why is your job asking you for money?

When you go to work, you assume you’re there to earn income — so it can be particularly galling when your workplace pressures you to part with your hard-earned cash. Yet, being expected to open your wallet is surprisingly common in the workplace. From collections taken up for office baby showers to retirements to farewell gifts, workplace charity drives, and beyond, there’s seemingly a never-ending rotation of occasions designed to zap the money you earn.

At Slate today, I wrote about pressure to donate money at work.

{ 274 comments… read them below }

  1. Dawn*

    I used to work for a company where if we didn’t do at least two charitable things – money contributions or volunteering – every month, it would affect our performance review, which directly affected our potential raises.

    The company, of course, paid peanuts and discouraged employees from ever taking time off.

    Never happier to leave a job in my life.

    1. lilsheba*

      Sounds like my former job at a bank call center *cough* wf *cough* they were like that too. Now I don’t have to worry about being hounded to donate to anything anymore and I like that much better, since I don’t do work donations.

      1. Dawn*

        Hah, yeah, also a call centre although mine was in Canada.

        There are just some endemic bad practices at call centres everywhere, though.

      2. Darury*

        I work at large bank and they do a “employee assistance fund” every year where we’re expected to donate for other employees having emergencies. I feel like if it’s that big of concern for them, they could offer no\low interest loans with forgiveness after X period to support the employees.

    2. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

      Ugh. If a company wants to encourage its employees to volunteer for charitable causes, they should do what my former company did and give us specifically allocated PTO days to use for that purpose. We got 2 a year and could use them for either personally selected causes or company-sponsored charity events. Pretty nice perk if you ask me, and a good example of a company putting their money where their mouth is.

      1. Spring*

        Two jobs ago, they did this, and I took the opportunity to volunteer in my community. I was surprised that it wasn’t offered at my next job or my current job. Maybe because the first company was huuuuuge, and the other two are small…?

        1. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

          Yeah, company size/revenue is definitely a big factor. I understand why my current tiny company doesn’t offer this, and I also appreciate that they don’t pressure me to donate to their pet causes. My former company was much larger and could easily afford to give some extra PTO to support charitable giving.

          1. TheBunny*

            I worked for a company who did this, they just required that the charity be approved. I remember one guy who really took that wrong and was told…look we pretty much approve anything, but we need to make sure company t shirts don’t show up at things like KKK rallies.

            They had a point.

        2. Gumby*

          The first company I worked grew from 40 to 150 employees during my time there. We got 2 hours/week that we could use to volunteer. Or one day a month. Or we could participate in one of the monthly events that HR organized – things like staffing for a Boys & Girls Club summer fair, putting together project kits at Resource Area for Teaching, sorting food at Second Harvest, etc. They also matched donations up to a limit (something like $500/yr.). So it *can* be done at smaller organizations, but it has to be an intentional part of planning.

      2. Dawn*

        Nah, they wanted to be able to say they were very community-minded (they had an in at the local paper who happily printed up all of the “volunteer activities” that the company arranged but contributed nothing do beyond pressuring employees to go) without actually ponying up. “All of our employees give back to the community” was what they were trying for there.

        1. Reebee*

          That’s kind of petty. “We got 2 a year and could use them…”

          Could. Not must. Could.

          1. Kyrielle*

            Yup. Where I am, we get two a year and can use them for any volunteering we want. And there is – I can say with confidence! – no penalty for not doing so, no pressure or tracking. It’s just an option people have for if they want to use it. And I have yet to see our company using it as “we are so good for the community” messaging when someone does use it. They reserve that messaging for when company money/time/spaces are directly put toward such things, not for what their employees choose to volunteer two days for.

            1. Grandma*

              Do they allow people who don’t use their 2 days to pass them to someone who could use them? In our small-ish town we have a five day volunteer run Girl Scout Day Camp. We need the volunteers to be the unit leaders, the crafts leaders, the archery folks, the program people, the cooking leader, and the admin and directors who make this all come together. It takes 8 months or so to organize and train. This part can be done by people who work on it after their paid work hours. For the week of, though, we need those adults during their work day. A number of people take their vacation days to do this, for instance the doctor who volunteered to be our first aider (she passed out at least a dozen band-aids for little owies that week as well as treated a couple of campers for dehydration and sent home a camper with COVID.) Most working moms can’t do this, so staffing is always an issue. We are three weeks until camp and we still need one 5 day volunteer to replace someone who had to drop out and a 1 day volunteer to fill a coverage gap in the boys’ unit (the sons of camp volunteers, they have a lot of fun doing their own thing). How much better would it be for an employee to be able to use their 2 days and be donated the other 3 days by other employees who don’t plan to use them?

          2. Dawn*

            Believe me, I’m not intending anything I say here to reflect favourably upon that place. Petty is the least of it.

        2. Sloanicota*

          I’ve also been the nonprofit that they call up to ask us to schedule volunteer days for them. Usually, there is no associated donation, and they have special needs for their size of staff. There actually aren’t that many nonprofits set up to handle something like this as a matter of course, but try explaining that to them. The one thing they will definitely have is branded t shirts and lots of photos for their annual report.

          1. Lily Rowan*

            Oh yeah, I have been the nonprofit staff person that had to deal with a request to bring 50 employees in to “read to kids” or whatever idea they had that would look cute in their pictures but only cause a headache for us and our programs.

          2. Caramel & Cheddar*

            Yeah, this kind of “giving back” is usually super annoying on the receiving end. A lot of nonprofits want volunteers willing to actually make a commitment, not participate in a one-off event, because even for things that might *seem* like a one-off, there’s usually lots of volunteer training, etc.

            A lot of our volunteer opportunities are in the evenings or on weekends and interest in us as an org to volunteer at quickly dries up when they realise they can’t do it on a Monday through Friday from 9am-5pm. We can’t and won’t create opportunities just for them because that’s not our mandate nor does that kind of volunteering actually help our wider area of service.

            1. Dawn*

              This place used to do a Habitat For Humanity day (unpaid) once a year and I can’t even imagine.

              It was a call centre, nobody there was trained in construction.

              At least in our niche we did know safety.

      3. Mgguy*

        Previous job, there was a provision for “volunteer hours.” I forget the exact terms and how many were allowed, but I think it was maybe a few hours a month or something along those lines?

        At the time, I was pretty regularly platelets at the Red Cross. I normally went every two weeks, and usually scheduled for after work. Platelets can be a 2-3 hour long process, so with boss’s blessing I just made a standing every-other-Tuesday afternoon appointment. I’d leave two hours early, go do that, and still have the rest of my evening. I took them a copy of the paperwork the first couple of times, but afterwards just kept it in a file folder in case they asked for a copy. I also went back to work once when I had my donation deferred, but they sent me back home and basically said it was sufficient that I had gone even if they couldn’t use me that day to enjoy that “perk.”

        All in all, I thought it was a pretty good system. This was at a large public university, and they wanted to encourage employees to be active in the community. Unfortunately, I was told it was ended not long after I left there as it was found that some people were abusing it…

      4. Rosacolleti*

        We offer this at my business- it doesn’t have to be a registered variety but just ‘community’ work. Parents can use it for helping with reading groups at their kids school for example. Equally we’ve had people work in an orphanage in Africa.

        Sadly I just had an employee speak to me pretty scornfully about the scheme and said she’d rather we just pay them more. Can’t please everyone I guess.

      5. Lenora Rose*

        I used to work for a place that did that. At company meetings, they did highlight some of their favourite charities and the ones the company itself did in fact contribute to as well (so that if you didn’t have a favourite charity of your own, you could use the PTO to join in one of their Habitat for Humanity work days or similar – but again, were not punished if you couldn’t/wouldn’t/did another charity) but I don’t recall seeing outside advertising of it.

        (Just checked their website, and their entire giving page is about corporate level sponsorship)

    3. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      Charitable/voluntary targets are OK if the employer matches funds, provides paid time off to volunteer, etc.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        A friend used to work for a corporation that would make cash donations to organizations where employees volunteered. More hours meant a larger check, which made a big difference for some local nfps!

    4. Meg*

      I don’t get why they think they can require that on our own time, but I’ve worked for some doozies who thought I should provide free services to their buddies. My last employer tried illegally to coerce me into filing a fraudulent affidavit to get out of jury duty. I just pretended I didn’t know what he was talking about and that I was SO HAPPY to do my civic duty. Honestly four days watching movies and reading a book was a great vacation from the backbreaking work I was doing for him.

      1. ypsi*

        I got the summons for a jury duty and quite frankly, I hoped the trial would take at least a week, to get a break from work. I actually don’t even know whether we are getting paid when on jury duty (likely not) and I would have to pay for parking etc.
        On the Friday before the jury selection (the following Monday) I got a call informing me that the trial was cancelled. Duh.

        1. Meg*

          I was practically begging to be put on a trial to escape that job for a little while. My one act of rebellion was not telling him when we got out early a couple days and enjoying my afternoon off at home, alone. I did quit a few months later and he had a tantrum about it.

          1. La Triviata*

            At my previous horrible job, someone with a project that had a tight deadline had never heard of jury duty as far as I could tell. When I told him I would be unavailable for an indefinite length of time during the time his project would have to be done and all I could say was “jury duty,” he went to my boss and demanded that some kind of punishment be inflicted. My boss, understanding what it was, did not inflict anything, I did the jury duty, someone else got stuck with the project and I left before long.

  2. Lol no*

    One thing I will not miss about working in the office are the never-ending fundraisers that colleagues’ children are doing. Crappy wrapping paper, dry cookies, stale dough, magazines I’ll never read, all of them. The pressure to “support” was never-freaking-ending, and I don’t miss it even slightly. I’ll happily buy from a kid who shows up at my door since that happens a few times a year but it was literally daily in my large office.

    1. Mostly Managing*

      I love how this is handled in my workplace.
      People can send one email saying “Hey! my kid is selling this thing for that reason, and if you’re interested let me know.”

      That’s it.
      No conversations, no visible sign-up sheets in break rooms, no pestering, no nothing.

      It seems like a good balance – if I’m in the mood for chocolate I know who to talk to, and otherwise people leave me alone!

      1. PhyllisB*

        I was always in the mood for World’s Finest Chocolate. Or Girl Scout cookies. :-) I remember those days when kids were recruiting for…whatever. And if you didn’t allow your child to participate, it penalized their class. Like you, I didn’t mind when said child came to my door selling, I would usually buy, but then when MY kids got to be that age, some of the neighbors had developed amnesia and would either refuse or just not answer their door. It would irritate me, but I tried to see their side and realize they were probably UP TO HERE school fundraisers.

          1. Dido*

            What exactly are kids learning from having their parents fundraise for them? Any kind of fundraising in the office should be banned, even if it’s “just” an email

            1. Georgia Carolyn Mason*

              Ha, I remember being royally pissed when I had to sell my own Girl Scout cookies (which led to my leaving Girl Scouts) but somehow when my younger sister got to that stage, the parents bugged their coworkers and she sold out in no time!

            2. Managing While Female*

              Listen, I don’t care what the kid is learning: bring me the Girl Scout cookies.

            3. Chidi has a stomach ache*

              The problem is that it’s not really about learning in most cases. A lot of private schools and/or extracurricular activities will give parents “quotas” — you have fundraise X amount over the year. When I was in school my mom had to do like $500 per kid throughout the year (in the 90s!). If parents don’t have the extra cash, they gotta find a way to sell as efficiently as possible. The practice overall should be seriously rethought.

            4. Laura LL*

              why are schools forcing the kids to participate in fundraisers like that in the first place? find better ways to raise money.

            5. Lenora Rose*

              Honestly, I think that schools should just be funded well enough they don’t need to run fundraisers at all, but sometimes the point isn’t the lesson, it’s the state of the building/books/etc.

              1. La Triviata*

                I know some places they raise money to fund sports. No kids, so I’m not sure about details.

                One girl scout set all kinds of records for cookie sales – she set up her sales table outside a cannabis dispensary. That is now, seemingly, forbidden.

        1. Meep*

          I don’t think my sister and I ever sold anything from those stupid catalogs for school. Didn’t even try. We would look through the catalogs at all the expensive junk with Mom and then directly in the trash. Though, I had the biggest tryhard in my class who always had to be #1 in sales (IDK what he got out of it, but it certainly wasn’t anything good or worth it). His mom would literally spend thousands of dollars to make sure he and his brother were #1 in their grades.

          Mind you, we were at an affluential elementary school where almost everyone lived in a gated community in 3,500+ sq ft houses on 0.5+ acre of land. Teachers never had to ask for supplies and the school never wanted for money as these were in addition to large fundraisers with $500 wine baskets. It was all a ridiculous waste of resources. Those were the days.

    2. lilsheba*

      And I had to do that as the parent of a child in school hawking these things for fundraisers. Frankly they should switch over to the twenty first century and just hold live sales online for this kind of thing, it’s done for every thing else under the sun. No more door to door or office sales.

        1. Aeryn Sun*

          A coworker put a sheet in the break room for girl scout cookies and it was just a letter from their daughter saying she was doing cookie sales and a QR code. Things have changed a lot since I was a Girl Scout. :)

          1. Just Another Cog*

            They sure have. When I was a Brownie and Girl Scout, my sister and I sold cookies door-to-door in our neighborhood in SoCal, and many of these people were strangers. This was the sixties, so no 24/7 news feeds of bad stuff happening to little kids.

            1. Wendy Darling*

              I did it in the 80s but I brought the family dog with me. She was a great dane. She also helped me deliver the cookies.

            2. Lenora Rose*

              The irony is, in the majority of the country, there’s less of most crimes – school shootings being a depressing exception – but people have still gotten much much less friendly about a knock at the door.

    3. Melissa*

      When I was growing up, my parents refused to let me fundraise. Most of the kids I went to school with would bring their fundraising sheets to church (our main social community) and it created so much pressure for adults to constantly donate/buy whatever crap they were selling.

      Now that I have a son, I also refuse to let him fundraise at all. I’ll write a check for fifty or a hundred bucks if the school is having a fundraiser, but there is no need for him to sell rolls of wrapping paper.

      1. Elitist Semicolon*

        Our high school choral director decided – independently of the school’s usual official fundraisers – that we should raise the money for new stage garb by selling light bulbs. His line of thinking was, “Who doesn’t need lightbulbs?”, but his strategy was to have our parents buy the entire case and then we could sell them at our own pace, and, if we chose, turn a profit. For the low, low price of $150 up front and the basement space needed to store 150 lightbulbs.

        My parents refused. Which was smart on multiple levels, not the least of which is that I replace at most one light bulb a year in my house and at that rate we wouldn’t even have used half the crate 35 years later.

      2. Aeryn Sun*

        My parents did the same, there were a couple of fundraisers for various school trips or activities and they’re like “We’ll just pay whatever fee, you don’t need to go around selling candles or whatever to people we know.”

    4. Random Biter*

      This reminded me of something that happened when I was a server at a mid-level steakhouse chain back in Bedrock.

      Bringing in a sign up sheet to sell your kid’s Girl Scout cookies was strictly verboten. So you can imagine the raised eyebrows when, during a staff meeting, we were informed that we would be flogging raffle tickets to our customers to support the franchise owner’s wife’s favorite charity. A library that wasn’t located anywhere near our restaurant. We all kind of agreed that yeahno we weren’t doing that. When nothing had been sold for a week we got chewed out and asked, didn’t we *want* to be the restaurant that won the prize? Said prize being a couple hundred dollars….that the manager would receive. Not only no, but oh hell no.

    5. Lea*

      So many things are expressly forbidden where I work and I’m glad of it!
      Although a handful still sneak in like baby showers and Christmas gifts it’s at least not overwhelming and I’m ok doing only the ones I want to

  3. kjolis*

    My organization has an annual giving campaign. If they met a certain threshold, all those who donated would receive an extra day of PTO and a thank-you party (just some snacks and drinks for a half hour during the workday, but still nice).

    Now, they just ask for the money. I’ve contributed every year, but this year I’m skipping. Staff morale is so low due to a recent round of layoffs and other reasons, such as lack of employee recognition by the executive suite. I’ll keep my money this year.

    1. 1,001 Snails in a Lady Shell*

      Could you donate $5 or was there a minimum amount to collect the PTO day? Because I would happily pay $5 or $10 to rest an extra 8 hours on a weekday and not have to work.

    2. Just Another Cog*

      At a former employer, we had to donate $5/week to the company’s pet charity in order to wear jeans on Friday. I already donate a monthly sum to the charity of my choice, so didn’t feel like contributing to a cause I didn’t get to choose. Never wore jeans. I’ve always wondered if the company took a tax deduction for those employee donations.

  4. What the what*

    The superintendent of a technical school I worked at would not dismiss the attendees of a breakfast until they gave to the school’s foundation. He called out people from the podium up front to give. So tacky.

    1. Elk*

      I regularly get emails from my district asking me to donate to their foundation, with sad stories about all the things our students need. I spend hundreds of dollars out of pocket on my classroom every year to buy the very same things–not to mention that they’re going back on guaranteed COLA raises and our insurance keeps getting more and more expensive each year, plus I’m saving for maternity leave because we only get a few weeks paid on FMLA–and I usually decline to give more.

    2. Elitist Semicolon*

      I am exactly the sort of person who would find near-boundless joy in making a very loud, very public refusal in a situation like this.

  5. CR*

    My work is in nonprofits/charities where unfortunately there is often an expectation to donate a portion of your paycheque, even for the lowest level employees. At my last job when my boss floated the idea of implementing an employee giveback program, I shut it down HARD and he actually listened to me!

    1. Must be Sunny*

      My partner’s job has an employee giveback program called “[Company] Cares.” Um. No. Maybe if [Company] actually cared, they’d pay a living wage and offer better benefits. Asking low paid workers to subsidize each other’s basic needs is really not a good look.

      (My partner’s actual manager and coworkers are lovely people, but the corporate overlords are another story)

    2. Sloanicota*

      The government also has a program like that. It’s called CFC (combined Federal campaign). I’m not sure how hard they push it but you can enroll for automatic donations from your paycheck. We actually do get money that way at my nonprofit … but I hope people weren’t being brow-beaten into it.

      1. Sloanicota*

        Oh and I should say … as with most of these types of programs, there is a fee for the participating nonprofits in order to be a part of it. So the program charges us to receive funds from the workers who sign up.

      2. anne of mean gables*

        Am a fed. I am sure it varies agency to agency and department to department: we get a fair number of CFC emails from our facility leadership when it’s that season, but they’re all very delete-able and there’s no tracking, pressure, or discussion of CFC giving in my specific office.
        I am frankly baffled at how or why this is a thing at all but it’s pretty innocuous. IMO if I am going to give money to a charitable organization (which I occasionally do), it’s going to be on my own time and I don’t want or need my employer involved. (Also if I publicly discussed my recent charitable donations at work it would probably violate the Hatch Act.)

        1. Sloanicota*

          I suspect it’s tax advantaged so in that sense the government feels generous in setting it up?

      3. Reluctant Mezzo*

        I remember when I was in the military and in charge of the United Way Campaign for our office. What fun! Though when I turned over a large amount in cash, the colonel’s secretary wasn’t pleased at giving me a hand receipt, but oh well!

    3. mayflower*

      We had a major gifts officer start trying to push a staff giving program, and she said our team (development) needed to set the example. She was the highest earner by a large margin, except for probably our CAO. I’ve always worked in nonprofits, and I consider my less-than-corporate-market-rate salary to be my contribution to them lol.

  6. Shoot another shot, try to stop the feeling*

    I work at a hedge fund and am one of the lower paid employees so…. not at all sympathetic to the millionaires complaining! That’s a specific environment, though, and in other offices with more equitable salaries it makes sense that people wouldn’t want to part with their cash.

  7. Bumblebee*

    I’ve always been told that the percentage of employee giving is an important factor in what grants, donations, and support my university can campaign for – it’s almost a part of onboarding in the higher ed world, I think. An older advice book for senior administrators actually recommends negotiating your expected donation on top of your salary offer.

    1. MyLifeInSocks*

      My college is the same, but my dean actually will offer to donate $1 for them just to up the percentage. Which I think is the way to go about it.

    2. Sara without an H*

      This. I’m retired now (yay!), but I remember vividly that our fundraising operation emphasized how great it looked to potential donors that staff and faculty were willing to contribute. I don’t know if that’s actually true, btw, but the story was told, and retold, every year.

      The other thing I resented was the level of emotional blackmail attached to the annual United Way fund drive, but that’s a rant for another day.

    3. JanetM*

      We are told the same thing: percentage of employee giving is very important for grants and donations.

      We have an annual “[Slogan] Give” day, an annual “[Slogan] Family Campaign” week, and an annual “[United Way plus other local charities]” period. In all of them, administration emphasizes the importance of 100% participation, even if it’s a small amount – although they’d like to see 1%-3% of your salary for each. Oh, and Coats for the Cold every winter. The first time I was responsible for the United Way contribution cards for my division, I was told (by another admin assistant, not by my manager) that I was expected to fill and write a check for anyone who didn’t contribute on their own. I did not do this and suffered no repercussions, but it rankled.

      On the other hand, my department doesn’t have a lot of turnover, so not a lot of requests for retirement presents. But if we want to attend the holiday party, we have to pay for that (state law prohibits the university from paying for entertainment for staff), although the executive directors heavily subsidize the cost.

      On the gripping hand, we do also have to pay for parking, on a sliding scale.

    4. Chidi has a stomach ache*

      Yeah, I really want grantees and foundations to re-think this metric. I would much rather they look at % of employees who earn a livable wage (for their local COL), but the incentives (sadly) don’t work that way.

    5. Laura LL*

      which is wild. Employees shouldn’t have to give to their employer in order to get grants.

      1. GG*

        Maybe this used to be true, but I have never, ever seen % of employee giving asked in a grant application, and I’ve written and/or reviewed literally thousands of grants in the past 7 years. Never, not once have I seen it. Plenty of other ridiculous things are asked in grant applications, but that has never been one of them. None of the dozens of orgs I have worked with would have ever lost a single grant dollar over this. I HAVE been told that at previous nonprofit employers during onboarding, back before I was in grants. I truly believe this is a made up lie by some sleazy execs that just keeps getting repeated.

    6. Generic Username*

      The first university I worked at had a big emphasis on the employee annual fund participation rates each year. But working at other universities and non-profits has proven to me that foundations and corporate giving programs are only concerned with participation rates for board members, not rank and file (or even senior) employees.

  8. Must be Sunny*

    Thanks for this. I work at a university, and they love asking for money. Donate to this student fund! Donate so we can offset the cost of the mandatory fun staff lunch! Donate to the provost’s retirement gift! Donate to a different student fund!

    I’m already underpaid for the privilege of working in academia. Can’t I at least keep my paycheck? Maybe the university president making literally 15x more than the average employee can start offsetting student costs instead of expecting me to do it.

    1. AGD*

      Same all around. My previous workplace encouraged me to spend $2500 to have my name engraved on a brick on campus. I’m afraid I had to decline.

      1. Former Mailroom Clerk*

        “So, if you are expecting me to pay to pave the sidewalk, exactly why do we have a facilities department, and can their budget be reallocated to my salary?”

    2. Reebee*

      Eh, asking is one thing, and isn’t the same as expecting. So yeah, unless you’re forced to donate, you can keep your paycheck, it seems, and just ignore the requests as you so choose. Win-win.

    3. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

      It is kind of ridiculous at the university level. Do they not get that staff members do not make a living wage?

      1. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

        Every university I’ve worked at does this, though. It’s crazy, but also the norm.

        If I like our current upper admin, I donate $1 and earmark it for my department. If I don’t like upper admin, they don’t get my participation. They have not received any $ from me for the past few years.

      2. not nice, don't care*

        Vocational awe seems to be expected from all levels of staff in lieu of adequate pay.

    4. Left Academian*

      Worked at a university for many years and experienced the same thing. I was staff, working with people who made 100x what I did or more. The last year I was there, they pushed hard – each department that had contributions of any amount from 100% of their staff got some special thing, I don’t remember what. I already objected to my employer expecting money from me and I’m the kind of person who, the harder I’m pushed, the more vehemently I refuse. Luckily, it wasn’t public knowledge who had or hadn’t contributed, so I just kept ignoring the appeals. Really glad I don’t have to deal with that anymore.

    5. Lake (they/them)*

      In fall 2020, my university sent me a email about how hard of a time student athletes are having and if I could please donate. I was still an undergrad student!! I was having a hard time!!! but I wasn’t an athlete so I guess I don’t matter…

  9. RealCarp*

    At my hospital for Nurses Week, the hospital posted on Linked In for all to see, “To celebrate Nurses Week, thank a nurse today by making a donation to the hospital in their honor”. What an absolute joke.

    1. Babbalou*

      SBD – I am retired and in my 70s. I have some health issues and have been seeing specialists in the hospital associated with my healthcare. Same for my husband.

      For whatever reason, I am getting frequent emails to contribute to the hospital foundation. Seriously, between my husband and I, just paying our medical bills plus our medicare, our medicare supplement and our pharmacy insurance takes a very significant percentage of our income.

      We are not wealthy and this has been seriously ticking me off.

  10. CJ*

    One thing I do not miss now that we are permanently work from home. The constant request for money was bad enough but the last time I participated, my husband and I weren’t doing so well financially but still felt pressured to give. – only to find out a few months later the person in need had conned us all, including our manager! (To make a long story short, co worker was put on disability claiming they couldn’t walk but was seen several times walking just fine in our local branch of famous big box chain store that has very large super centers).

    1. lilsheba*

      This could be a multitude of things going on. They might have a dynamic disability that you don’t know about. They may be able to only walk short distances. Without any context it’s hard to say if it’s a “scam” or not.

      1. Melissa*

        Agreed, but it just shows why workplaces should stay out of fundraising. It leads to all kinds of situations like this– people now trying to figure out if their donation was needed or if they got scammed.

      2. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

        That thing about not nitpicking LW’s needs to apply to commentors also. I will assume that CJ’s colleague did, in fact, scam the company and the disability system, whatever it specifically was.

  11. Jenny*

    This really isn’t much of an issue for me. I’m government, so our holiday parties are not paid for. But we just go out to lunch and have the rest of the day off, so it is fairly enjoyable and not expensive. And now that we are mostly work from home, it is a chance to see co-workers that we don’t see often. There’s no pressure to attend.

    We don’t do birthdays but do have collections for new babies or weddings. But we are a small office (less than 20) and mostly past the new babies/weddings stage. So I think in the last 5 years, there have been two things to contribute to. And, again, the envelope is passed around and I don’t think there is much pressure.

  12. Rick Tq*

    When I worked in aerospace the parent corporation and my division both made a HUGE deal about supporting United Way. I did not like UW being merely a middleman and skimming money before sending donations down to the real charities, so I refused. The pressure from management was enough I was ready to file a formal harassment complaint with the state.

    The solution was for me to sign up for a $0.01 deduction for one week (we were paid every Friday) and cancel it the following Monday. Corporate got to report a high engagement number and I was able to cost United Way money since they had to pay to track my minimal donation.

    Since then I’ve always donated directly to my charities, never thru a parasite like UW.

    1. Judge Judy and Executioner*

      I worked part-time as a pharmacy technician when I was in college, and the company was very forceful in getting 100% of people to donate to the United Way campaign. I didn’t want to, I was broke and disliked the pressure. One of the pharmacists insisted I donate, and ended up handing me a dollar so I would donate a dollar. It was a very bizarre experience.

      1. AnonAnon*

        YUP! We probably worked for the same company. I worked at the pharmacy headquarters and the push to donate to the UW was insufferable. They wanted payroll deductions, cash donations, etc. And if you didn’t do it, you couldn’t wear jeans on Friday. It bothered me because I was being paid peanuts and fresh out of college. And it also bothered me because 100% of my donation was not going to a good cause.

    2. Just checking in*

      Same. Our publishing company tried to get us to do this in the late nineties by handing us forms. A lot of the forms ended up in garbage cans.

      1. anotherfan*

        i’ve mentioned my UW story once before; our publisher was the campaign’s president/leader/ whatever and told us that it would look bad if we didn’t have 100 percent participation — to reporters hardly making a living wage. I’d been assigned to write stories about all the (15?) agencies UW was representing that year and I figured I’d done my duty to the campaign so I wasn’t going to donate money as well. I wasn’t alone in not giving them money … and our publisher, once the contribution percentage was confirmed (it wasn’t any where near close to 100 percent and there certainly was pressure on upper management and editors) sent us a very nasty letter thanking us for our participation with the note that if we had any special project or whatever we were involved in to not forget to hit him up for a donation. It left such a bad taste in my mouth I haven’t donated to UW since — and this was in the 1970s.

    3. Left Academian*

      In many cases, it makes even more sense to pay directly into the community the charities are supposedly helping. The work of the charity costs money that could otherwise be directed right to the community.

    4. Hannah Lee*

      At my current job, when I was hired, there was a history of annual United Way campaign drives, where employees were encouraged to sign up for ongoing payroll deductions.

      I’d hated it at my previous company*, where the c-suite were all extremely wealthy but still hounded lower paid staff about annual contributions. (basically so they could have bragging rights about % participation, total contributions, etc) Fortunately, at the new job, running the UW campaign fell to me. It took me less that 3 months to discontinue that program and all the annual notices, payroll insert reminders that used to go out to employees, etc. The combination of a middle man sucking up charitable donations and hounding of people who were barely making ends meet was bad enough, but the local UW rep was awful, totally uninterested in the businesses they were targeting … all talk, no listen, all push and take and no consideration for how we operated. The owners didn’t care one way or another, it was a family business where some now-retired family member had set the program up and it had just continued for years due to inertia.

      *I may have also had some residual animosity towards United Way left over from that time I went to a job interview at a company with its HQ in a stand alone building in a busy area of a small city. I’d scoped out parking (park in the free company lot, no problem, they said) and timed the drive in advanced, got there with plenty of time to spare. But, when I arrived, the company was having its annual United Way kick off event, which included balloons, an MC and hundreds of employees holding hands in a human chain that was parading in a complete circle around the building … the organizers adamantly refused to let anyone drop hands for 20 seconds so I could drive into the parking lot. I had to drive around hunting for a street space, parking 5 blocks away and late for the interview, where the person I met with was cranky, had zero sense of humor about the absurd reason I was late and conducted the most cursory interview I’ve ever had.

      1. Elio*

        I would be pretty mad too, especially because it’s their fault you were late. I’d probably pass out if I had to walk for 5 blocks just because it’s do hot where I live right now.

        Is anyone else getting cult vibes from the handholding thing or is it just me?

    5. Love to WFH*

      I just realized that I am _still_ pissed at how my manager at Sears handled asking us to donate to UW, and it was over 30 years ago! I’m also pissed that I didn’t realize it was illegal, and call them on it.

      We were a team that came it after 5pm and did data entry. We were all college students. We were told to come in a half hour early, and NOT PUNCH IN ON THE TIME CLOCK. (Hello! Illegal!)

      Our manager gave us a pitch on how we should donate to United Way. I had no health insurance. I was living in an apartment next to the Greyhound Bus Station. Sears was paying me barely more than minimum wage.

      I did not donate.

    6. NeverGivingToRedCross*

      I promised my grandfather I’d never give any money to the Red Cross. He was a medic in WWII and they used to sell blood to the higher bidder. I am 100% certain they stopped doing this many, many decades ago but he was my favorite person ever and I refuse to break my word to him. Thus has caused me no end of problems at some if ny jobs because no one can imagine anyone having an issue donating to the Red Cross.

      1. Strawberry Snarkcake*

        I also hate the Red Cross. Years ago my friend’s house burned to the ground along with all of their belongings. We offered to let them stay with us, but the Red Cross stepped in and put them up in a hotel and gave them clothes and household items that were donated. Several months later they received a bill from the Red Cross and were told to forward it on to their insurance company. They are total scammers.

  13. goddessoftransitory*

    What do you do when you WANT to give money for a specific reason, though?

    My manager’s cat is very ill, and it doesn’t look good. He’s been out for days dealing with this and is thirty grand into treatments. I would happily give towards easing that financial burden, but for very good reasons it’s verboten to set up a GoFundMe or similar (obviously the company doesn’t want to shake down employees for their manager’s bills.)

    I thought about buying a “thinking of you” card and including a check, but that’s the same issue. I’ll definitely get the card, but I wish there was a way to financially assist.

    1. Dawn*

      Gift cards, particularly for groceries. The fact that he’s paying through the nose for veterinary treatments means that the ball is being dropped elsewhere in his finances. People dependably need to eat regardless of what is going on in their lives.

      1. PhyllisB*

        How about an anonymous donation to the vet’s office to help with costs? If you know others asking the same thing you could do a group donation. Note: I AM NOT saying go around and solicit donations, I’m just saying if others in your office have mentioned it, perhaps floating this idea?

    2. Pizza Rat*

      Gifting shouldn’t flow upward – your manager makes more money than you. Not only that, but it’s also his decision to spend $30k on treatments for a cat. Presumably he couldn’t/wouldn’t agree to that if he couldn’t afford it. You handing him a check for a few hundred dollars not only won’t make a dent, but could make the dynamic weird between you two and create a bad dynamic with the rest of your team. Either he takes your money and cashes it (which he shouldn’t do!) or he has to actively decline it, which is awkward, with the added pressure (even unintended) to your colleagues.

      A card with well wishes on its own? Great. A donation to a cat charity/rescue? Okay. A personal check to him? Don’t.

      1. ImOnlyHereForThePoetry*

        Totally agree with this.

        I am pretty well paid, so I could give a coworker extra funds to help pay for vet treatment – however, I would consider that donating money (homeless shelter, food bank, etc) may be a better use of my funds

  14. amanda134*

    I spend less than $100 on work social obligations per year. It’s trivial. If these amounts matter to you, absolutely opt out…but also find a way to make more money.

    1. Peach Parfaits Pls*

      This is a little like someone complaining they got pickpocketed for $30 and responding, “If it bothers you it’s your fault for making so little money.” The examples in this article are all inappropriate to ask of non-managerial staff; people are right to be bothered by the inappropriateness whether or not the value will put a dent in their rent.

      Also, lots of people are early-career and/or underpaid and really will be affected by pressure to chip in for stuff the company should fund. “Find a way to make more money?” As if everyone isn’t in some way trying to achieve that already?

    2. Dawn*

      In our current job climate, I sincerely hope you circle back to what you’ve said here when layoffs come for your position.

    3. Fluffy Fish*

      – $100 isnt trivial to many
      – no one is actively trying to make so little money that these money grabs are not “trivial” according to you, but thank you for the…insightful…advice to “make more money”

      and a bonus
      – i make a very comfortable salary and still do not appreciate being asked to pay for anything at all at work – my salary is for me, the business should be paying for its own expenses.

    4. Keymaster of Gozer (She/Her)*

      ‘Find a way to make more money’. From the people who brought you ‘depression can be cured by smiling’ and ‘how can you be asthmatic when there’s so much air’.

      1. Elitist Semicolon*

        Appropriately, I just choked on my own breath laughing at “how can you be asthmatic when there’s so much air.”

      2. londonedit*

        I have a friend who keeps telling me this. She’s apparently convinced that I’d be able to buy myself a flat in London if only I ‘just found a way to make more money’. Never mind the fact that with my salary I’d need about £200k as a deposit, no, all I need to do is find a side-hustle and start earning more, because I apparently can’t complain unless I’m working 80 hours a week and eating beans on toast while saving all I can to buy a flat. OK then.

    5. Lily Rowan*

      Did you read the article, though? Some of these places are wild. $5 a week for parties PLUS birthday cash? $75 for a wedding present? No thank you.

    6. Antilles*

      It’s not about the money.
      Personally, I can afford to donate “less than $100” to a ski vacation for the CEO and it wouldn’t hurt my finances one bit. But why should I? He makes more money than me, he sure as hell doesn’t need the money, and there’s a power dynamic that he’s abusing by even asking.
      It’s completely inappropriate for work and that’s true even though I could that dash off that $100 check right this instant without problems.

    7. MsM*

      You are the reason nonprofits get pressured by funders into being able to show that everyone on staff gives, but can’t give raises because that would mean overhead costs.

    8. Ginger Cat Lady*

      Wow. This is so amazingly blind to the reality for many people. Maybe try not being like this.

    9. Just checking in*

      Some people are put in an uncomfortable situation to give. And some people are kind to give, even when money for them is tight. I know many holding down a second job and even seasonal work to make ends meet. The problem lies with those who are on a higher paid level (management) impose less paying others to so do—and management doesn’t always donate.

    10. Stoli*

      I make six figures. Your post is the height of arrogance. Everyone has a different story and different struggles. Find a way to be a little more empathetic.

    11. Managing While Female*

      I’d challenge you to learn more about the lives of people who are less privileged than you are and try to understand their struggles instead of throwing out glib, condescending advice. It’s easier to place the blame on the people who are struggling than it is to see the forces at work that make it difficult to get out of that hole.

      For example, there was a time in my life that I had to work temporary jobs because that’s all I could get. If there was an unexpected big expense, I didn’t have much savings to fall back on because I couldn’t get consistent work, try as I might. The expense would have to go on a credit card. Even when making payments on it, the balance would either only get a tiny dent or it would continue to go up because of the interest. If my husband and I both wrote a check for something for our joint account, and they both hit at the same time without us knowing, we would get hit with a fee for overdraft. We weren’t living extravagantly, and we weren’t even what I would call ‘poor’, but we got a glimpse of how expensive it can be to be poor and we saw what it may be like without a safety net of family to fall back on.

    12. Georgia Carolyn Mason*

      Um, there are millions of people trying to find a way to make more money! It’s not usually something that happens in a day.

      Also — even if everyone finds a higher-paying job, so the money they’re being asked to donate is trivial, that doesn’t mean theirs workplace are entitled to have it back. If you want to spend $100 a year, cool. I don’t, and my salary would certainly allow it.

    13. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      If the amount is trivial for me to give, it’s also trivial for the asker, so they can do without it.

    14. Ellis Bell*

      I love it when people think something is such a non issue that they just have to start a discussion thread about the issue. Bonus points for denying that the cost of living crisis ever happened.

  15. Chirpy*

    My company sponsors a fundraiser/ awareness walk for a medical condition one of the founders had. They want as many employees as possible to contribute (and/or participate, if you can get to headquarters.)

    I WORK RETAIL AND AM NOT PAID A LIVING WAGE. When I got Covid, I was literally a day away from not being able to pay rent if they hadn’t retroactively let me use a few vacation days. I wasn’t able to pay my car insurance that month, and had a very hard time scraping up money for two months after. I had no paid sick leave, and also had to call in daily to avoid being a “no-show” when I really needed sleep.

    So, I absolutely will not be giving them money. The CEO has chartered planes instead of driving 2-3 hours for a store visit, she can give her own money instead.

    1. Pizza Rat*

      This is ridiculous and you should absolutely not participate, good on you for staying firm about that – especially with the extra context of the CEO’s behavior.

      That said, and obviously you know your situation better than I ever will, but … it’s retail? If you’re not paid a living wage and the conditions are so bad, surely there are other retail jobs you could do instead?

        1. Chirpy*

          @Bumblebee – the question here is not “can Chirpy get a higher paid job”, but “why do we live in a society where some jobs are allowed to pay poverty wages” ? The job still needs to be done, it should pay enough for a full-time person to live on.

      1. Chirpy*

        Sadly, this company is actually pretty good for retail. We (theoretically) have benefits (that no one knows how to use.)

  16. Sunflower*

    One workplace use to have us put in $5 a month for the social committee. To pay for events like summer picnic, holiday lunch, etc. We can also wear jeans. I don’t wear jeans anyway. I finally ended it when I told them I don’t wear jeans and can’t eat rich foods after getting diagnosed with a medical condition.

    Shortly after that, the $5 is voluntary. If there’s a single event you want to participate, you can put in $10-20. So if I want to join in the Thanksgiving lunch, I pay $10 or so. Still cheaper than $60 for the year for extra events I’m not interested in or can’t participate because I can’t eat anything.

    1. Sunflower*

      I don’t know if anyone else had situations where they also had conditions or simply can’t afford to fork over $5 a month but just sucked it up, or perhaps discreetly spoke with their boss. But I’m glad I finally spoke up in a public way.

      1. Ellis Bell*

        This is how we do it. There’s a voluntary social fund and you can choose to pay into it or not and choose what level of involvement you want. Everyone is very aware that staff in schools are woefully underpaid and there’s no pressure.

    2. singularity*

      This sounds like the school district I work for. We have a social ‘happy’ committee that is supposed to do birthday stuff each month. You pay $30 each year to be a member if you want some cake on your birthday. You pay $5 for the privilege of wearing jeans on spirit days, although they never really explain where the money goes.

      Plus, all the arts programs are constantly fundraising. Theater, band, choir, they never seem to have enough money to do anything, but somehow the football team never has to worry about such things!

      Meanwhile, our superintendent get’s paid like 6x my salary and doesn’t have to shell out hundreds of dollars every year for basic school supplies for the kids who show up with nothing but their designer clothes and a phone in their pocket.

  17. Adds*

    At my day gig, the boss makes a big deal of mentioning his birthday every year… it feels like he’s hoping for a gift. We’re an office of 3 people, the boss, me, and a third person. I’m a miscategorized employee and I haven’t had a raise in almost 3 years.

    Maybe he’s not hoping for a gift and I’m misreading the energy, but it sure felt like it for several years.

  18. Specialist*

    I do not want my staff spending their money on things. Everybody’s birthday is celebrated with a lunch from a place of their choosing, a cake of some sort, and a gift. The money comes from the office. The gift is $50 and the money comes from petty cash. Same with Christmas. We do a round robin gift giving, all money for gifts comes from the office. I take everyone out for lunch on our Christmas party day. I only have 5 employees.

    1. WS*

      Yeah, my workplace does the same. Birthday cake (or alternative), Christmas dinner, $10 limit gift giving, gifts for someone leaving/going on maternity leave/whatever – it all comes out of the workplace budget. 11 employees. It’s great.

  19. Peach Parfaits Pls*

    These past two years are my first time working for a nonprofit, and they have an annual fundraiser that they invite employees to donate to. I like the company, but my mental response is always, “Respectfully, lmao.” They derive more excess value from my labor than I could donate. Never will.

    1. StressedButOkay*

      I’ve honestly never understood a “donate to your OWN” workplace. Workplace giving is what I do and the campaigns should always have other charities!

      1. Please remove your circus from my monkeys*

        Or employers could just trust their employees to allocate their own charitable giving as they see fit.

        1. StressedButOkay*

          Doing a workplace campaign = payroll deductions, which makes giving for a lot of people a whole lot easier. Donating $4 a paycheck, pretax, is a heck of a lot easier than writing a check for $100. It’s steady pledge for the charity and it’s unrestricted funds.

    2. Phlox*

      Plus one to the excess value “donation”. I once got a $10k salary correction at my last nonprofit job, my major donor days are done – it was just through my time!

  20. Sava*

    My workplace actually sponsors our Holiday Gift exchanges. Our admin orders a $15 dollar gift or less from Amazon that you select. The principals only get each other. It’s the best place I’ve ever worked.

  21. Any Given Fergus*

    My department routinely sends out requests for donations for major life events. “So-and-so is having a baby” or “so-and so’s father in law just passed away, we are getting a care package together if you wish to contribute.” I always did until my own dad passed away last year and I received … nothing. No care package, no card, no email, no one even covering my work while I was out. I will never not be upset about that and now any request for money gets immediately deleted with no guilty feelings on my part.

    1. Scott*

      I’m sorry that happened to you. Your comment struck me particularly as my mom died only a couple months ago. My work team was very gracious. I can only imagine how that made you feel.

    2. Lady_Lessa*

      Adding both sympathy and understanding. Similar stuff happened to me, when my stepmother died. I will say that my boss was understanding when I needed more time there to make plans to clean out and sell the house.

    3. anotherfan*

      that sucks and I’m so sorry.

      When the father of one of my staff died, I reached out to HR specifically to tell them what happened. I hope that yours was just a dropped ball but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a terrible thing to happen to you.

  22. StressedButOkay*

    My job is workplace giving, ironically. Here’s the thing – it should never be forced. Giving should start on high. And it should only be once a year. (And it should be fun, too. Dunk the CEO is a well beloved fundraiser.)

    If you are being pressured, don’t give unless you want to. The way to achieve 100% participation (rare) is not by pressuring people.

    1. Sloanicota*

      We always got 100% participation – the higher ups said that was required for something – by offering a paid day off if we hit 100% , and any amount even $1 qualified. So we would take a pool / supervisors would cover junior staff.

      1. StressedButOkay*

        Was it a United Way campaign? Because – yeah, 100% is NOT required for WPG but I like how they handled it, at least. (UW, especially in the past, were/are notorious for pushing that it was required. It’s a good goal but not required.)

  23. Lizbrarian*

    I work for a university and every time I get an appeal for us to donate money I want to yeet it into the sun. Our Provost famously spent his time at a listening session for employees instructing us on how to set up donations out of our 401Ks, and I’m told that the Business School keeps track of employees who don’t donate when asked.

    1. MicroManagered*

      Same here. The most insulting thing I can think of at work is being asked to donate part of my paycheck back to my employer.

      Oh and I also graduated from the university I work for, so I get those donation solicitations too! No thanks, still paying off my last donation!!

      1. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

        When I got a call for donation from my alma mater, I told them I’d have to finish paying off my student loans first, and to try again in several years.

        Then I blocked their number(s).

        1. MsM*

          I do have to give my college credit – they waited long enough for me to have feasibly paid off my loans before they started trying to have conversations.

        2. Meg*

          Last time I looked up the endowment for my university when they asked for money and found it was in the billions, they’ve doubled tuition since I’ve graduated and they are literally paying millions and millions of dollars to the many layers of management for the university. I sent them a very stern email asking to be removed from the list until the dean wasn’t being paid $3mil per year while students graduated $250k in debt.

    2. Admin Amber*

      Lizbrarian, I feel your pain. We had our foundation asking for donations during Covid when many of us were also doing furloughs. I wasn’t even sure I would continue to have a job.
      I made myself delete that email so I would not be tempted to respond to it.

  24. Sloanicota*

    I’ve worked at several nonprofits who do the mandatory donation route. Not a fan (I’m already donating my time and energy!) but they claim the pressure comes from funders. At least any amount is sufficient, even a few bucks. I think the blog should have included the tithing example from the other day because that’s the worst I’ve ever heard.

  25. Three Flowers*

    Working for a non-profit: “Here’s your super-low paycheck! Would you like to set up recurring donations to our scholarship/endowment/ operating fund?”

    So over it. Although it was worse when I finished my masters and continued to PhD at the same institution, making me both an alum and a student, as well as an un-unionized, underpaid employee. I regularly got alumni fund requests *at my work email* while I was trying to do two jobs and deal with an incredible level of bureaucratic nonsense.

    I believed in the mission of the nonprofit, but that university will never get a dime from me.

    1. Elitist Semicolon*

      I got those emails while I was enrolled as a Ph.D. student, because the second I became an alumna, the fundraising emails kicked in. The fact that I was also still actively a student did not override my status as A Recent Grad And Therefore Fair Game. Nothing like a bill for student fees showing up in my inbox right below a “give to the future!” email.

  26. Prgrmmngr*

    Are non-profits that are supported by the United Way still pestering employees to donate so they’ll have 100% participation? this drove me nuts when I was in the industry. UW support was generous in some ways, but the application and reporting were by far the worst and then we’d be pushed to show are appreciation so we could deal with them some more.

    1. desk platypus*

      Ugh, I remember when our work did United Way. We had to turn in paperwork with our response no matter how we picked. At first I was pressured to join in but the second time around I checked off the “nope” sections and handed it to my boss without regrets. So glad we’re no longer doing that. I don’t think it was popular.

    2. Rick Tq*

      They might, but my employer ONLY cared about donating to UW. Making the same donation directly to my preferred charity didn’t count.

      1. Rick Tq*

        The pressure was from the Corporate Board to look good by having high UW donation rates. Nothing from the subordinate charities.

    3. Georgia Carolyn Mason*

      I worked at a nonprofit that got funding from United Way, and part of the agreement was that we had to run a campaign. Thankfully, management understood that hitting up seriously low-paid employees was a shitty thing to do, so we went for 100% leadership participation instead of 100% participation. A few other folks, including myself, made a small donation, like $1 per paycheck, but we never insisted that everyone donate. (We pulled this off for a few years, but then they stopped funding us, but they wouldn’t tell us if this was a factor or not. They had changed their priorities some in our area, so who knows?)

  27. KB*

    When I earned less money, I would always throw $5 into any gift request. Now that I earn more, I generally give $0 to gifts for people who earn the same or more than me and $20 to gifts for people who earn less.

    I earn more now, and I would *hate* to think someone who earns less felt pressure to contribute to a gift for me.

  28. HavenMiss*

    When I first started working for my company, they would push hard for the United Way drive every year. They didn’t personally single anyone out, but we had to hear about it every day from our managers. Since Covid, they’ve given that up. Idk if they cancelled the partnership or just stopped pushing. Considering that local housing has increased to the point they’re now building company housing just to keep employees from needing to leave the state, someone must have realized that enough of their employees qualify to be recipients of various charities and the donation drives are a bad look.

    1. Managing While Female*

      Company housing?? Getting echoes of the company towns during the Great Depression in the US.

  29. the one who got away*

    Oof, this is such a tricky one for me because I am the person who has to ask coworkers for money for our Annual Fund every year. Prior people in this role were really aggressive about it, and in addition to chasing down our colleagues at inopportune times, they would also get into this arms race of dangling very nice, relatively expensive premiums in front of people in order to get them to give (like, give me $1.00 and you’ll get this $50.00 branded water bottle everyone else is carrying around). This is a problem for lots of reasons, one of them being that the IRS doesn’t like it.

    But my community volunteer leaders find it genuinely inspiring that so many employees choose to give back. I hear about it often. I try to focus on the token participation aspect and keep it very soft and respectful. But I don’t give away expensive items or throw parties in exchange for gifts and participation has suffered as a result.

    I don’t like this part of my job, but it is part of my job to invite every single member of our community to give back — including coworkers — so I try to do so as lightly and with as little pressure as I possibly can. I wish I didn’t have to, though.

    1. Just checking in*

      I hear you but maybe cut back on getting pricy merch like this but also set up donation levels that are mindful of current economic conditions.

      1. the one who got away*

        We don’t use any dollar amounts at all in our request; the only time an amount is ever mentioned is when we share their own giving history with them. We receive gifts ranging from $1.00 to $2,500.00 and I am grateful for each one. I can’t kill the campaign without threatening my own employment, though.

    2. Ellis Bell*

      I do hear you about being the person who can be in the role to exert less pressure, but I had a record scratch at: “community volunteer leaders find it genuinely inspiring that so many employees choose to give back”. That’s honestly mystifying. It’s like they’re completely discounting what they give with their labour. Why do they need the employee’s money to be inspired? Why do the employees need to “give back”?

  30. Anon for this*

    I once took a job – effectively an internal lateral move to a development scheme – where one of my objectives was charity fundraising/volunteering, and it was badged as mandatory. It was not mentioned in the job description and no, any pre-existing volunteer work didn’t count. We were divided into teams at the initial induction for the job and told this was to be done. We were based all over the UK and my team chose a very worthy, but ultimately geographically irrelevant to me and 3 others, organisation to support. Any travel for fundraising events had to be paid out of pocket by team members and they chose a London based charity, and I’m very much not in London.

    I noped out, and had absolutely no qualms in making up my ‘contribution’ to the final amount the team ‘raised’ by claiming I did a bunch of admin. I did do a lot of volunteer admin – for a local charity I’d been supporting for years and which would have suffered had I switched to the one selected.

    My team know now they have up to 5 days for voluntary work if they wish to use it – they’re not forced, that’s it.

  31. Yes, really*

    A former company of mine, after doing major layoffs and mandatory pay cuts of all staff salaries, allowed a local nonprofit partner to come in and do a mandatory presentation to us. It was made clear to us that every staff member must donate and in particularly, they wanted recurring donations.

    I was very low-paid (in fact, one of the lowest paid employees at the company) even before the pay cuts. I could not even afford to pay for parking or drive my car to work. So being asked to donate, especially to an organization i wouldn’t ordinarily support, was frustrating.

    I gave a one-time donation of $1 to get them off my back. I left that job shortly thereafter.

  32. Bitte Meddler*

    At my last job, we mere staff workers were asked to contribute money for gifts for our department’s C-Suite boss, who made 5-6 times what we did. He had surgery a couple of times, plus a milestone anniversary, and then he retired. We were asked to pony up each time.

    No money was solicited for other people’s surgeries or milestone anniversaries.

    I didn’t have the capital to point out the rule about gifts only flowing downward in the workplace.

  33. ReallyBadPerson*

    I think the money/inequality in pay is only a part of this. For some of these asks, it’s really about making the company look good at their workers’ expense. “A majority of our employees give back to our fabulous, selfless mission. Oh, here is a gift from the Teapot Corporation (collected from their underpaid employees.) Why, yes, 79% of our employees volunteer at our selected charities (under not-so-subtle coercion.)”

    I am retired now, but I wish I had known to say what I now say at those retail point of sale checkpoints when they ask you to donate to their cause of the month: I don’t give to third parties.

    1. Elio*

      This is a good point. That would explain some of these companies’ obsessions to have 100% donation to United Way.

      I was in the National Honor Society in high school and it was ran similarly to these businesses, at least at my school. They didn’t shake us down for cash but they did try to overload us with volunteering for everything. It’s like, I need time to do my actual homework. They threatened to kick me out for missing to many meetings (I was sick) so I had my first “you can’t fire me, I quit”.

  34. Meg*

    I worked at a toxic, extremely small business. The longest term employee who was also a bully would go around and shake down employees making $12/hr for $15 for the owner’s Christmas gift card because he would have a meltdown if he wasn’t feeling appreciated enough. I pushed back ONCE and got screamed at for not giving back to the man who gives us so much (which amounted to verbal abuse, making us thank him for our paychecks, no raises and MAYBE a company branded fleece around the holidays).

  35. Managing While Female*

    Yep. I once worked at a company where we were all pressured to pitch in a gift for the owner of the company. I was also severely underpaid, never got a raise in the 2 years I worked there, and personally was struggling to make ends meet. The owner, on the other hand, would brag about how she had courtside seats to NBA games, how she went to Bora Bora on her honeymoon, and how she just bought a house valued probably 600% over the average for the area.

    1. Coffee Protein Drink*

      We’ve seen more than a few stories about people expecting to accept gifts from people that work for them. I seriously don’t understand from where someone can find the chutzpah to do so.

  36. whimbrel*

    I work in government and we have an annual drive for donations to a large national charity. There is a persistent rumour that exec level types get bonuses based on participation in said drive, but I’m 98% sure that is not actually the case (although it would explain the massive and IMO inappropriate pressure exerted to participate).

    The last couple of years, calls for donations have not gone over well because *gestures broadly at everything, including massive increases in inflation and cost of living generally*. Employees are honestly more likely to be beneficiaries of donations than be in a position to donate.

    It’s gross and I wish it would stop.

  37. desk platypus*

    My workplace isn’t so much about charity drives (which have gotten significantly less pushier and just an email notification of ‘drop off items/cash here if you want’) and more about our constant potlucks/snacks. Our birthdays in my department are usually accompanied by either a breakfast or lunch potluck AND a cake/snacks in the late afternoon. We’re not a huge department but throughout the year it’s still buying more ingredients or even store bought platters. When we go for months without a birthday our Social Committee person plans for us to do takeout/bring in homemade goods once a month which is another expense.

    I finally started opting out of the department takeout lunches and once I did others quickly took a pass on it too. A couple of coworkers have also confided they dread the end of the year potlucks because of the expense/time on top of holiday spending.

  38. GeorgiaB*

    I run a team of about 75, and we have had 5-6 babies arrive over the past 3 years I’ve been in charge. For every baby, whether it’s the mother or the father on the team, I send out one email, with everyone on BCC, letting them know how to contribute if they’d like to. The email specifically states it’s voluntary, there are never any reminders, and there’s no record kept of who is contributing, just amounts so I know how big of a gift card to buy. The gift card goes to the new parents from the entire team. It’s worked well for us so far.

  39. Sudsy Malone*

    I work in nonprofit donor communications, and when I started my last job, the fundraising director annually sent an end-of-year donation request letter to every single person on staff — including folks who weren’t making a living wage at the time. Of course, as the team writer I was the one who had to actually write the curséd thing. One of my proudest achievements during my tenure there was successfully making the case that we should only be sending the appeal to people at the director level and above.

  40. Claire Beauchamp Randall Frasier*

    When you work for a private school (or university) it’s pretty much assumed that you’ll donate to the annual fund. The private school where I worked made it very clear that they wanted to be able to point to 100% of faculty and staff donating to the annual fund because that looks good when they ask others to donate, apply for grants, etc. (“Look how much the staff believes in our mission!”) I knew people who donated $5 just so the school could say they donated, but there was an option to have a regular donation withheld from our paychecks as well. We were repeatedly reminded about it.

    The private college where I now work has been much less demanding. So far they’ve only mentioned donating to the annual fund to us once.

  41. Coverage Associate*

    For tax-relevant donations, I found a donor advised fund with no minimum and very low management fees. I am still sorting out some of the particulars, like how to donate through my fund for a time-limited campaign with a match, when typically it takes weeks for funds to get from my checking account to the charity. But an advantage has been sometimes I can get away with saying, “leave your literature, and I will discuss it with my fund manager.” I have been tempted to, but haven’t yet lied and said I will contribute / have contributed through my fund when I have no intention of doing so.

    None of my workplaces have ever had charitable donations through payroll withholdings.

  42. Tradd*

    Close to 20 years ago, I worked at a place where the office manager was strong arming everyone, including the lowly paid temps, for $75 each towards premium football tickets for the VP in charge of the office to see a game with her dying father. Office manager tried to pull the emotional strings. I said no and I was bullied and harassed for it by the office manager. The VP had to tell the office manager to back off. I was sorry the VP’s father was dying, but I didn’t have that kind of money at the time.

    1. Salty Caramel*

      20 years ago, $70 would have bought me a week’s perishable groceries and a fair amount of things for the pantry, freezer, and laundry room.

  43. I don't work in this van*

    The guy who signed our paychecks (think CEO but a different title because of the type of business) would walk around personally handing out envelopes for the charitable organization he was on the board of (big name with local chapters that distributed money to other non-profits, some of whom had/have debatable goals/practices/keep getting in trouble for icky things). He was a person not everyone interacted with on a regular basis, so this was like a big deal, shake-the-hand-of-the-boss-once-a-year thing. But no pressure!

  44. Pizza Rat*

    One office I worked at strongly encouraged a payroll deduction to go the United Way. My response was, “If I have anything else deducted from my paycheck, I’ll be eligible for help from the United Way.”

  45. Caterina*

    Huge pet peeve of mine. My employer (public library) had the bright idea of holding a silent auction for WIGS made out of PAPER (???) that staff were expected to create on their own time using recycled materials, then bid on them with their own money, for the benefit of the library foundation, which supposedly funds things like summer reading prizes, employee wellness programs, etc.

    I’m a front line public services employee dealing with the stressors of an urban library and at the same time being scrutinized for how I spend my time (aka taxpayer dollars) while making a fraction of what administrators make working from home or behind a locked office door with zero accountability for what they do all day. Why exactly would I donate back to them out of my paycheck for the pleasure of owning a wig made out of literal trash? Thankfully they cancelled the auction, not sure if they had to be told how out of touch it looked or if they realized it themselves.

    1. Coverage Associate*

      The idea of doing such particular arts and crafts on employees’ own time is just the extreme example of the theme of these stories: which is organizers being so much in their own heads they can’t think their coworkers could feel differently. Like, I will bake for my coworkers because I like to bake, but I would never suggest the office have a bake sale to raise money for a selected charity or whatever. I know cook offs just for fun can work in some offices, but they have to be no pressure.

      I find this stuck in their own heads phenomenon is especially present for all the organizers who want to express gratitude to management materially.

  46. Ann O'Nemity*

    I work for a university. Here is a list of all the times I’m asked to contribute:

    1. Annual giving campaign
    2. United Way
    3. Recurring payroll deductions for university donations
    4. Various targeted fundraising campaigns for things like renovations, scholarships, etc.
    5. Coffee and various kitchen supplies like disposable plates and utensils
    6. Coworker’s birthdays, life milestones, sympathy flowers, and retirements (usually for the gift, sometimes for the party as well)
    7. Crisis leave (donating vacation days to someone who is out of sick leave)
    8. Department lunches and parties (university food services banned potlucks so now we have donation requests to pay for catering)

    What else? I feel like I’m missing some.

    1. hereforthecomments*

      Banned potlucks? That is crazy. How would anyone outside your area know? Do they go around monitoring for outlaw potlucks? I work at a university, so that last one could actually be a thing. At mine, if you’re caught doing anything a union employee can do, you’re in trouble (think hanging curtains).

  47. Choggy*

    This brought back a memory, my mother used to make me (and only me, had 4 siblings) go door to door in our neighborhood to raise money for the national heart association. Now I wonder if it was actually her company that was actually raising the money, and she *delegated* the task to me.

  48. Mel*

    My current office is great about not doing this sort of thing.

    My previous employer did all kinds of fundraisers we were pressured to participate in to show the community how dedicated the company was bc it’s employees donated so much money.

    And the one before that had everything.
    Increasingly lavish gifts to the CEO.
    Big gifts & parties for favorite employees in milestone employment years (one employee got a big screen tv, when I hit that same milestone they changed the PTO policy so I didn’t get an additional week off).
    Multiple charities they wanted us to give to.

    The thing is, none of these were concocted by the CEO. Peons or low level managers would say, “Oh we owe Bob so much for employing us! The least we can do is pay for X” and X was always an experience he could easily afford on his own, but none of us could.
    I found out after I left that the worst of these managers complained about me for not contributing to these, but I’d opted out LONG before her arrival.

    I gave $5 towards a clock or mug or something the first year I was there (before it got insane) and after that, nothing. I have heard that since then Bob has put a stop to the lavish Christmas gifts, but that doesn’t deter people. They just started trying to make it a boss’ day present instead!

  49. Clown Eradicator*

    My previous job had a secret santa at Xmas at $50, and then they came around asking for another $75 to go toward a gift for the owners. I laughed and said no, i don’t gift up, and the organizer said how generous they are. I pointed out that most is a tax write off and that they are horrible people. A few thanked me for standing up to the amounts. Most still contributed. This place gave no raises, no dental or vision ins, etc.

  50. pally*

    Takes a bit of backbone to stand up to these ridiculous requests for money.

    My friend earned my forever admiration over how he handled this at a prior company.
    Seems at prior company they valued having employees make charitable donations. So much so that they set up a way for the employees to donate to a specific national charity directly from their paychecks.

    In fact, when friend was hired, part of the onboarding was a small presentation on all the good this national charity did for people. At the conclusion of this presentation, this person stressed that they have 100% participation of their employees donating to this charity.

    My friend nodded and said something along the lines about how charities can be a good thing for a community.

    So the presenter asked, how much per paycheck could they put him down for: 3%? 5% maybe?

    He said: Zero.

    No, no, you don’t understand. We have a 100% participation rate in the charity donation program. Everyone here donates some amount. So how much would you like to donate?


    But, this charity does good things for people! Don’t you want to help with that?

    Sure! He said. That’s why he donates to various LOCAL charities.

    Oh! Well then, you’ll want to donate to our charity. Maybe just a few bucks?


    You have to donate something! You’ll ruin our 100% participation rate if you don’t donate!

    Sorry about that.

    So then you’ll donate?

    Um, no.

    And he never did. Periodically he had to fend off revisits to this request. And each time he refused. Apparently, it got around that he was the one who ruined the company’s 100% participation rate.

        1. Rick Tq*

          More likely back-hander deals from the charity. “Get us 100% participation and we will find a place for your (otherwise unemployable) kid”

  51. Dandylions*

    Most places I have worked have asked us to donate our raises, PTO, etc. to charitable organizations. Or in the case of non-profits back to the organization.

    I like the way my current company does it best. There is a list of charitable orgs they will match with. There is no pressure or solicitation to donate but if you see an org on the list you like you will be matched $ per $ up to $500 per employee.

    On the other hand I absolutely hate with a passion being asked to donate to my companies PAC.

    1. Angstrom*

      Agree. Matching donations is fine. Extra PTO time for volunteering at local charities is fine. Being asked to donate to a specific charity is not ok.

      Internally, I know what the sales team spends to entertain customers. A tiny fraction of that would buy a *lot* of birthday cakes.

  52. Carol the happy*

    Just say no, but here’s how. Nope. no. not gonna happen. Not for my boss who makes three times my admittedly nice salary. Saying no to buttering up the upper crust also sets a reasonable example for my reports who are fixing up 15 year old cars and panicking about groceries. When I give a rational denial (but not an excuse!) my people are empowered to keep what they earn.

    Here’s the script for “Not just no, but HELL NO!” And it makes you look like a truly generous being ANYWAY. It goes to them in writing– and on my family’s letterhead:

    “I’m sorry to be forced to disappoint you, but all of our charitable contributions are anonymous. Our family meet on Thanksgiving and vote on which charities do the most with the hard-earned donations we give them. We only use excellent ratings from Charity Navigator to avoid waste. Then we set our budget because a whole family can do so much more.

    We don’t ever give to top earners; buying Bill Gates or Warren Buffet a flight to Bali, (or even a Starbucks coffee card!) would mean ebery
    our money wouldn’t be available to our favorite, Medicins Sans Frontieres.

    We also donate to St. Jude. Other recipients are local food banks and homeless shelters.

    The larger organizations have a 98 and 99% rating from Charity Navigator. They get the bulk of our donations. We don’t fund anything with a less-than 90%, because they’re already throwing parties and overpaying the already rich.
    We occasionally donate to a different charity if they have an exceptional track record, plus an exceptional rating through Charity Navigator. To be considered, they must get their request and accounts to our family researcher/accountant, “M. Hercule Poirot” by the 30th of September. (link to follow)
    M. Poirot will examine their books and budget and decide whether to present them as a possibility during October. We will look at the charity’s mission statement and financials and vote at our Thanksgiving meeting. All donations are disbursed by December 31 payable to the charity itself.

    Your charity must have at least a 90% Charity Navigator rating to be considered.”

    I say things like “I have already allocated my charitable contributions for the next year. Our budget doesn’t permit last-minute additions.”
    I give this information at work, too. (Girl Scout cookies are special, though. To avoid hurt feelings, I buy them on the sneak or one box from each scout. I can eat thin mints and the coconut ring cookies until I pop….

  53. Random Bystander*

    It wasn’t the company, just a fellow co-worker, but I’ll never forget the request to donate for a gift to another retiring co-worker.

    Retiring coworker (“Cheryl”) had been with the company for 30ish years, I believe, and company had arranged for the usual retirement sendoff for someone with that kind of tenure. “Tina”, who had worked in the same room for many years before we moved to the new location where it was all open cubicles with everyone in the same room, thought that it was just not enough and was soliciting us all for donations to buy Cheryl a diamond tennis bracelet (might have been “diamond” like CZ, whatever …) for her retirement. Um, no … my ex wasn’t paying child support and I was supporting the four children on my income (at that time <$30k), and I don't care how "nice" Cheryl was to everyone else or how strong Tina's friendship with Cheryl was … I really couldn't contribute (the number of times my checking account went down to under a dime the day before payday just meeting necessary expenses!)–couldn't afford to contribute, and quite frankly didn't want to, since I was happy that Cheryl was retiring.

    Reason I wasn't sorry Cheryl was leaving the office: Cheryl had once told me that I should take it upon myself to vacuum on days that housekeeping had not because person at the desk next to me has allergies … well, so do I, I think if you add it up, there's the equivalent of two weeks in the year when I'm not sneezing like crazy because there is some dust/mold/pollen in the air, it seems like just as soon as one allergen lets up, another one starts ramping up. The difference being that I just sucked it up and took an antihistamine on the worst days rather than complain to all and sundry. Cheryl was downright frosty with me after I declined to do the extra vacuuming (we had a little stick vac which really was for those times when the hole punch fell and barfed confetti all over the carpet).

    1. Kendall^sq*

      Your last sentence reminded me of LongAgoBoss (in the mid 90s), who decided that the cleaners hadn’t vacuumed (enough? recently? not sure), so she decided that the way to get them to vacuum well was to empty her hole punch all over her carpeted office floor. (It worked, too.)

  54. Still Waiting*

    Ages ago I waited tables at a chain restaurant where there was intense pressure to contribute to the Restaurant Cares foundation that existed to help employees with stuff like medical bills or a house catching on fire. This in an industry notorious for not having benefits or PTO. Plus I made a whopping $2.31/hr in wages. The foundation deduction was the last deduction out of your paycheck so I just had them withhold an extra $50 in taxes so my net paycheck was always zero before they would try to deduct anything. I liked my coworkers and would want to help them out when I could, but not through a foundation so the restaurant could look like it cared while simultaneously not offering health insurance.

  55. OneBean TwoBean*

    I’m the director of a small nonprofit and never ask my employees to contribute to parties/gifts/etc. I just buy gifts/send flowers/whatever myself and say it’s from the staff. I sometimes feel a little bad because we would probably have bigger/better gifts if we did it via contributions than what I can swing on my own. But I just can’t bring myself to hit up someone making $15/hr to pitch in on a gift.

  56. Honor Harrington*

    The one that makes me maddest is when they ask me to contribute to their political action committee (PAC). Happens every year.

  57. The Dude Abides*

    Slightly biased, since I am the treasurer of a non-profit, but one member’s employer sends us a check every year – the employee has x amount deducted from his check, and annually the employer will match it and mail us a check.

    I think giving the employees the agency to donate to a cause they believe in (and showing support by opening the employer’s pocketbook) is the way to go.

  58. RaginMiner*

    Yeah, I can’t stand mandatory giving. I do $10/check to the employee fund for my company, but only because I’ve seen it do some real good and we have hurricane season coming up (employees and their families can apply for funds to help rebuild their house or any other catastrophic life event expenses). Other than that, I try and just keep it to sincere well wishes.

    1. RaginMiner*

      Caveat: My industry is known for paying well with good benefits and I work for a company that has a culture to where I feel comfortable making this contribution. the mileage definitely varies for other industries.

  59. OhBehave*

    I worked for a public school district. United Way was the only option for payroll deducted donations. I refused once I researched which nonprofits are under their umbrella. I opted out of donating and chose my own local nonprofit. They were not happy with my decision. There was always a huge push to donate, contests between departments, etc. I would get emails reminding me to add them to my direct donation option. They were relentless (gotta have 100% participation!).

  60. HCworker*

    I am really happy giving money, goods, and handcrafted gifts/food to coworkers for things like illness/moral support/new baby, etc, when it’s fully voluntary and I know it goes directly to them.

    However, I work at a healthcare nonprofit and we get an annual encouragement to donate during pledge drive season. Hard pass. I am already contributing highly skilled labor at below-market rate. That’s what they get from me. End of story.

    1. NurseThis*

      My nurse manager leaned on us every year to donate to her kid’s Irish Dancing club. That seemed like a her problem to me.

  61. TheBunny*

    The ski vacation is nuts.

    The $5 for the birthdays one, I’d just contribute as (assumably) I’m going to get the same on my birthday so it’s a wash and not worth the fight.

    Luckily I’ve never really worked anywhere that required donations like these…apparently I’m the lucky one.

  62. Poison I.V. drip*

    In 1996 I started a new job making $8.50/hour. I had been between jobs for a bit so until I got my first paycheck I was nearly broke. One evening during my first week, when I hadn’t even been paid yet, some woman approached me saying she was collecting money to buy a gold watch for one of the company founders, who was retiring. I hadn’t been paid yet, had never met, or even heard of this guy, and I’m sure he was worth more than me many times over. But I felt strong social pressure to hand over a 5 dollar bill. It sucked.

  63. BellaStella*

    Earlier this year HR sent an email for raffle tickets to buy for a gift. The money would go into the training fund. For staff. HR had a huge surplus last year plus each team must pay into a training fund annually for management training. Yes it is ridiculous.

  64. Zombeyonce*

    There’s an exec at my office who often spends time talking and emailing about a charity they support because it funds research for a disease prevalent in their family. While I’m glad they can support a cause they believe in, it bothers me that they are always pushing it and asking people to donate. They don’t ask people to donate in one-on-one meetings, but they spend precious time in quarterly all-staff meetings at certain times of year talking about the charity, and these meetings often end without everything on the agenda being addressed because of the exec’s time limitations.

    No one else is asked if they want to mention a specific charity they want people to support and it feels like an abuse of the privilege of their position to push this thing that has nothing to do with work on us when we don’t get enough time to hear from them on the topics we’re very curious about. If they’re that passionate about causes being brought to work (which I’d prefer to not happen at all), they should open it up to anyone who wants to put forth a plea for their own favorite charity.

  65. Sue Marie*

    Last company I worked for also used the employees for personal work. The owner had a big house that was taken care of by a couple of employees. Boss’s lady friend decided to get statuary for his birthday. The employees (about 7 of us) were asked to contribute. Maybe 1 or 2 did. The employee that cleaned the house every week was “honored to be asked to attend the party for the unveiling of the statue.” We warned the employee that it might not be what you think. Sure enough, days after the party, employee shows up to work, very quiet. We asked if everything was ok. She said: you were right. She was enjoying herself, until the lady friend told her it was time to clean up and expected her to clean up everything. The family was known for having get togethers and leaving EVERYTHING for the employee to clean. Even DAYS LATER. Food left everywhere.

  66. froodle*

    the COO at my place had the receptionist going around collecting sign ups to support her kids Duke of Edinburgh* thing… at the extremely expensive private primary school said kid attends.

    I gave a polite and cheerful “no thank you!” at the proffered sign up sheet, and kept my hands firmly on my keyboard so nothing could get pushed into them.

    come back from lunch and the g-d thing is sitting on my desk. I didnt throw it into the secure paper bin, but it was a near thing.

    and no, I still didn’t sign up.

    *extremely middle class pay to participate extra curricular designed to boost the UCAS applications of kids whose parents can afford to participate.

    because the private school and executive salary of mummy and daddy isn’t advantage enough, and employees making a fraction of her paycheque should finance it, I guess?

  67. Student*

    It’s not quite in the same spirit as the letters in this article, but one that absolutely blows me away at my current job:

    We are expected to pay for and provide our own job safety gear. Such as high-visibility vests when working near traffic. Hard-toe safety shoes on construction sites.

    I’ve worked in this field for a couple decades, often at places with low budgets. I’ve often bee expected (reasonably, in my mind) to share reusable, cleaned safety equipment with other people, when possible. But I’ve absolutely never been expected to pay out of pocket for site-required safety gear like at this current job.

    As far as I’m aware, there is relevant law and industry best practices that dictate that safety gear must be provided by my employer. I tried to talk to my boss about it and she acted like I had three heads. She absolutely refused to discuss it and said it was “settled” and wasn’t going to change.

    I’d happily go over her head to fight this, but I’ve never felt comfortable enough with the relevant laws/policies to figure out what I need to point at when I have an angry conversation with a company lawyer or a boss further up the chain. All my co-workers, who have little or no industry experience compared to me, just shrug and accept it as if it was normal.

    1. Sloanicota*

      A friend of mine has an on-camera job and she mentioned that she’s expected to buy all her own clothes. I don’t know what I thought was happening with, like, the TV weather(wo)man or the actor in whatever commercial, but apparently they’re often buying those clothes themselves.

    2. Angstrom*


      “On May 15, 2008, a new OSHA rule about employer payment for PPE went into effect. With few exceptions, OSHA now requires employers to pay for personal protective equipment used to comply with OSHA standards. The final rule does not create new requirements regarding what PPE
      employers must provide.
      The standard makes clear that employers cannot require workers to provide
      their own PPE and the worker’s use of PPE they already own must be
      completely voluntary. Even when a worker provides his or her own PPE, the
      employer must ensure that the equipment is adequate to protect the worker
      from hazards at the workplace.”

      1. 1LFTW*

        Thank you for linking to this. In my state, the state labor board has a very straightforward process for workers to lodge complaints about stuff like this.

  68. Pipe Organ Guy*

    I retired last year from my church job. Churches, of course, are some of the worst offenders for paying staff members less than decent market-value salaries. As a well-educated organist with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in my instrument, though, the places I can ply my trade are basically limited to churches.

    If one works for a church, there will be pressure to donate to the church. At the one I just retired from, there was significant pressure. In fact, all of us employees, clergy and staff, were expected by the rector to fill out pledge forms and drop them in the basket on the annual pledge ingathering Sunday. Very performative, right? My solution was to fill out the form, and instead of specifying a monetary amount, simply say that my husband and I were pledging together, and that on this occasion I was simply pledging to continue to bring the most beauty I could to the weekly services. Apparently that satisfied the rector and the committee.

    By the way, I resented the pressure placed on us at the Catholic high school I attended to sell quotas of so-so chocolate candy and unneeded magazine subscriptions every year. My parents and their relatives weren’t cooperative targets, and neither were people in the neighborhood. A pox on these fundraising sales!

  69. NurseThis*

    I’m an RN which means my work life has been wedding shower/baby shower/housewarming to a breathtaking degree. After about ten years into my career, I just started saying no. No. No. It would come up on my evaluations as “not a team player” but the hits were so frequent I felt I had to just opt out of them all.

  70. anoni*

    I once worked for a labor union, who asked all employees when they started to sign a card to pay dues to the union. The union in this case, of course, represented the interests of the bosses (although they painted it as solidarity with our members that we would pay dues).
    There was a staff union there which I happily paid dues to as they were actually fighting for my interests with my boss (aka the union leadership).

  71. I'm here for the cats*

    Considering our work place recently lost a high profile wage theft case, I would just point out that I already donate to them in unpaid wage.

  72. Silicon Valley Girl*

    This is another reasons remote work is great — less of that in-office obligatory party stuff. Not that my current office made employees pay for it. There was a tiny dept. fund & we’d get 1 cake per month to celebrate everyone’s birthday that month. For baby showers, an individual might send around a gift money collection request once, but that was it. Now that we’re all remote, it’s just Slack messages of congratulations, a bunch of emojis & gifs, but no parties, no money, whew.

  73. I Have RBF*

    My workplace has a division that makes drugs for a certain condition. They have an annual walk for this condition, and were encouraging people to participate, company shirts, etc. It made sense for people working on developing the drugs to “get involved”.

    I, disabled myself, did not do so. There were no repercussions. It works when it’s truly voluntary and not some high pressure thing.

    But bulk middleman charities like United Way? They can go F themselves and their overpaid execs. I give to local branches of secular charities only. That way I can be sure my money is not being used against people like me, or to push a religion that I don’t follow.

  74. Berkeleyfarm*

    I mentioned this in another recent thread, but at a former job, the director actively hated my group and would regularly trash us or under-bus us to other groups because we were very low or non-contributors to their United Way drive and I guess some other director “won”.

    I did overhear him complaining that we were high salary but low contributors. I had my own charitable giving set up and it didn’t have the huge overhead that UW did (which was 100% making the news locally). But he had it in for us after that.

  75. Lizzie (with the deaf cat)*

    Captain Awkward has a very entertaining story on her site of when she sold girl guide cookies and inadvertently raised a LOT of money

    1. The Dude Abides*

      I am not ashamed to admit that I once bought 14 boxes of thin mints from an exec’s daughter.

      I lived alone, and went through all of them in about two months, a sleeve at a time.

    2. 1LFTW*

      I remember that one! Unbeknownst to her, she’d stumbled across the local pot dealer.

  76. Mrs Bean*

    How do you feel about pitching in for special events (like a speaker) or fundraisers (like a bingo night for charity)?

  77. ThatCameOffJaded*

    I recently interviewed for a position for a Foundation arm of an institution and in the interview people mentioned how the persons in the position in the past would go around to staff and tell them how much they would be donating to the foundations events and how off putting it was . I was like…I won’t be doing that, staff giving should be optional. I didn’t get the job.

  78. Luna (the other one)*

    I work at a nonprofit private school, and they encourage employees to donate during our fundraising campaigns because it looks good to corporate donors if they can say they have 100% employee participation. However, it does not matter how much you donate, it can be just 1 dollar spread out over 24 paychecks if you want. I’m cool with it. They pay us pretty well, and I do genuinely believe in our mission and values. Those corporate donations go towards a lot of things we need, and fund scholarships for kids who otherwise couldn’t afford to attend, so yeah they can have my dollar.

  79. IWentHojo*

    I worked for a large corporation that did United Way donations via payroll deductions. There was an enormous amount of pressure to get 100% participation. Managers would receive a list of everyone who had not yet signed up, and they were expected to speak to each of those people and “persuade” them to sign up. It was my first job out of college, so I didn’t know how to push back, and they would always say “it can just be a dollar, it’s not a big deal.” But it always left me feeling squicky that I was being essentially bullied into donating to an organization (and made me wonder how that could be legal). Years after I left that company, I heard through the grapevine that someone finally did put his foot down and refuse to sign up. It was a huge deal: VPs got involved, there were multiple meetings about it. I do think in the end he was able to get out of it, but it’s baffling to me that the company was willing to go to those lengths just to be able to say that everyone donated to the same charity.

  80. Yellerdog*

    When I was in college, I worked at a large department store that regularly advertised all the money it donated to charitable causes.

    I was a fitting room attendant and made just above minimum wage at the time. Within a week of starting my job, my supervisor took me into one of the back stock rooms, completely alone, pulled out information about my upcoming paycheck and let me know that it was “very important to (Department Store Org)” that all employees contribute to (selected charity) and there was a suggested amount that the executives had decided I could afford to donate directly from my paycheck. Of course the donation was “optional,” my supervisor said as we stood alone in a back room, but they felt that the suggested amount eas very reasonable. How much would I like to contribute?

    I was 19 years old and terrified that I would lose this job, so of course I agreed to their “suggested amount.” It wasn’t a huge amount, but it took my wage to below minimum wage at the time – and this was a time in my life where I often couldn’t afford to buy food for myself after paying my bills.

    I knew this didn’t feel right at the time, but it wasn’t until later that I realized just how gross that company’s practices were. And, to this day, I am skeptical of any org that touts its employees contributions (especially monetary) to charity, because who knows how they pressured people into giving?

    I also – rightly or wrongly – have refused to give a cent to the (well known) charitable org that I was pressured to donate to, because just the name of the org puts a bad taste in my mouth.

  81. Megan*

    At my old library, every year we’d be asked to contribute three different cards/gifts for our director, on boss’s day, her birthday and for Christmas. A card was passed around with a check list (that was to supposedly keep track of who got the card and signed it) and every year I’d sign the card, cross off my name and not put in a dime. Most staff felt really obligated to do it and they’d usually end up with around $200 or more in each card.

    Did any staff get cards/gifts on their birthdays or Christmas? No. And when I went to the director to suggest maybe we do cards for staff, she said we could but on my dime. So, I did actually spend the money, bought birthday cards for all staff (it was about 30 or so people) and would have as many people as I could sign them and hand them out. I also ended up buying small gifts for Christmas for people (think like bookmarks and other $1 things that are nice!). I wasn’t even management, I just hated that no one in management wanted to do anything nice for staff, while the director was showered was showered with expensive gifts!

  82. Joe Momma*

    The Venn diagram of people at work who want you to donate money and the people at work who think taxes are socialism is a circle

  83. Been There*

    I work at an public university that had 4 consecutive years of budget cuts by the state.

    so… you know… obviously staff donations is the way to make more money.
    The previous chancellor is still on payroll (we’re not sure why) making 3x my annual salary, but yes, let’s lay off 10% of the workforce.
    Morale is at an all-time low.

  84. Kwsni*

    I work at a corporate owned emergency vet clinic, where prices have been rising to the point that many of our clients now cannot afford even medium standards of care. Management’s solution is to brainstorm fundraising for us to do for clients who can’t afford care, instead of adjusting pricing.

    They have also established a good Samaritan fund. and encouraged us to contribute to it.

  85. Not gonna do it*

    My org also has a PAC. Staff are encouraged to contribute to it, especially higher level staff (although it’s not limited to that). In some roles it’s even seen as an obligation and they are heavily pressured to contribute at the highest levels to have access to the fundraising social events. I have managed to sidestep it but it still feels really gross.

  86. zolk*

    In Academia, I am frequently asked to donate to the school. I am giving them my time each day for less than what I would earn in a corporate sector–that’s enough.

  87. yirna*

    I work for the federal government in my country (not usa). Every year, they run the Government Charitable Campaign, and each department is asked to run a month-long slate of activities to encourage employees to donate to charity, and to sign up for automatic donations from our payroll (our payroll system is so notoriously buggy that the government is being sued over it, we’ve spent like $2BN on fixing it, and people have literally lost their houses, health, and lives over it. Lots of people do NOT want anything touching their pay unnecessarily).

    Oh right, the punchline: it’s an open secret that most executives’ bonuses are tied to if they reach their Charitable Campaign targets.

    1. Zarniwoop*

      If not for payroll problems I’d offer to make donation in return for a cut of the bonus.

  88. M.*

    worked for a long time at a nonprofit clinic that was VERY aggressive about soliciting donations from employees. I was like… you hired me at 13.50 an hour, still aren’t paying me a living wage, and you expect me to give the meager amount you deign to give me BACK???

  89. Hey Ms!*


    I work in a low income school. Everyone is after my money.
    -Clubs send around students selling whatever fundraisers for their clubs. There’s a limited list of approved vendors, so we are getting hit up every week for the same chocolate bars, popcorn, candles, or dinner plates.
    -The lowest paid staff (janitors) don’t get stipends or bonuses or anything, so every year at the winter break and end of year we are asked to donate so those folks can get a bonus.
    -Want to wear jeans once a month? Buy a jean pass for $50! (To support _____ club!)
    -Teacher Appreciation Week swag and activities are based on funds that are collected from us/our program.
    -Personal milestones
    -Principal’s Day! (Yes, we are highly pressured to BUY OUR BOSS A GIFT for a made up holiday!)
    -Admin Day! Counselor’s Day! Nurse’s Day! All of that comes from our pockets.
    -Attending any school event – sporting events, theatre productions
    -Teacher of the Year celebrations.

    Of course, I like and care about my colleagues, and I do even really like my Principal. And I run a program and have to have kids sell things too.
    And, this doesn’t even include my classroom supplies and decor, or the kids who constantly ask me for food or money. Or the fact that if I fill out paperwork wrong 6 weeks before purchasing, I won’t get reimbursed for things I should get reimbursed for.

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