Don’t tell me how to spend my money at Christmas (Alternate title: The Pressure to Donate)

I am ALL about Christmas. Nobody would ever consider me to be a Grinch.

But frankly, I am sick of people telling me where to donate my money these holidays.

Every year at work, we do a food drive. On top of that, each department picks their own charity.

Frankly, I don’t like this charity. For every story I hear about how much help a certain family needs, I hear another one of abuse and people taking advantage of donations when they’re not really in need.

So today was the last day to donate. I had my boss ask me if I already donated, “Yup,” I said. Even though, no, I haven’t, and I have no intention to.

This morning, one co-worker said she was going to the grocery store to pick up gift cards, and asked if anyone needed one. Another co-worker asked me directly, “Erika, have you donated yet?”

“No,” I said. “I prefer to pick my own charities to donate to.”

The other co-worker responded “Well if everyone decided that, then they wouldn’t have any money to give to the charity.”

To which I said, “Well frankly, it’s my decision what I do with my money.”

Why all the office pressure? Are we not all adults here? Are we not old enough to decide how to spend our money?

Do we still feel the need to peer pressure each other into donating to charities you don’t even support just because YOU think it’s the right thing to do?

In fact, I did pick TWO families to donate to. But I chose them through Mama Laughlin’s Pay it Forward series. Reading the stories of families in need made me feel more connected than simply donating to the office stash just because everybody else was doing it.

One of the office complaints was that not many people had donated to our charity. Well, helllloooo, don’t you think that’s a sign that people don’t want to feel pressured to donate just because we HAVE to? Does that not defeat the whole purpose? It should be a CHOICE.

If I give at Christmas, it’s because I want to. Not because you’re telling me to.

Anyone else feel this way? Or am I really just a Grinch?


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34 thoughts on “Don’t tell me how to spend my money at Christmas (Alternate title: The Pressure to Donate)

  1. May 13, 2016 at 6:30 am

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  2. January 25, 2014 at 2:40 am

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  3. July 7, 2013 at 9:10 am

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  4. CL Turner
    December 21, 2012 at 4:14 pm

    What do you think about all the stores that ask “would you like to donate $1 or make a donation to X charity?” This is now happening at the grocery store and many other retail stores. If these stores want to donate part of their profits to that charity, that’s their choice. I’d rather not have to decline several times a week.

    I really prefer to give to the charities I choose. I do the research, pick the ones I like, and then give both time and money to those groups. I hate to feel bad when I’m not willing to give “just a $1” every time I turn around. I love the Salvation Army and remember the fun of contributing while growing up. There are others I choose too, but I’m TIRED of saying no thanks, I prefer to pick my own charities at retail stores. Any ideas?

  5. December 20, 2012 at 12:09 pm

    It is a very rare day that anyone finds us donating to group effort for charity. Our family has specific charities that we regularly donate to based upon on our moral & ethical beliefs. It is VERY important to us that we know where our money goes & how our money is used to help others in need. We certainly NEVER give to any charitable organization that receives any government funding or grants as we’ve discovered that these are the most discriminating (federal guidelines force them to be discriminate) against which class of poor they assist (ie. they refuse to help the poor who refuse government assistance).
    2 thumbs up for standing up for your beliefs and not caving to office pressure.


  6. December 19, 2012 at 6:08 pm

    I definitely feel this way. Every year my school fundraises for this one charity and they make it almost a mandatory thing for the entire school to participate in. They send us emails like everyday telling us to sign up with the donation form to take money out of our paychecks. It drives me quite nuts. I want to make those choices on my own.

  7. December 19, 2012 at 3:09 pm

    My company does a food drive every year at this time. But they don’t at any other time of the year. It’s frustrating to see that people only ever care about helping the needy when it’s the holidays or when a huge disaster strikes. But what about times when there isn’t a disaster or holiday? Needy people still exist at those times too.

    I don’t donate to charities that I don’t believe in. If that means I’m the only one of a big group not donating, then that’s fine. I too want to know where my money is going.

  8. December 19, 2012 at 12:36 pm

    Well said!!
    I completely agree with you. I don’t participate in any of this sort of thing at work, it’s my money and my business what I do with it. We teach kids not to give in to peer pressures and then we push it in the workplace. great post!

  9. Rebecca
    December 19, 2012 at 11:52 am

    I’ve witnessed this at the high school level as well. We were encouraged to organize “fundraisers” with our individual homerooms for different charities. Oftentimes the “fundraiser” consisted of the homeroom teacher passing out jars to the other homerooms and a contest being held to see which homeroom could collect the most money. We were supposed to encourage the kids to donate their pocket change & such. This bothered me for two reasons: 1. I don’t think charity should be a competition. 2. Over 85% of my students qualified for free lunch at the school. “Pocket change” was bus fare or a much needed snack for them. Every month there was a different fundraiser – I didn’t promote them but I didn’t want my homeroom to feel embarrassed so I often wound up donating a couple of twenties myself. I was always so angry about it – the pressure. I get encouraging kids to be charitable but I organized volunteer trips instead – their time is free and doesn’t mean they have to do without.

  10. December 17, 2012 at 11:28 am

    I don’t feel guilty about saying “no” to seasonal giving pressure. I feel confident that I’m giving away an appropriate amount of money to appropriate recipients all throughout the year.

  11. SWR
    December 15, 2012 at 2:24 pm

    Here’s what bothers me about individual giving. Why does it have to be feel-good? What is the point of there being something in it for you? (If your answer is ‘because it’s my money’- well, then why are you even giving it away?) In Jewish tradition- I’m not Jewish, so I hope I don’t misrepresent this- the highest level of giving is blind- it’s giving what you can because it’s the right thing to do, and not needing to get anything from it.

    If you research a charity and they mismanage money, then give to a better one. But share what you learn- maybe your office will pick differently next year. If an organization goes against your personal beliefs (Salvation Army does for me) then I think it’s appropriate for you to abstain.

    Lastly, remember how far negative news spreads. Sure, you may have heard equal numbers of families that were really in need versus families that were able to scam the system of the charity- but that doesn’t mean that it was a 1:1 ratio! There are always people who game every system, and news of those people always travels much further.

  12. December 15, 2012 at 1:50 pm

    Money was really tight in our house for a few years, and we didn’t do a lot of donating. This is the first year we have that truly disposable income at the holidays, and so I’ve donated liberally – and yes, I decided on each and every recipient on my own, without outside pressure. I think it’s ridiculous for someone to put pressure on you like that!!!

  13. December 14, 2012 at 2:01 pm

    I feel just the same way. I hate being guilt tripped into donating to some random charity I don`t know anything about. If I want to donate to a particular charity organization I`d like to read about first. besides, with limited money, one cannot give to every charity there is!

  14. December 14, 2012 at 12:30 pm

    I don’t like anything about this — I think your office is missing the point of giving. It’s your money, do what you want with it, even if that means not donating a dime. You shouldn’t have to defend your actions — you do what you do regardless of peer pressure!

  15. December 13, 2012 at 7:29 pm

    I know what you mean, though at my current job I haven’t experienced this. But I’ve definitely been in situations where I feel pressured to follow the crowd and donate money to a cause I wouldn’t otherwise. It’s super frustrating.

  16. December 13, 2012 at 6:46 pm

    We got a new sr director at work and he sent a department wide email, asking foot donations for his charity. He also had the donation box right outside of his desk which made me feel like he was watching. I am generally picky about charities to donate to but I did here for brownie points. I hate the office donation pressure, especially if it comes from higher ups. Good for you for holding you’re ground!

  17. December 13, 2012 at 3:10 pm

    I resent ANYONE telling me what to do at ANY time of the year.

    The Christmas cards are starting to come in from PR firms all over the place, and they all say “We’ve made a donation to X charity on your behalf”.

  18. December 13, 2012 at 1:32 pm

    I completely agree! I donate where I want. End of story. If my ex-company held a clothing drive, or something similar I participated, but if they wanted cold hard cash I always said no thank you.

  19. Hannah
    December 13, 2012 at 11:50 am

    I have a lot of problems with some of Salvation Army’s beliefs and I hate having to walk past the bell ringers everywhere. I refuse to donate money to them and they will give you this look like you’re singlehandedly trying to murder the poor and homeless. I do donate money and, like you, I prefer it to be to organizations that share the same beliefs as I do.

  20. December 13, 2012 at 11:49 am

    It was probably a team-building exercise as well and that could be why you were getting so much pressure. Could you donate just a little to be a team-player? What charity was it? Does it have a bad wrap on Charity Navigator?

  21. December 13, 2012 at 10:38 am

    Not a grinch. We have donations at Mr. PoP’s work, and my own. While they might not be our top choice charities, they’re not bad – and we give minimally and just take it out of the “shopping” budget as though we’re buying gifts for friends or coworkers.

    It stinks. No question there. But we get that right now that’s part of the protocol in our offices.

  22. December 13, 2012 at 10:22 am

    Yes, I do sometimes, but luckily I’m not in an office setting anymore so there is less pressure.

  23. December 13, 2012 at 10:19 am

    Good for you for not coughing up the dough and for standing your ground when your coworkers called you on it. If you don’t want to give, then you shouldn’t have to!

    My school always has a big United Way fundraiser. You were expected to give, but you didn’t have to. The thing I liked about it was that if you participated, your name got put into a raffle. (The prizes were cheap things like a week of jeans – that’s pretty darn valuable to a teacher!, school t-shirts, Sonic gift card.) At least this way there is some motivation to participate. That and the United Way is a pretty good one to donate to. If the charity had gone against my beliefs in some way, no amount of incentive would have gotten me to give money. That’s my hard earned cash! It goes where I say!*

  24. December 13, 2012 at 10:05 am

    Yes, you are the Grinch…Haha Just kidding:)

    I don’t like it when people take my money either without asking even if its going to a good cause. Its just the principle of the thing.

  25. December 13, 2012 at 9:40 am

    I work in the non-profit sector, and have my entire career. It definitely understand that so many folks everywhere, all year long, question where the money goes. Every certified 501c3 and credible charity has some sort of outline to where it goes, what services/funds support what, etc. Non-profits love to share where the money goes and what kind of impact it makes. A donor wouldn’t have anyway to know that without the non-profit sharing the info. The Better Business Bureau lists standards for accountability and what the BBB considers responsible return. I personally am proof that having paid professionals mean my the local event I produce raises a net of over $5 million annually whereas the local group of friends who puts on a walk in the park, raises a few hundred. I am a huge believer in supporting what matters to you and I agree it shouldn’t ever be expected. I want to know where it goes. That’s why I’m more likely to offer a granola bar than money to somebody asking on the street. Some companies will match gifts made to any charity. It is worth checking out if deeper pockets will help a charity that you like to help!

  26. December 13, 2012 at 9:38 am

    100%! I’m choosy about which organizations I donate to as well. The two I donate to without hesitation are the Salvation Army (because they manage their money really well and don’t pester me) and the Food Bank. I’ve donated to other organizations throughout the year, but those are the two I don’t hesitate on at Christmas.

  27. December 13, 2012 at 9:37 am

    I agree. When I worked at a large insurance firm they really pushed hard for the United Way campaign (mid-fall). It was so awkward because they gave out little trinkets to people who donated, so it was clear who didn’t. At least during Christmas they were more low key about it. Our team agreed to “adopt” a family {similar to an angel tree} and we were able to pick items to give. Much less pressure and you feel more connected to the family!

  28. Lea
    December 13, 2012 at 9:35 am

    I feel the same and not only at this time of year. My company has a huge United Way campaign with company matches and tons of pressure. The money goes to various community organizations, (mostly geared to inner-city youth, families, etc.), but I personally prefer to give money to causes relating to animals and heart disease. So I just don’t donate.

    Other companies where I have worked for (also government) have an “All Charities Campaign” where you can choose who you want to donate to and the company matches it and that makes WAY more sense to me. Just because certain people or certain executives feel a charity is important doesn’t mean others do. Or at least not enough to give money to.

  29. December 13, 2012 at 9:28 am

    My work used to have a big capital campaign for a charity that I felt was discriminatory in nature. I would not contribute to it, and was bugged relentlessly. Thankfully “participation” by the company also included turning in your form saying you weren’t going to donate (they have a 95% participation goal)- so I at least did that.

    Thankfully, the charity has changed its stance and I can go along with everyone else.

    But I agree- I want to decide who gets my money.

  30. December 13, 2012 at 9:19 am

    I’m with you! I personally prefer to donate my time or even goods directly rather than just give money. How do you know where it’s REALLY going? We adopted a family through the Salvation Army this year and met with them personally to deliver their gifts. That way, I know 100% of my effort and money is going directly to that family.

  31. December 13, 2012 at 9:12 am

    Good for you … standing your ground if it’s not a charity you feel good about. It’s too bad people are still pressuring you though and trying to make you feel bad.

  32. December 13, 2012 at 8:56 am

    I’m very picky as well. I much prefer donating to actual families in need that big charitable organizations. If a non-profit has a CEO I’m wary of where my money ends up.

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