The Party Fund Problem–Collecting Money in the Workplace

Dear Evil HR Lady,

I often find myself in scenarios where my co-workers ask the team to contribute money for a common cause. It might be the birthday cake fund (”The team has hired 5 new people and we need to buy a bigger cake, so we need an extra five dollars.”) When a co-worker gets married, the team wants to purchase them a gift card. And the like.

Now, I often don’t mind contributing to these kinds of things – five bucks here, ten dollars here, and it’s all good. But I hate the emails I get asking for money. I don’t like that someone keeps a mental spreadsheet of who contributes and who doesn’t. And harder still is when I am tasked with passing around the hat – is there even a tactful non-obligatory anonymous way to collect money without making people feel pressure?

I suggested that, in one instance, I would just purchase the gift card on behalf of the team. But no, they clamored, the gift is from *all of us*, not from *you*, which means I might not collect enough for a meaningful gift and forces me to beg for money from everyone else.

How might I suggest that our team proceed for the next money-collection? Should I just purchase the gift (which I am willing to do on my own means) and pretend like everybody contributed equally?

These initiatives are not coming from management, so there is no foul play there. How should workplace community pots of money be handled?

The Party Fund Problem–Collecting Money in the Workplace

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8 thoughts on “The Party Fund Problem–Collecting Money in the Workplace

  1. Our office puts a jar w/a note that says birthday fund in the breakroom. People contribute although it's usually about $5 short. For weddings/babys our manager sends an email detailing the request for donations; then a follow up reminder e-mail about 1 day before the gift is purchased. Although not as generous as we could be, these 2 systems are working for us. Note also the birthday jar money is collected occasionally so as to avoid tempting someone to steal.

  2. I had a sales job for a while. The three sales reps plus our boss would each contribute 1% of our quarterly bonus to the office pool. That money funded all office birthday celebrations (there were 14 of us in all), a big party once a quarter, and any other events of significance. I didn't mind so much because I didn't have a mortgage and I really liked everyone I worked with.

    Then I worked at a place where I was low woman on the totem pole. The analysts – about ten of us – were responsible for bringing bagels on Friday. Management was not. We would bring bagels and then people from other departments would eat our bagels. I was not so happy about this system, which seemed like extortion to me.

    I guess I shouldn't be too surprised – this was the place where the VP in the other dept charged his people to attend a mandatory Saturday night Christmas party – and they couldn't bring spouses/SOs.

  3. My office does the once a month birthday celebration (everyone with a June birthday for example, shares one cake, one celebration). No birthday that month, means no cake that month.

    As for the group gift, I wish we'd do away with it because there is no standard.

    When I got married, the ladies in my church threw a loveley shower for me, so I wasn't expecting anything from my office. But I got a nice $50 gift card with a lovely card signed by all 10 of my coworkers. I was thrilled and my husband and I put it to good use. $5 each is a reasonable amount.

    Six months later, the office decided to throw a shower for another girl who was getting married. I was asked for $15 to go on a gift card for the group gift. I thought that was really steep,and really wasn't in my budget. Also, given that she had already had 2 other showers and had a 3rd coming up the weekend after the "office shower," it was unnecessarily extravagant. The others had already ponied up the $15 and signed the card. Really made me feel special.

    And other gifts have been the same way….over the top for some and barest minimum for others.

    I decided at that point, I could give my own gift and have declined going in with the group because there wasn't any balance.

    It's not popular and I get the stink-eye from whomever is heading up the fund raising. The bride/mother-to-be still gets a nice gift from me and it's saved my budget, which is most important to me.

  4. My employer has birthday cakes once a month for everyone whose birthday is that month. Different departments do different things for birthdays, weddings, etc. We don't take up any company-wide collections here, and for that I am grateful. At previous places, I was nickle-and-dimed to death. I finally stopped contributing, saying that it just wasn't in my budget.

    I buy gifts for my family and friends, only one of whom works with me.

  5. I always give $5-10 for a going away present/wedding present etc. How good did I feel when after 4 years I didn't get so much as a card or a celebration.

    It appears it's a popularity contest (something that I always seem to lose!) and whether people like you or not.

    They even had the hide to ask me to chip in after I had gone. When I told them to go jump and that I hadn't gotten anything they got offended.

    Too bad, so sad!

  6. I spent 9 years in a hell job with a govt agency that was just stupid with this. With 300 people in the agency, someone always having a baby, getting married, sick, dying, promotion, birthday, retiring, there was ALWAYS cards being passed around. Most of the time I gave $5 for people that I knew. Money I didn't have. It adds up to being a lot when it is all the time. Especially when I commuted an hour each way. It could have gone into my gas tank! My dept was one where I worked with most people in the agency. However, in my own dept I gave more as I worked more closely with those people. Well, I had my second baby. Everyone that was there when I had the baby left because of management at the agency (not within the dept). So when I left on a 6 mos maternity leave, a new manager of the dept had taken over with a new staff. Nothing was done for me. They invited me to come to work for a luncheon, that I PAID for (not how the email invite read). Drove an hour each way with a new baby for wasting half my day. I had had some issues with the new management that had come in after the old management retired within the dept (started a couple of months before I went out on maternity leave, I was doing a work at home schedule due to medical issues with the pregnancy). I could see the writing on the wall with him. Knew it was not going to work. I wasn't willing to deal with another management change and having to deal with someone not knowing what they were doing. Anyway, I started applying while out on maternity leave. A position in the office came open as a promotion. I was turned down for the position. I knew I would be. It was like oil and vinegar with the two of us. I had also applied for other positions. Was offered my current position three days after I came back from maternity leave (hooray!). Anyway, due to everyone leaving already, nothing was done. I paid for my own lunch that was held for me. They only held it within the dept. Many people were upset that they didn't get the chance to say goodbye. I kind of felt gipped that I paid for other people's retirements, promotions, going aways, etc over the 9 years that I had worked there, and the dept couldn't be bothered to do something for me. Anyway, it worked out that I am in a much happier place. Best decision ever to leave. New agency has paid off my student loan over the last 2 years, gave me a 10k promotion, work at home, flex schedule, and no commute (located me at an office close to home). I love the people I work with. Enough that many of us are commuting (as we work virtually over a large state) to send off our supervisor to a new job elsewhere. I was out for 7 weeks in November due to surgery. I had so many people when I came back and while I was out checking on me, are you ok? how are you doing? Do you need anything? World of difference. I guess my point is that I don't so readily give to these things now, but only to people that I truly know and care about..

  7. I worked at a place for 15 years,and as the admin asst, I was always the one asked by the managers to "do something" for every occasion that came up. So I would buy the cards and ask for money or food or whatever was requested. Half the time people would sign the card and say "catch me later" for their money. Of course, it was usually the ones who made the most that would say that and never "remember" to give. I always spent my own money trying to keep things even for everyone. But when it's my birthday, which is right after Thanksgiving, everyone's "tired" of eating so I never get food or cake and most people were off for the holiday, so I was lucky to get a card. I've never had kids, been married or had surgery – for me it's just pay, pay, pay and spend my own personal time buying the stuff. Anyone who thinks they shouldn't give unless they also recieve, doesn't live in the real world.

  8. We usually have "food days" for most events. Some people enjoy it and try to bring or make something they know the person likes, if it's just a bag of chips or candy bars, I think that's fine. Others complain if it's not home made – and it's usually those with stay at home wives that make the stuff for them. It's also often things that are messy or need to be kept cold and spoil and then their dishes end up sitting on the counter for weeks before they take them home. The easy finger food stuff is always enjoyed and eaten fast, the "home made" stuff is just too messy to grab and eat and is always left for "someone" to clean up. Is that really "better"?

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