

      (Oh, and do you have other managers or coworkers to offer up as references from this job? I don’t know that I’d trust a toddler to respond to a reference request.)

    4. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

      Yeah, I thought that was pretty danged offensive, actually. That manager acted like a child and then made things worse with that inappropriate religion-based comment.

      That boss owes LW#3 a big apology for that, although it doesn’t sound likely he’ll ever give her one.

  5. Caramel & Cheddar*

    The answer to LW #3 just made me realise I’ve been giving 2 weeks plus 1 day’s notice my entire life, i.e. that if I quit on a Thursday, my last day would be the Thursday two weeks from then. I can’t be the only person whose brain (incorrectly) counted the weeks this way!

    1. Nonny*

      guess it depends if you count the day you’re giving notice as Day 1 of notice period.

      plus are giving notice at the beginning of the shift or end of the shift?

      1. Ama*

        Yeah, I always figured 2 weeks’ notice was give notice on Monday for next, next Friday but somehow never made the connection between that and the fact that Tuesday-Tuesday is actually 2 weeks plus a day.

        But also I can’t imagine being that upset over a single day, unless it’s something like leaving the day before a major event that you’re in charge of. Even then, though, leaving the day after it would also likely be quite problematic assuming there’s clean-up or payments to handle, and I would have expected the boss to make some mention of *why* that extra day was so critical that not including it in your notice period is a stain on your moral character.

        1. EvilQueenRegina*

          When I was in my old job, we were at risk of layoffs, (funding only guaranteed up to 31st March) but another internal department was hiring, and my coworker and I managed to secure transfers to that department. There was a bit of a dispute at the time because when our new manager contacted us about start dates on Tuesday 22nd February, she wanted to start us off with a full week from Monday 21st March (I’m in the UK, hence the month’s notice period).

          While our old manager initially accepted that, it turned out she’d done so while distracted about a major screwup on the part of our accountant, and when she had time to think, she decided to enforce that one day after all and asked us to work Monday 21st March in our old jobs and start the new one on the 22nd. She was technically within her rights to do so, and we did do that, but there was a lot of commenting at the time from the whole team that it was a bit petty to enforce one day.

          (The one day ended up being quiet enough that they could have managed without us in the end, although to be fair, that was unusually quiet, and not something that could have been predicted a month in advance.)

          1. Ama*

            That’s interesting because it would have been a month unless she wasn’t counting Tuesday Feb 22 as day 1 of the notice period, but also Feb 22 to March 22 is a few days shorter than a notice period that goes from March 22 to April 22 because February is a shorter month. 2 weeks’ notice is always 2 weeks long, but a month’s notice could be anything from 28-31 days long if you’re going by calendar dates.

            1. Emmy Noether*

              I would have assumed the day of giving notice doesn’t count. Where I am, it’s even usual to have to give one or more month’s notice to the end of a calendar month, so if you decide you want to quit at the beginning of a month, you’re screwed.

              And yes, x month’s notices can be different lengths (but really so can x week’s, if there’s a holiday). Oftentimes, places where notices are measured in months also allow taking vacation in that time, so it tends to vary quite a bit.

              1. Tau*

                I hate the “to the end of the month” thing. I was so annoyed when I ended up with an offer in early September one year… because given that I am frustrated with my current job and want to quit, sure, I want to keep working here until the end of the year and only start my new job in almost four months’ time. Egads.

                (Thankfully, I was sort of in between projects at the time and managed to get my company to agree to a contract dissolution that let me out end of October.)

                1. Emmy Noether*

                  I also hate it – it’s a way to actually get more than x months in reality. If I had any power over the timing of offers, I’d make sure to expedite if it was near the end of a month so they can quit earlier.

                  At least these things always have to be valid for both parties, so it’s extra time if laid off as well.

                  Kind of off-topic: my current rental agreement has three months to the end of the month except december, and I really wondered about that one – do they not want the hassle of handover over the holidays, or what?!

      2. to varying degrees*

        Yeah, I would (and haven’t) counted the day I give notice as the first day, probably because I’ve given notice either mid-way or towards the end of the day.

  6. MishenNikara*

    LW3: Your boss’ reaction only solidifies how right you were to leave. Go to your new job and don’t look back.

    1. NotVeryChristianResignation*

      Thank you! And I am looking forward to it very much! There was a lot more under the surface. But yes safe to say this solidified my decision to leave!

    1. LoonLikeABird*

      I try to interpret it as a delightful reference to the loud and strange bird, not as short for “lunatic,” which has historically been used as a pejorative for people experiencing mental illness. I recommend the BBC article “How offensive is the word ‘lunatic’?” if you want to know more about that. But anyone who has encountered an angry version of the black and white bird knows they are likely to lash out like this boss!

      1. GythaOgden*

        Eh. As someone neurologically challenged and prone to doing silly things now and again (like most people!), I’m fine with it. Lord knows I’ve done some totally stupid things while in an episode, and I think most people would distinguish behaviour from the person themselves.

        Just like I use a cane to walk with — I’m lame! But it’s not nice to be in pain and have difficulty doing things I used to do easily before the accident, and so I’m happy to call being lame pretty /lame/, just as I’ve been a bit of a lunatic in the past about things. That doesn’t impinge on my personhood or on my worth as a person. It rightly conveys, however, how frustrating it is to no longer be able to run for a bus and to have more difficulty carrying heavy shopping, particularly since my neurological issues make it impossible to drive.

        This kind of thing not only infantilises other people (insinuating they can’t tell the difference between someone with genuine needs and someone being a bit volatile and ridiculous, like the woman in OP1) but it also romanticises mental illness, suggests we’re not able to act in any way that resembles normality and also equates stupid behaviour with being mentally ill, which hurts us more than it helps us. Mental illness is just that — illness. Sometimes people with it do stupid things. People without it do stupid things. The problem is the behaviour, not the condition, and most people nowadays can tell the difference.

        So rather than police people’s language on a forum, put some money into a collection for mental health awareness/support/management organisations, or directly join any number of support groups out there that cater to people’s actual needs. We’ll be much better off as a result where it really matters.

      2. ClearedCookiesOops*

        The euphemism treadmill is inescapable when it comes to describing people acting erratically or lacking thought. Personally I think we’re much better off using words like loon and idiot that have only a vague historical connection to health or developmental conditions than leaving a lexical gap that might be filled with something more immediately connected.

        1. LoonLikeABird*

          I don’t want to derail, so this is going to be my last comment on this topic. But one of the things I love about AAM is that Alison and the community really make an effort to be respectful of disability and difference. So many other career advice sites are basically like “act normal or else,” and about half the internet is people armchair diagnosing each other—this is a real haven. I think that, in that spirit, we should make a conscious effort to avoid euphemisms that insult people with mental illnesses or developmental disabilities. There is much more fun language at our disposal—like comparing people to territorial birds!

      3. Hlao-roo*

        FWIW, I have always pictured loons-the-birds when Alison has called people loons! Never even crossed my mind that people used “loons” as short for “lunatics.”

      4. hamsterpants*

        I don’t think the advice would change if loon meant lunatic, or if the person in question did or did not have a diagnosable mental health condition. We don’t need to put every word on trial for “potential offensiveness if a professional researcher from the BBC digs deeply into it” and it’s also OK to say “wow this person is behaving really far outside of social norms in a way that is problematic” — which, by the way, is a concept that shows up really commonly in diagnostic criteria for mental illness.

        1. Yoyoyo*

          Idk, maybe I’m more sensitive to it because I work in the mental health field, but I don’t think it takes a professional researcher from the BBC to make the connection to the word “lunatic,” which is a pejorative term that does not belong in any discussion of strange behavior or mental illness, even if the person is “behaving really far outside of social norms in a way that is problematic.” I’m sure that Alison would appreciate knowing that the word could be interpreted in this way.

          I choose to believe it is a reference to the bird.

          1. Sylvan*

            I mean, I absolutely can’t speak for anyone else, but I’m mentally ill and I don’t find “lunatic” or “loon” or “crazy” offensive. I think the idea that these terms refer to people with diagnosable mental illnesses, and not ostensibly healthy people acting outrageous, might be a little bit of a stretch.

      5. NotRealAnonforThis*

        If we’re going with obnoxious birds as representative of ridiculous bosses – I submit the Canadian Goose.

        $hit everywhere, cause chaos by ignoring their surroundings and doing what they want, and the things HISS.

        1. KRM*

          Me, to the Canadian Geese slowly crossing the road yesterday: “COME ON YOU CAN FLY YOU JERKS! GET OUT OF THE ROAD”.

        2. Miss Muffet*

          and BITE! They are total @ssholes. And if you happen to get near a nest, god help you. I saw one jump on TOP of a guy’s head. Stupid birds had built a nest right by the main employee entrance and it was terrifying to come in every day.

        3. L.H. Puttgrass*

          If you have a problem with the majestic Canadian Goose then you have a problem with me. And I suggest you let that one marinate.

      6. Wintermute*

        I tend to prefer “loon” precisely because it’s more distant than any way of saying the same thing– the etymology ties back to the strange, scrambling way a loon takes flight and only incidentally is tied to “lunatic”.

        Every other way to say the same thing is a much more direct perjorative: crazy, nuts, psycho, mental, etc. I think you could argue that the avian connection WAS more prevalent in “cookoo” originally but with “one flew over the cookoo’s nest” that bird has sailed.

        the only other alternatives have very specific connotations that may or may not apply: “erratic” is a very specific kind of behavior which makes it an occasional substitute but a poor synonym, same with “unhinged” or “bizarre”. This boss’ behavior is not erratic (it’s consistent) it’s not bizarre (it’s easily explained as a bad reaction to someone leaving), but they are nonetheless a loon.

  7. Mehitabel*

    LW #2 – Your dad, if so inclined, can donate via donor-advised fund, and can choose to make the gift anonymous. If he goes through a DAF then his gift could be anonymous even from your fundraising team. Most community foundations have donor-advised funds. It’s an option to consider.

    1. CR*

      Yes, this is what I was going to suggest as someone who works in the non-profit field. Even if he donates “anonymously” some your colleagues will still know it’s him and that will make it weird (I know who all of my org’s anonymous donors are and it’s not hard to find out). Go through a third party to make it truly anonymous.

      1. major giving, uhh, finds a way*

        +1 was going to suggest a DAF. The DAF host will handle the tax receipts and can also keep him anonymous to LW’s employer.

    2. Abogado Avocado*

      Also, as someone who has worked in the non-profit field, first, I just want to thank you for thinking long-term. While employees of non-profits who don’t work in development shouldn’t also have to shoulder the burden of developing donors, it’s always great when an employee can assist.

      Additionally, should your father decide to donate, he could ask through an intermediary (such as a lawyer who would keep your father’s name anonymous), that his gift(s) be used to fund an endowment for the organization. That way, his gift(s) would continue to generate income for the organization, no matter what happens to you in relation to the organization’s work — because, if you’ve found your life’s work, it’s entirely possible you’ll go on to leadership positions within this world, whether in your current non-profit or within another.

    3. Alexis Rosay*

      Agreed. If the dad is already a big donor, he’s likely already aware of these options. What LW2 should do is make the request directly to him so he knows it’s important to them to remain anonymous.

      It is definitely possible to have (almost) truly anonymous donations through DAFs. At the nonprofit I worked at, one of our largest donors was anonymous – only the Executive Director knew their identity, while the development staff and board did not.

    4. Smithy*

      Community Foundations have this options – but also most banks and entities like Fidelity. Additionally, DAF’s can reach out to a development team to ask for additional information about what a gift of $X or $Y would mean, giving restricted or to specific program areas, etc. So if the OP’s father does have questions, those can also be asked through the DAF, financial advisor or even a lawyer.

      While a gift to the endowment or to create an endowment is one thing, another approach that can help the OP in case the OP’s father’s name is uncovered is to make a multi-year pledge. One aspect of weirdness the OP would want to avoid early in their career is being put in a situation where the Development team feels they need to turn to the OP to ask about whether their father would give again, at the same or a different level, etc etc.

      It’s not uncommon for people on nonprofit program teams to have their own relationships with donors. And when that happens, it’s also not uncommon for the development team to have those kind of conversations around when to talk to John Doe or the John Doe Foundation for FY23’s contribution, at what level, etc. By giving a multi-year pledge (i.e. $Z every year for 3 years), even if the development team is able to figure out it’s the OP’s dad – this can take out a lot of the steam of that kind of dynamic.

      Lastly….while I want to say that the OP’s father can definitely give anonymously via a DAF. Depending on how large the nonprofit is and how well connected their development team, it’s very possible they can find out. Or “know” as opposed to know. Therefore, it may also be worth a situation where the gift is made anonymously via a DAF but identified to one Board Member (not the CEO/ED). This way the Board Member is essentially assigned to steward the relationship and the development team has the confidence that since someone knows, they won’t try to do research to figure out who it is.

      1. LW #2*

        Thank you for this additional info! I am not in development and don’t quite understand how the development team could find out. Could you explain a bit more?

        1. Smithy*

          A few ways – and again, this really depends on the team, how big, how well they’re connected, etc.

          Large development teams will hire people who’s job is just to work with DAF’s or people who have prior experience working as personal lawyers, financial planners, etc. Therefore via these networks, it can be as direct/indiscrete as someone at the DAF telling the development person that LW#2’s dad made the gift. Highly indiscrete, but also not entirely unlikely.

          What’s more likely though is more in the realm of “know”, therefore it can be that via networks they hear that the communication via the DAF came from Lawyer John Doe – then working backwards, they figure out who Lawyer John Doe’s biggest clients are – and then do desktop (i.e. Google) or paid database research (i.e. WealthX) on those clients. And through that research figure will get a list of names, bio, financial info, previous gifts and family members. Which would likely include you. At which point, if I was on the development team, I’d go “ah – this is who it probably is”. We don’t know – but we can “know”.

          Now if the gift is made anonymously via a DAF and they figure it out this way, hopefully they’re savvy enough to not try and do anything via you. Most likely it would be trying to see if they could connect more closely to Lawyer John Doe. But ultimately, this is more about how most organization’s development teams who receive an anonymous gift of $500k+ will try to find out who gave it. (If you think your dad would give more in the $100k or less range per year, then it’s less likely they’d do as much work) It’ll be a question asked by senior leadership, and therefore someone who has time on donor research or has networks they can try to work….it’s just normal practice.

          However, if there’s anyone on your Board that either your dad knows OR would be recommended by the DAF you choose to work with – opting to make the donation anonymous but choosing to tell that Board member removes that pressure. An officer of your organization now knows who gave the gift and the entire organization doesn’t have to try and find out. The solicitation responsibilities end up being assigned to that Board member and the development team’s job is to follow up with the Board member to say “hey, it’s been 11 months, time to follow up with Anonymous Donor”. It will also likely be assumed the gift is from someone within that Board member’s network.

          None of these means are 100% prefect or 100% guarantee to fail. Your dad could make a $5M anonymous gift via Vanguard that is never traced to anyone. But having at least someone know, that option makes the gift a secret but no one’s job to identify it. Just going the anonymous DAF route only makes the gift a secret and a department’s job to identify it. Secrets can always breed curiosity, but in option 2 – it assigned work and not idle nosiness.

          1. Smithy*

            And the follow-up, if the gift is made via a DAF with a pledge and shared to the Board Member. Therefore LW#2’s dad pledges to give $Z every year for three years, funds to be dispersed on ABC date (or after receipt of annual report or annual audit, please send materials to DAF@communityfoundation.org and provided no questions within 15 business days, wire transfer to be sent within 25 business days or whatever).

            In this situation, the development team has even less to do. The Board Member knows and payments for the next few years are set up. So there’s no follow up solicitation or ask to be made. After year 2, if you’re still working there and really happy and believe your dad should continue to give – he can renew his pledge before year 3 for another period of time. And again – takes work away from lots of people to do.

            If you decide that you no longer think your dad’s dollars should go there or should eventually change – the next pledge could always be for only an additional year or for a smaller amount and include the message “this is the last pledge I’m able to make”.

            This helps the development teams by having confirmed money and also removes work of asking someone to figure out when a new payment is coming and for how much. If your dad ever decided to give extra (due to an emergency or whatever), that’s always an option.

  8. Nonny*

    #5 – references. personally, I don’t recall many employers even checking my references and it makes me think it’s more like “do they even have a list of folks who could speak favorably of them?” kind of “test.” every time I give my references a heads up about someone contacting them for a reference, I often get back “they never called me” even when they offered me the job

    1. Not Australian*

      I’m currently listed as a reference for a lovely girl I worked with a few years ago and am astonished never to have received a single call or an e-mail about her (although I did last time she was job-hunting). I’d hate to think it was because she wasn’t reaching that stage of the process; I’d really prefer it to be that an employer was so sure about her obvious qualities that they didn’t need anything from me at all.

    2. breakfast burrito*

      Yes, I’m listed as a reference for several people and can only think of two times in the last 10 years I’ve actually given the reference. These people have all gotten jobs (plural!).

      Which is all very interesting to me because when I hire, getting references usually ends up playing a big role in my hiring selection. You wouldn’t believe how many people’s references I call and they throw me a garland of red flags.

    3. BethDH*

      I wonder if this is industry-dependent? I’ve never gotten a job above hourly temp work where my references weren’t checked. That’s been communications, mostly at non profits, and higher ed.

    4. Tio*

      I was just recently offered a very high level job, and they apparently never called either of my references. I was a bit surprised by that

  9. AnotherLibrarian*

    LW2- I used to work for a private school which got much of it’s funding through large donations. While this wasn’t my situation, I did see what happened to people who were the children of our large scale donors and worked for the school. Everything Alison mentioned happened in various ways, especially “they might limit what you’re exposed to if there’s something they don’t want to risk reaching a big donor” because this totally happened and “your coworkers will assume you’re getting special treatment” because honestly, you probably will be. Even if that “special treatment” is just “We can’t let OP2 find out about how program X to which their Father donated is failing is XYZ way.” I know there are ways to make these sorts of donations anonymous and I would encourage that route if you want to keep working for this employer. I felt really pretty bad for the people who had to deal with this.

    1. Aggretsuko*

      I donated money anonymously to the theater I work at (I didn’t particularly want to be listed in the programs or any of that stuff, SUPPOSEDLY the online donation was anonymous) and they still sent me a thank-you card via snail mail. So…I dunno how anonymous that can be?

      1. Willow*

        There are ways to donate that are anonymous from the org. Someone above mentioned you can do a donor-advised fund.

      2. CR*

        The fundraising team will still know your details. They have to, in order to do things like issue tax receipts.

      3. Her name was Joanne*

        Usually an online donation that says anonymous, but you give all your contact info to means that your name will not be published, and you’ll be marked in the database as anonymous. I would assume the online form gave you an auto-receipt, or they may have sent you a thank you as a receipt.

        1. KRM*

          Yeah, if you’re completely anonymous, you won’t be able to get tax receipts! But in this case the fundraising team can send you necessary documents but the org won’t know who you are, and your name won’t be published in donor lists (so you won’t get solicitations from other places that saw your name in donor lists, for one).

          1. Morrigan Crow*

            If you’re donating through a DAF, you get the tax donation when you contribute to the fund, not when you assign the funds to a non-profit, so you won’t need receipts.

    2. KoiFeeder*

      Oh, man. I went to a private school, and the kids of the donors could kill someone and not get in trouble. I don’t know if it was the teachers themselves or pressure from the administration or both, but the ones in my class knew that they basically didn’t have to do anything in classes because they were guaranteed A’s no matter what they turned in.

      (I typed all that out and then remembered that one teacher did in fact get fired and was also the only one who flunked one of those kids.)

      1. Loves libraries*

        Former private school teacher here. It’s mostly pressure from the administration. It has been a factor in not renewing contracts.

  10. Nonprofit Dev Girlie*

    LW2: I think that there are a couple of options to introduce him to the organization with varying levels of privacy if you believe enough in the organization’s culture that you’d still like to connect him while you’re working there. I think larger nonprofits make this balance between major donor and employee relationship easier, as there is more distance between development officers, program staff, and decision makers.

    If you move forward, I would suggest is creating an organic opportunity for your father to meet the organization, which means bringing him as a guest to a development or program event with development staff. I’m assuming from your letter that you’re in either a program or administrative role at the org, so I would connect with someone on the special events or development teams and saying that your dad is interested in seeing where you work and learning about the organization, and if there are any upcoming events you could bring him to as a guest. As others have mentioned, if he is a local philanthropist, someone in development already knows about him, and they can largely be expected to prepare themselves to build a relationship with him when he visits.

    If you’re looking for a more private connection, I would recommend approaching a high-ranking fundraiser in the development department and suggested grabbing lunch together, as they would 1. never turn you down, and 2. open the door for you to have a truly private conversation where you can broach the subject of introducing your father to the organization. I would recommend this approach if he is planning to give anonymously during your tenure.

    For what it’s worth, I had a colleague who recently took a new position at a different org in town, and when she left, she shared with the development team that she had advised her family foundation to provide a substantial major gift to the organization without her name attached, that she only disclosed once she left. It allowed us to begin stewarding and cultivating her as a donor after she left, without affecting any perceptions of her during her employment. Just some thoughts!!

  11. Knitting Cat Lady*


    I quit my job as a PhD student one year in because my thesis supervisor was abusive.

    After trying to talk me into staying she came out with this gem:

    ‘What would your parents say?’

    As if my parents’ thoughts on that matter were in any way relevant.

    Mind you, they fully supported my decision. I had ben calling them from work, crying, more or less daily because of her.

    And fun fact: My mum finished her PhD and my dad quit a year in because he couldn’t support a family on the pay.

    1. Luna*

      “They know how you act towards me. They wholeheartedly agree! There’s a party waiting for me when I get home.”

    2. EPLawyer*

      I love it when people assume that the important people in your life think just like them rather than supporting you in making your own decisions.

    3. KRM*

      Oh…mine told me “I don’t want to say you can’t see your family, but you’ll have to make a choice about working on the weekends vs not” when I said I was going to see my brand new niece over a holiday weekend.
      I came in after that weekend and quit. And she was “petty” enough to say that she’d pay me through the end of Feb but I didn’t have to work, and b*tch that’s exactly what I want, because it frees up my time for job hunting but I don’t have to see you anymore and deal with your unreasonable expectations. Perfect.

    4. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

      In my case, I would be like, “What would my parents say? Well, they’re actually dead, so I’m not really too concerned about that.”

      I would say that totally deadpan (it’s completely true, btw) and then wait silently for her to come up with a response. With a little luck, that response would come with some degree of embarrassment on her part, but if not, I’d still enjoy the moment.

  12. TechWorker*

    I never really thought about #5 but of course Alison is right when you think about it – the interviewer doesn’t necessarily know at the end of the interview whether you’ll be going to the next stage or not. They might have other interviews still to go, or they might be just one of panel of interviewers they need to speak to first.

    1. Not A Raccoon Keeper*

      At my work (higher ed), you won’t be asked for references unless you’re the top candidate (therefore by email, after the interviews and discussion). They might contact top two in a very rare case, but you can’t make a habit out of it or else (something happens? dunno, I have not tried). It was nice during my recent internal job search, because I knew at that point that I would be getting an offer. This approach is also great because then you don’t feel like you’re oversharing your references’ contact info, without knowing how much they’ll be getting called.

    2. Triplestep*

      Random panel interviewers who aren’t the hiring manager aren’t calling your references and should not be asking about them. If a prospective colleague asked this during an interview, that would tell me this person was either very self-important, very naive, or both.

      1. Heather*

        That seems like a bit of an overreaction, no? If I’m on a panel interview and happen to know a candidate’s reference well, why can’t I ask them about the candidate next time I talk to them? and it’s only polite to mention that I might do so.

        1. Triplestep*

          If you’re not the hiring manager or the recruiter, it’s not your place to check references. How would you even know who was given as a reference? If you know someone who also knows the candidate and want to talk to that person, that comes under the heading of “gossip” or if that term bothers you “fact finding” (But “Gossip” is more accurate since it’s not an official reference check and your “fact finding” won’t be of any use.)

          So yes, if you want to say to the candidate “OK if I gossip about you with our mutual acquaintance?” I guess that would be OK.

  13. Irish Teacher.*

    The “not very Christian of you” is bizarre unless MAYBE you are working as a pastor or in a Christian charity and letting clients down. Even then, I would argue that Jesus tended to side with those with health problems and not with business interests.

    But more importantly, unless it IS an organisation where you are supposed to show your Christianity, like you’re a priest or pastor, you are under no obligation to be “Christian” at work. If you are NOT Christian or your boss doesn’t know your religion, this is particularly problematic, but even if they DO, it’s not your boss’s place to tell you how to follow your religion. Interpretations vary.

    I guess he is likely using “Christian” as a synonym for “good person,” which has problematic connotations too. And it seems manipulative, even in a way that “that isn’t very altruistic of you” does not. I’m not sure why. Perhaps because it is almost implying God agrees with him and disagrees with you?

    1. Ama*

      I *am* Christian, and I find there’s a strain of evangelical “Christian” that loves to invoke God the way 4-year-olds invoke their parents. “Give me that toy.” “No, I’m using it.” “Wash, I’m telling mom.” It’s very convenient how God wants with everything they want, so when you disagree with them it’s not a personal dispute it’s a moral failing. And since the wages of sin is death, it’s totally ok to wish bad things on you because if you’re disagreeing with God (through them, of course) then you’re a rotten sinner anyways.

      But we’ve certainly seen other instances of this attitude on this site with bosses who don’t pull the “Christian” card, talking about personal betrayals or “after everything I’ve done for you, how dare you prioritize your own needs”, or “we’re a family/the business won’t survive without you/you’re so unprofessional/you’re incompetent but also how dare you leave”. So I think this is a different flavour of the same sh!t anyways.

      1. Irish Teacher*

        Yeah, the second paragraph is definitely true. I was thinking after I posted that I should have said it feels MORE manipulative, not just that it feels manipulative, since like you say, people can be plenty manipulative without referencing religion.

      2. ferrina*

        Truth! My grandfather was king of this nonsense. He considered himself the highest moral authority, therefor God would naturally agree with him on everything. My favorite was when my sister disagreed with her on something minor- he started to lecture her on Christian texts, never mind that she had a Masters in Divinity from a very prestigious school and had learned ancient Greek and Hebrew so she could read religious texts in the original language. After she corrected his translations several times, he started lecturing her on respecting her elders (because it was so rude for her to be an expert).

        It was def the same song as other toxic bosses/people- if someone else dare have needs of any kind, they were selfish. If someone couldn’t or wouldn’t do a favor (no matter how minor or major), they were amoral. Side note: My grandpa ended his life sad and lonely because only three people would even talk to him by the end- he had alienated everyone else.

      3. Lily*

        Re your first paragraph- So very this. I’m also Christian, and when I realize I’m dealing with the kind of Christian who thinks this way (and yes, this type of thinking can be found in followers of ANY spiritual tradition), I keep my distance.

        For me, this is right up there with those who use dead friends, relatives, or authority figures as a cudgel- “It’s what _____ would have wanted.” But only the person making this comment is allowed to dictate what _____ “would have wanted.”

      4. Librarian of SHIELD*

        Yeah, this boss is trying to weaponize LW’s potential faith in the same way parents weaponize Santa. During the month of December, I hear so many parents tell their misbehaving kids “if you don’t stop that, Santa won’t bring you any presents.” Instead of using their own authority, they’re blaming any potential punishment on a higher power. This is exactly what this boss’s “not very Christian of you” statement is doing.

        1. NotVeryChristianResignation*

          Yep exactly! And he as I wrote in another comment. We’re both Christians (though he’s more conservative “evangelical “ than me). But ya it was 100% he was having a temper tantrum and ended up having verbal diarrhea.

    2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      “Even then, I would argue that Jesus tended to side with those with health problems and not with business interests.”

      Perfectly and delicately put. I am giggling.

    3. Asenath*

      If you are a Christian, you are a Christian all the time. Maybe not always a good one, but it’s not something you turn off, even if you are living somewhere you are expected to conceal or at least not show the fact in public or at work. So, yes, interpretations vary.

      Now, I don’t think an employer really should judge whether or not an employee is a Christian or not, so that part is kind of weird.

      1. Tian Tian*

        You may be Christian all the time, but you are not obliged to be so in the workplace. That is, your faith is your own business, and not something that your employer can require of you. You are reversing the two.

      2. Irish Teacher*

        Oh yes, if you are Christian, then presumably that would influence your behaviour at work, but…we don’t know the person was and even if they were, they weren’t necessarily the boss’s version of Christian. It’s not that Christians stop being Christian at work; it’s that it’s not the boss’s job to tell people they should be Christian or how they should interpret that.

        It’s not that one can “turn it off”. It’s that there is not a blanket rule that everybody must be Christian at work. And the odds are the boss doesn’t know the person’s religion, so he is placing the obligation on somebody who may well not be.

    4. Barb*

      The famous Christian author C.S. Lewis talks about this problematic use of “Christian” to mean “good person”:

      “It is important to notice that the danger to the word Christian comes not from its open enemies, but from its friends. It was not egalitarians, it was officious admirers of gentility, who killed the word gentleman. The other day I had occasion to say that certain people were not Christians; a critic asked how I dared say so, being unable (as of course I am) to read their hearts. I had used the word to mean ‘persons who profess belief in the specific doctrines of Christianity’; my critic wanted me to use it in what he would (rightly) call ‘a far deeper sense’—a sense so deep that no human observer can tell to whom it applies.”
      – The Death of Words

    5. Dinwar*

      “The “not very Christian of you” is bizarre unless MAYBE you are working as a pastor or in a Christian charity and letting clients down.”

      Not really. It’s just old-fashioned. It was common to use the term “Christian” to mean “civilized person” or “good person” in the past. Folks would say things like “Why can’t you wipe your feet like a Christian before you come in the house?” to mean that you were acting poorly, rather than to say you violated some actual tenet of the religion. It was common enough that at least one writer objected to it, saying that it was cheapening the term and removing a useful one (I forget if it was CS Lewis or GK Chesterton). Read any historically accurate book set in the early 1800s and you come across this usage constantly.

      Please understand, I’m not saying it’s good or defending the practice. It stems from a time where religious discrimination was not merely permitted but enshrined in law, and a supervisor of any sort using that terminology would be a very bad sign for me as an employee. I’m merely providing the etymology of the term. The weirdness stems not from the theological implications, but from the fact that he’s using a seriously outdated turn of phrase; it’s as if he showed up in a neckcloth and pantaloons.

      1. penny dreadful analyzer*

        I’m trying to figure out how “It’s not really bizarre” matches up with either the claim that it’s 1800s-era old-fashioned or your own claim later in the comment that it is in fact weird. Otherwise it’s just sort of oddly hostile to tack “Not really” onto the beginning of a comment where you aren’t actually disagreeing with anything.

        1. Dinwar*

          I’m not sure why you’re reading my comment as hostile. My intent was to illustrate the history of this usage of the word “Christian”. Several comments appear to have some misconceptions about the intent of the idiom (most don’t treat it as in idiom in the first place), and I figured it may be useful to understand the historical context, as that allows us to more accurately gauge the intent of the speaker.

          Mostly I’m geeking out over an obscure bit of etymology. I tend to do that.

          I also don’t think there’s an inherent contradiction in my statements. Something can seem weird, until you see how it makes sense at which point it becomes obvious. It can work the other way around, too–ties are common enough that no one thinks they’re weird, but when you learn the history you realize just how strange the practice is.

    6. NotVeryChristianResignation*

      Hey thanks for commenting!
      We work construction. I’m Christian and so is my boss and most of the people at the company except one. We’re a small company. We’ve been looking for help but it’s been hard to find.

      And yes I agree Jesus would side with the sick not the rich businessman.

      Interestingly when I called in sick because my mom in law (who lives next door) tested positive for Covid and my kids had fevers of 103&104 his response was “have they tested for it yet?!?” And “we are supposed to get that project finished today!”. Keep in mind I almost never call out. Once or twice per year. Sometime I don’t call out for a whole year.

      Then when my Crohn’s got worse and my doctor suggested reducing my hours and taking wednesdays off his response was “so you can come in on saturdays?”
      Next I told him – I’m having a hard time doing new construction jobsites could we switch it up and maybe have me do more of either task A or task b? And he had me doing new construction for the entire month of September.

      Then there’s also all the broken promises for more training. I could go on and on. They paid me well but I need a change.

  14. I Would Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

    #4: That is how I got my first post-college gig; my friend was interviewed for a position but then decided he wasn’t interested. When he emailed them to decline, he mentioned that I might be a fit and attached my resume.

    They contacted me for an interview and I was with that org for about six years…I also lucked out – mine turned out to be a much more stable job than the one my friend picked instead; he was job-hunting again within six months, poor guy! But I did treat him to a nice dinner after I got the j0b. :)

      1. Ginger Baker*

        I did exactly this for a friend and got her a whole start into a new career field for her through that (a friend was leaving a role and recommended me, but on discussing during the interview I found the level and salary were too low for me – but perfect for my friend, who I then later recommended). One of my favorite stories!

      2. Sparrow*

        It’s totally fine to recommend her, but if I’m reading correctly you’re thinking of bringing an actual physical copy of her resume to your interview? Definitely don’t do that.

        1. Sherm*

          Yeah, if I were the interviewer, and the interviewee whipped out someone else’s resume at the end, I would suspect that the interviewee had no intention of taking the job and just wasted everyone’s time.

  15. Ama*

    #1 – I’m honestly curious as to why you think it would be ok for your business to claim ownership of this stuff without paying her for it. I hope it was a knee-jerk emotional reaction to how she treated you and how she left, because if you legitimately think this would be an ok thing to do I have genuine concerns about your personal ethics. You don’t just get to decide that this stuff is yours because she didn’t submit reimbursements on time. Her unprofessional behaviour when resigning has no bearing on your financial obligations to her.

    Others have also mentioned being surprised that a new employee was immediately given free access to a credit card with vague instructions and no oversight, and I have to agree with them. It’s one thing to say “you’re now in charge of ordering x specific office supplies on y schedule.” It’s another thing to say “make the office look nice for $3000 but I’m not going to tell you what to buy, which items to prioritize, or let you know if 3k is a hard limit or if we can go 1-2k over for the right look.” Furthermore, when she first started buying stuff on her personal card you could have sent it home with her and insisted on her reordering them using the card, or removed her from this office decorating task when you started to get the impression that she was in over her head. There were so many points for you to intervene in this situation, and the fact just you didn’t makes it especially galling that you want to keep the stuff now without paying for it as some sort of punishment or life lesson for this employee. You’re her ex-boss, not her parent. It’s not up to you to enforce “natural consequences for bad behaviour” when that involves factors solely within your control.

    1. Allonge*

      There is nothing indicating OP did not have a discussion with this person about what items to buy or prioritise.

      1. Ama*

        Also nothing to indicate they did, though. And when the employee put stuff on their credit card and didn’t respond to further reimbursement requests, and OP got the inkling that it was because they had gone over budget, there were better options than “ignore the situation and keep using stuff we haven’t actually paid for.” E.g. tell employee that it seems they may have spent more than was budgeted and they need to return some stuff, or need to give a final list of purchased items by end of day today, or any number of things to prioritize a situation that was clearly getting out of hand. The fact that they settled on that indicates OP just wanted this whole decorating situation to not be their problem, which worked until it didn’t.

        1. Allonge*

          I agree OP could have handled this better, but the reason you hire additional people is always to be able to make some things not your problem – and ‘buy some plants and pictures and a nice coffee table’ IS something one should be able to delegate, even to a new hire.

          Occasionally, this will blow up in your face. C’est la vie. Still better that there are issues with decorative plants than with, e.g. product development.

        2. Happy meal with extra happy*

          One of the reasons that Alison asks that we take letter writers at their word is because they’re never going to put every possibly relevant email into a letter.

    2. Susan Calvin*

      So I definitely have some questions about OP’s delegation skills in this whole affair (and a sense that some context is being left out), but I can at least sort of see a more charitable interpretation for where she’s coming from with wanting to keep the stuff – if say, I hired a decorator to make-over my living room, he forgot to bill me even after months of running after him, and he *then* proceeded to come to my house and take down the new curtains again, I’d be rather upset! (To be clear, I think OP is in the wrong overall, but not necessarily driven by any malicious, punitive impulse)

      1. Ama*

        That’s fair, and I totally understand that as an emotional response. But the way she wrote into Alison made me think she was seriously considering it and not just venting, which is what got my hackles up. I accept I could be wrong about that.

  16. Anomie*

    How about hiring a decorator to do the office instead of an employee? And not hand over credit cards for such a project to a brand new hire? This whole situation is strange to me.

    1. Triplestep*

      Same, but that’s because I work in office planning and design. I wrote about this elsewhere here, but offices are not homes and decisions around commercial furnishings, textiles and lighting require at the very least a little research. (At best a designer, but not every business can afford one.)

    2. turquoisecow*

      A $3,000 budget would not allow room to pay a decorator in addition to items for the space.

      1. Allonge*

        Also there are places where buying things and buying services are not treated the same. I am not saying it would not be ideally handled by a professional, but that is not always possible.

  17. Luna*

    LW1 – In hindsight, after she purchased items on her own cards once or twice, you should have immediately put your foot down and say she needs to use the company cards, and any further items purchased on her own cards are not going to get reimbursed.
    Also, if you are thinking that she was going over the budget and was using her personal cards for that, didn’t you notice when you cut her the checks?

    LW2 – I think there’s nothing wrong with mentioning your organization to your dad and leaving him information that he can pursue at his leisure. If he does end up deciding to donate, then it isn’t because you are his kid, but because he likely read through the stuff, thought it was worth donating to, and did so. And if he decides to not donate, then that’s that. His money, his decision on where to donate/spend it.
    If it gets brought up, you can shrug it off and say, “Ah, yeah, that’s my dad.” and not make a big deal out of it.

    LW3 – “Do not bring religion into this. The notice period is a *courtesy* of mine towards you, if you don’t appreciate that, I will gladly make today my last day. See how you work through this mess.”
    Okay, granted, that’s more for when you are willing to burn bridges horrendously.

    1. NotVeryChristianResignation*

      Lol! I might have used that line , or next time. Hopefully there isn’t a next time though.

      I’m LW3 btw. And ya I’m trying to not burn that bridge. Been here almost 4 years and it’s a small county so we will probably be crossing paths at the supply house or hardware stores.

      But yes I should have just shut that down. I basically said nothing after he said that which was probably wisest for me. He just kept going off and just put his foot further and further in his mouth.

      The owner/founder was PISSED when he heard about this. My boss tried to call to apologize 45 mins after my shift ended. He apologized to my voicemail.

      The owner even told me if anything changes he’d hire me even if it was part time. He was very professional and took feedback well. We had a 2 1/2 hour meeting the day after.

      1. Vanilla Nice*

        Glad to hear the owner set things straight!

        In my experience, people can be pretty awful about how they handle other people’s resignations resignations. I had a co-worker at a previous job who was downright cruel when she heard another co-worker (said things along the lines of “I’ll never be a reference for you” and “it’s selfish of you to leave just for a higher salary”). She did a complete 180-degree turn a few days later when word started to circulate about what she had said and she claimed that it was all “a misunderstanding.” That still doesn’t excuse the relational aggression, but I don’t think a lot of people really bother to think through what they’re saying.

  18. Silence*

    4 I would probably forward the link to the job ad to your friend so they could apply themselves if it is still posted

    1. OP4*

      Unfortunately the job hasn’t been posted anywhere as far as I know.
      I applied through word of mouth.
      Hiring in my town is happening that way a lot at the moment, across industries. It seems there are so many people moving jobs that telling your staff “we need a (whatever), does anyone know someone?” gets enough interest to have a decent pool of applicants.

      1. Be kind, rewind*

        genuinely curious: does this risk running afoul of anti-compete agreements with previous employers if these candidates are former coworkers?

        1. EPLawyer*

          There are not a lot of anti-compete agreements out there. Some fields use them more than others, and some companies use them. But in general, anti-compete agreements are like employment contracts. If you have someone sign an anti-compete agreement you have to give them something in return for them giving up the right to change employers at will. Most companies don’t want to do that because it affects THEIR ability to fire someone at will.

          I’m sure if anti-compete agreements were an issue, given how the hiring is working right now, OP would know about it.

          1. OP4*

            There’s no anti-compete issue on this one.
            Though it would be something to keep in mind in other situations

    2. ThursdaysGeek*

      The friend is more likely to have the resume actually considered if it comes through someone they are interviewing. That puts it above all the rest who just apply through a posting. (Although, as the OP points out, this job wasn’t even posted.)

  19. Re: last names*

    Unless your last name is *very special* most people will not realize that are related at all unless you tell them. I have an uncommon name, but when I was at a workplace with someone else with that name, no one assumed we were connected (we were not). My friend’s last name is far less common, but people do not connect connect her to her father although they are in the same industry. Unless your dad mentions you and the relationship, most people will not notice (just maybe don’t put his name on the building).

    1. Asenath*

      Well…that’s not always the case. My real last name is fairly uncommon where I live, although common enough in other parts of the world, particularly other English-speaking parts. And every single time someone showed up in the same city with the same surname, I swear I was asked if we were related. Now, I think it had to be someone in a job that involved meeting a lot of people, so lots of people knew my new “relative”, but it didn’t have to be someone in my workplace or any of my social circles.

    2. CharlieBrown*


      I have a fairly rare last name, and when someone found out what it was, they asked if I were related to the people who own a party store of the same name on the other side of my very large state.

      1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

        Yeah, if someone in my town asks “Are you related to X?” the answer is always yes (although I may not know the exact relationship if they’re from the other branch of the family).

        If someone asks “I saw an article about someone with your last name. He’s got this car…” then it’s my Dad. (It’s an entertaining human interest story, which I will not share as it’s unique enough to identify him, and therefore me.)

    3. ferrina*

      Usually yes. But donor relations may have already made the connection if they had pinpointed Dad as a potential donor. It’s their job to know key details about potential donors so they know how to approach them.

    4. Dr. Rebecca*

      idk, I have a *very* common last name, that just so happens to be shared by a famous/pioneering sci-fi author, and was recently asked if he’s my father. He’s 100% not. Never met him. BARELY read anything by him.

      1. Irish Teacher*

        I have a colleague who is a history teacher and has a VERY common last name, which happens to be the same last name as a very famous figure from Irish history. The surname is so common that this very famous figure shares his FULL NAME (first and last) with another famous figure, which should indicate how common it is. She once apparently had a student ask if he was her husband (and I don’t think they were joking!).

        That said, it’s not a reasonable assumption in those cases.

        1. Dr. Rebecca*

          Yes, my point is that people make unreasonable assumptions to find points of (imagined) commonality. Having a common surname isn’t going to help the LW so long as the surnames match.

    5. Ginger Baker*

      Not my experience; I have a pretty *common* last name and got [casually] grilled by someone once who was SURE he must know my family (it’s a common name in a particular community, though as it happens I got it from a very different unconnected family who VERY DEFINITELY were not part of that community – it was an awkward conversation.)

    6. Eldritch Office Worker*

      If you’re in a small industry with a lot of connections, or even a low to medium population density area? I don’t agree.

    7. breakfast burrito*

      I think it depends on the community. I married into a family in a rural area of a mostly rural state and I’m routinely expected to explain the family tree to anyone who ever had a relative, living or dead, in the tri-county area. People are always making assumptions.

    8. doreen*

      That depends on how “uncommon” the name is. The only non-relative I have ever heard of with the same last name as me is a famous actor (who spells it differently)Enough people have seriously asked if we are related that I am certain if my parent/sibling/cousin was a local multi-millionaire people would just assume we were related.

  20. Triplestep*

    #4 I have done something similar, but don’t sit through the whole interview and then whip out your friend’s resume. Your interviewers will likely feel that you wasted their time and neither you nor your friend will be considered.

    In my case, once I was sure I didn’t want the job, I sent an email to the in-house recruiter saying “I realize this is a bit unorthodox … ” and then talked up my friend. I provided a link to her Linkedin profile (not her resume). She did get an interview, but we both had the same feelings about the place and she ended up opting out as well.

    1. OP4*

      This makes sense.
      If I opt out, I should email them later with my friend’s info.

      That also gives me time to consider and not have to decide on the spot, which is good.

      1. Kes*

        Yeah I would probably go to the interview, see how it goes, and then if you still feel the same way reach out to friend, see if they’d be interested and then you can go back to the interviewer and say after some thought I don’t think this is the best fit for me right now but I actually know someone who would great for this role, …etc
        If you were sure you didn’t want the job you could do this before the interview but if you’re not sure I would do the interview and see how that goes first

        1. OP4*

          That makes a lot of sense.

          I will go to the interview (later this week) and see what I can learn.
          There are a few specific questions I have which would be deal breakers for me, but not for my friend (we are otherwise fairly similarly qualified).
          I shouldn’t write this off before I have the information I need to actually decide.

          And I promise to update, though this is pretty low-stakes compared to some of the drama we get on here! :)

  21. hamsterpants*

    Letter #1 had echos of the “new receptionist’s shopping habit” letter from a month ago. I know that they are (almost certainly) about different receptionists with weird shopping habits, but I remember how many people in the comments of the latter letter advised giving that receptionist MORE freedom and discretion to buy what she wanted. It’s not surprising to me that such a situation can backfire easily!

  22. CharlieBrown*

    LW#1 – Yeah, there was something odd going on. I’m thinking that both boss and employee thought this would be a simple job, but it’s not! Decorating is hard! There’s a reason you pay professionals for this. The employee was probably in over her head and had no idea how to approach the boss about this.

    1. londonedit*

      This is what I was thinking…it sounds like one of those situations where the new employee said yes to doing the decorating even though they weren’t really sure what was involved, somehow managed to get in way over their head, and then didn’t know what to do about it. There aren’t many details in the OP’s letter but it feels like there was a lack of communication all round – why did it take so long for the OP to realise the employee was putting things on their personal cards? Why did the employee do that in the first place – did they not know how to use the company card and were embarrassed to say so? Why did the OP not shut that down as soon as they realised? Why did it take months for the employee to buy a few bits and pieces to spruce up the office? Were they checking in with the OP on what they were buying? It’s all just a bit odd, but I presume it’s a case of someone biting off more than they could chew and then trying to cover it up rather than admitting they’re struggling.

  23. Vice President of Monitoring Employees’ LinkedIn and Indeed Profiles*


    How much notice does the Bible say one must give in order to count as a “good Christian”?

    1. CharlieBrown*

      “Blessed are the notice-givers, for they do not burden their overlords with the ongoing need to have a meaningful, fulfilling life.”

      –Epistle to the Bourgeoisians, Chapter 4, verse 11.

  24. D.C. Paralegal*

    While I’m not going to defend an employee who quit on the spot in a fit of rage, some very basic adjustments would have prevented LW #1’s thing from becoming a crisis.

    1) “I gave her two company credit cards to use, and asked her to use them because i didn’t want to mess around with reimbursements.”

    Why ask as opposed to instruct? “Here’s a company card. All office purchases need to go on it.” Done.

    Also, the reason to have an employee use a company card for business purchases instead of a personal one shouldn’t be for your own convenience. It’s to avoid things like embezzlement, honest mistakes during the reimbursement process, etc. This is doubly true for a new employee.

    2) “However, she put many items on her personal cards and then asked to be reimbursed.”

    Even if we give her the benefit of the doubt and ascribe this to her forgetting the instructions or wanting the credit card points instead of something nefarious, this would have been a good place to have the “What on earth do you mean you put them on your own card?” talk. Some employees don’t initially realize that what seemed like a minor thing to them was actually a huge breach of protocol, and how you react in the moment will define their mistake in their mind as either not a big deal or a potentially fireable offense that can never be repeated. Honestly, based on these descriptions, I can’t entirely blame her for coming out of these discussions thinking it was the former.

    3) “I reminded her of this process in June and July. She never did.”

    By June, at least, I would have been freaked out enough to take away her purchasing autonomy. With a new employee, there are some instructions that are complex enough to where multiple reminders might be appropriate. “Don’t use your own credit card for office purchases” isn’t one of them.

    1. New Jack Karyn*

      It sounds like a pretty small business. I’m all for a manager or owner having things done how they want them to suit their convenience. (Of course, to a reasonable extent, such as here.)

      1. Allonge*

        Also – so what if for once convenience and financial considerations go the same way? It’s not like it’s a bad thing that the sensible choice is also convenient.

    2. The Person from the Resume*

      The LW is in the current situation because she didn’t deal with the problem right away when it first happened. When the LW got the first reimbursement request she should have rejected it or allowed the first one, but reiterate that she’s not going to be reimbursing and reject all future one. Employee was told to use the company credit cards LW gave her, employee should return the items and get a refund for what she purchased outside of the authorized process. Or she should take it home. Purchased with personal cash or on a personal credit card, venmo, paypal is a personal purchase, not an office purchase. Employee can do what she wants with it, but it doesn’t belong to the office or in the office.

      Which means at this point, if the LW hasn’t been reimbursed for certain items, she needs to let her former employee have them because the employee owns them. Watch her closely, though, ensuring she takes on unreimbursed items. Or deliver it to her. This whole situation is squirrely and seems like some sort of scam. Why would the employee front the purchases for the business?

      This must be a small business, but I work for the federal government. You can’t just buy things and ask for reimbursement from the government. There are clear rules on what will be and won’t be reimbursed (and basically this is related to travel not office furnishings), and they just won’t reimburse outside the rules.

      1. I should really pick a name*

        There should be an extremely high bar for rejecting an expense if they’re buying what you told them to buy. What is the actual cost to the company for someone submitting it as an expense as opposed to using the card other than inconvenience?

        It sounds like it’s the LW’s preference to use the card, not the company’s policy. Yes, they should have had a conversation after the first time the employee didn’t follow instructions, but refusing to reimburse a legit expense is quite extreme.

        1. Dinwar*

          It depends on what the thing is. For a potted plant or a cheap picture? Reimburse it, have a talk with the employee, move on with your lives. However, anything involving a warranty or insurance or the like, or anything with potential liability attached to it, may need to go through the company. You don’t want the warranty to be in the employee’s name and have the employee quit during the warranty period! And of course regulations need to be abided by. Those regulations are there for a reason, often to prevent bribes, kickbacks, and other unethical behaviors. Opting out of those systems raises major red flags.

          It’s also worth looking at how the accounting department deals with things. Reimbursement may take a significantly larger amount of time compared tot he company credit card.

    3. Cmdrshpard*

      I will say this sounds a bit nit picky in terms of language: “Why ask as opposed to instruct? “Here’s a company card. All office purchases need to go on it.” Done.”

      In a work setting being asked to do something especially by your boss 9/10 is the same as being told. Most reasonable employees would understand that. I agree there are things OP could have done better I don’t think the language the first time was one of them. After the first time the employer put them on a personal card I do agree OP should have been very clear and explicit about having to use the company card.

  25. Poppy*

    #3: My last boss said the same thing about me “stabbing him in the back” when I quit my absolutely abusive, terrible job. I gave a month’s notice, but quit during the “wrong” time of year (after our busy season, but somehow a time he didn’t think he could hire anyone which made no sense in our industry). He had a history of losing his mind when employees quit and becoming irate so it wasn’t surprising. He ended up asking me to leave earlier and I was downright thrilled to do so. I did get called a traitor behind my back by some of the other employees, but found a new job that paid almost twice as much for half the hours. I haven’t regretted my decision for a second and realized what a POS he was.

    1. NotVeryChristianResignation*

      Glad you found some greener grass. I see clear blue skies on my horizon too!

  26. Dinwar*

    #4: I’ve seen that happen–we were interviewing, and they recommended another person, complete with handing us the resume. We ended up hiring both people. Finding good employees is hard, after all!

    It does put you on the spot a little bit, in that the other employee’s behavior is going to be seen as an example of your professional judgment. If the other person does really well it makes you look a little better; if they crash and burn it makes you look a little worse; if they show up drunk and crash a skid steer the company will wonder what your problem is. For anything but the most extreme negative outcomes, however, it’ll be a mild addendum to your evaluation. Like a bay leaf: not really noticeable as a distinct thing, but something that enriches the experience. Quite obviously, your own actions will make much more of a difference.

    1. OP4*

      Thank you! I love hearing that it’s been done before and not totally weird.

      In this case, the hiring company is small enough that there is likely only one vacancy. But the friend I have in mind is amazing (and, actually, in some ways would be better suited than I would in fact!)

  27. Forgot my name again*

    LW2: I have a slightly different situation – I have a line report who started out as a volunteer then the institution realised it needed to be a paid position so they interviewed for the job. They also happen to be one of the more generous donors to the institution. It could have been difficult, but it was always made clear that the two states (working grunt and generous donor) were separate and would have no bearing on each other. So far (7 years), that’s worked out really well all round, but I can definitely see that it requires a lot of careful boundary-setting and maintenance!

  28. MCL*

    #5, at my large public university, we ask at both preliminary and second interviews whether we can contact references. It doesn’t mean anything, it’s just our HR rule to ask that question of all candidates. If you feel like you want to check in, a quick email asking if they have any updates is fine, but just one.

  29. Lacey*

    LW5: Also, some employers will ask if they can call your references, never do it, and still offer you the job. I’ve literally never had my references contacted!

  30. Hiring Mgr*

    Most places don’t seem to even call references anymore.. Honestly i’ve kind of stopped doing it for the most part too. The only way to make references really useful imo is to back channel. Candidates should do that too btw

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Yeah we chat with mutual contacts if they’re available but I’ve stopped calling references too. It used to be a hill I would die on but I’ve found it less and less useful over time.

    2. MCL*

      And we have to do it (public university). I think for some places it’s still definitely part of the hiring process. For government or government-adjacent institutions I think it would be more common to have a reference check.

  31. Erin*

    #2 a good friend of mine did this, and it worked out really well for all parties involved.

    He essentially pitched his family’s donation to his organization, and drew up a “terms of involvement” (as he called it) document & presentation that outlined how he was not vying for a spot on the advisory board, a promotion, or special treatment in ANY way with his family’s donation. His family simply felt passionately about helping the cause, and any matters relating to their donation would be handled without him. TBH, he was a high performer in school (how I met him) and I imagine he’s a high performer at work, and he doesn’t need his family to buy him a promotion.

    It worked out really well for my friend, and for the org. He has since moved on professionally, but I believe his family still donates to this org, and I would not be surprised if my friend sends a separate donation to support the organization that is so dear to him.

  32. Half April Ludgate, Half Leslie Knope*

    OP2, former development officer here. Honestly, if your father is already giving at a high level in your organization’s sector, he’s probably already on their prospect list (our organization definitely knew who the players were in our community – any development officer worth their salt knows how to find the wealthy who care about their cause). In our organization, it was pretty common for family to donate after their family member joined up, because they learned more about the organization and wanted to support it. Having an up front conversation with development and your leadership about wanting to ensure any gifts from him are due to his passion for the cause and not your employment should be something all parties can handle.

  33. Abogado Avocado*

    LW#4, thank you for this terrific idea and, Alison, thank you for blessing it! Many of us have gone through interview processes where we’ve ultimately decided we’re not a good fit for a given job and know someone else who would be better. Reading a letter like this and Alison’s response gives me hope that, if we all look out for each other in the world of work, we will all be happier.

  34. MidwesternWorker*

    At my first job out of college I told HR first thing on a Monday morning that the next Friday would be my last day and he tried to tell me he wouldn’t tell future reference checkers I gave two weeks notice since it “wasn’t a full two weeks.” My actual boss told me to just ignore him thankfully but you cannot be rational enough to appease irrational people.

  35. AlabamaAnonymous*

    LW#2, I worked at a nonprofit for a while that employed the daughter of a major donor/board member. Leadership was careful not to upset her and to make sure her programs were a success, at the expense of everyone else and other programs. She was actually a lovely person, but there was a clear org priority to keep her happy so donor dad would stay happy. All of the other staff knew that her stuff took priority and that you didn’t disagree with her. If you had asked either her or her dad, they would have denied any favoritism and been horrified by the idea, but humans are human and it isn’t really avoidable in that situation.

    1. Koalafied*

      Yeah, there’s nothing you can do to change the power dynamic between a nonprofit and its major funders, which is an enormous differential. At a large enough donation level, you can have entire service areas as well as multiple people’s jobs quite literally depending on the donor’s continued patronage, and at that point it’s only rational for the nonprofit to do everything they can, short of breaking the law or betraying their mission, to ensure it does continue.

      It’s bad enough when these kinds of donor relationship means that Major Donor’s Pet Interest Project gets funded while Unglamorous Program With Greater Need doesn’t – at least Major Donor’s Pet Interest Project is presumably still within the nonprofit’s mission, even if the staff doesn’t think it’s the highest priority or the ideal use of the organization’s resources. Nonprofits learn to live with those kinds of compromises to please a major funder.

      But it crosses into much worse territory when the donor has a vested interest not just in a particular area of work, but in a particular staff member’s well-being. At that point the organization has to assume that not only every aspect of the employee’s working conditions and career development, but every internal policy and procedure that touches that staff member, is potentially being scrutinized by the donor. Not just whether they think their relative is getting the projects, opportunities, scheduling flexibility, promotions, raises, etc. that they feel the relative deserves, not just potential fallout from disciplining or laying off the employee. but is the funder going to have opinions about things like which health insurance or retirement plan options the organization offers, or whether the organization is giving the right amount of PTO to employees? Even if the employee and the funder swear they’re not going to talk about working conditions with each other and the funder swears he would never withhold funding over a personal grievance… that’s just not realistic. People are human, they have personal feelings, and donating to a charity is not the same as retaining a lawyer or buying software license subscriptions, where there’s a set price and what that price buys is clearly defined. Many people would find it hard not to let their personal feelings influence the size of the gift they make.

  36. jellybean*

    #2: hi, I did this. don’t want to get into too much detail but nonprofit employee with a very wealthy extended family member. They came to ME about wanting to donate and I asked politely if someone would be interested in meeting with them (I was also in programming, not development and at the time I didn’t know as much about fundraising as I do now). I was very naïve and rosy eyed about the whole thing and thought it would be lovely if it worked out. It was not lovely.

    Let me just start by saying I never expected them to bend over backwards for my relative, or that they would be so lucky to be graced with the opportunity to receive money from them (I had my own experiences in nonprofit where I firmly believed we should’ve said no to some donors since their interests weren’t aligned). They were interested, so I connected them to the right person, and left it at that.

    Suddenly, a whole department of colleagues I didn’t know well wanted to be my best friend, just to inevitably turn the conversation to fawning over my relative. Things like asking me to find out their favorite brand of champagne, and when I didn’t know, buying them a $500 bottle because it was “classy” (which is very much not their style, and something I communicated). Seeing a dozen senior executives go into a meeting room where I can see the calendar title booked is the name of my relative, when many of these same people had (and would, for the rest of my tenure) never acknowledged me, any other member of my programs team, or frankly, show any interest in the programs we ran (for which they were fundraising), made me feel really bitter.

    Apparently they planned an extremely ambitious ask (eg. let’s say my relative was donating $1MIL a year – they wanted to ask them for $10MIL the following year) which my relative politely declined, but said maybe in the long term we can discuss. After that, they put very little donor stewardship into the relationship and nobody pretended to want to be my bestie anymore. My relative kept donating even after I left, but a few years later told me they just stopped donating (a still significant sum) and nobody had contacted them in any way to inquire about it.

    I know some of these conversations in fundraising are normal and not always as icky as they might seem on the outside, but it really showed me a very unpleasant side of my organization and was the first of many realizations that they prioritized money and schmoozing over anything else.

    Feel free to go into it if you think it’ll be fine, but be prepared for what you might not expect to find.

  37. Kittee*

    Re #4 — recommending a friend for a job you’ve applied for — I did that twice! And both friends got the jobs and were splendid at them. I was very tempted at that point to become a recruiter or job placement counselor. :-)

    1. Kittee*

      p.s. I did not hand over their resumes! But at the end of the interviews when it was clear it wasn’t a good fit for me, I brought up their names and backgrounds, and then I let my friends know about the jobs and connected them to the interviewer.

      1. OP4*

        That’s what I’m thinking.

        Originally, I was going to have a copy of her resume with me “just in case”, but the more I think about it (and read the comments) the more insane that looks. (Loony, even!)

        I’ll do the interview, ask what I need to know to decide for myself, and if it’s not for me then send an email suggesting my friend as an excellent alternative.

  38. I Talk About Motorcycles Too Much*

    Letter#1 “I gave her two company credit cards to use, and asked her to use them because i didn’t want to mess around with reimbursements.” I am curious as to why there were 2 credit cards. It seems that 1 major credit card would have been sufficient if it had $3000 available for use.

    This makes me flashback to a non-profit I worked at in the 80’s that never had more than $100 available on the company card. Keeping supplies on hand was always a matter of juggling their available balance with covering expenses on my dime so clients had the essentials then waiting (impatiently!) to be reimbursed. Similarly, low available credit balances might explain why it took so long for purchases and the employee decided to used her own funds to complete the task rather than trying to fit things in to what was available on each card.

    Of course, I may be way off base but this may help explain some of the strangeness.

  39. Rika*

    #3. Oh, this takes me back 18 years to my first internship while in college! I was leaving one day earlier (can’t remember why now). No one thought it was a big deal except for this one art director -who wasn’t even my internship supervisor- who completely lost her $hit! As I went around to everyone to say goodbye and thank you, she FOLLOWED ME THROUGH THE ENTIRE BUILDING into everyone’s offices, screaming, bright red, tears streaming down her face. From the outside it must have looked like some surrealistic play. I was a pretty timid person, especially then, but by the end I was so wired and upset I just blurted out for her to bite me. I thought she’d have a stroke.

    I think it’s a hilarious story now, but at the time I was only 21 and I was shaking for two days afterwards.

    Don’t worry, LW, it’ll be funny in 18 years.

  40. H3llifIknow*

    Especially lately, it seems that every time someone reaches out for a job, and I say, “No thanks” they respond with, “Well please let anyone in your network who may be interested know, or let me know if you know of anyone else.” So, I think that’s perfectly fine, but like Alison said, NOT IN THE INTERVIEW… after. Even if it’s only an hour or 2 after.

  41. Anon (hoping my mom doesnt read AAM comments)*

    Absolutely boggled by #2, as someone who also works at a nonprofit and comes from a wealthy family with a particularly philanthropic relative. My parents (and grandparents) have tried to use donations to this nonprofit as an incentive to get my employer to do things for me–my grandfather in particular is the kind of person who gives big donations and then expects special treatment for his generosity. They didn’t donate as an incentive to hire me thank god, but there have been other instances since I’ve worked here. When I aged out of my parents’ insurance, my grandparents made a sizable donation to help ensure my employer could afford to hire me full time (i.e. give me health benefits). Needless to say I was NOT stoked when my mom casually mentioned this to me. I know my family thinks they were helping me but it felt so, so gross to know I was only given benefits because of them. It’s left me feeling beholden to my family in ways I would really rather not be–even if they really did donate from the “goodness of their hearts” or unconditional family love, it’s still something they could easily hold over me if they wanted to. Writer #2, trust me, you do not want your big wealthy family to donate to your job.

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