Well-Intentioned Charity May Be Overboard

by admin on August 25, 2011

Fellow E-hellions, I feel a bit bad about calling out this faux pas (if it is one), because I know it’s essentially a well-intentioned effort by well-meaning people to garner support for a friend in tragic difficulties.  But the whole phenomenon seems to me to be just so hideously tacky on so many levels—and this is the second or third time this year that I’ve encountered it at my workplace—that I think it belongs in Ehell as a warning to other well-meaning people who may be tempted to follow the trend. If I’m wrong about that, feel free to go ahead and rip me a new one (with your customary politeness, of course).

Here’s the story.  Today I received the following (heavily censored) mass email sent to all employees at my workplace:

“Dear [Workplace] Community: “[Colleague Name,] dear friend to many of us at [Workplace], has recently been diagnosed with [Name of Serious Illness]. She is in the process of receiving treatments, which has been very difficult on both her and her husband… [Details of family connections, diagnosis and treatment suppressed]. “In the meantime, we would like to show our support. Prescriptions, medical expenses and travel costs are just a few of the expenses they are facing, and we would like to help. “Please help us in sending [Colleague and Spouse] our best wishes for a speedy recovery by signing a giant get well card. The card is located at [Workplace Location]. “In addition, please consider helping financially.  Join our very own [Other Colleague] and his band [Band Name] at [Local Music and Dining Establishment] at [Date and Time].  There will be a collection box, a 50/50 raffle and a raffle of donated items, which will be available for viewing during dinner hours.  All of the proceeds will go straight to [Colleague and Spouse] to help offset some of the medical expenses they are facing. “And if you or anyone you know would like to donate a service or merchandise to raffle, please contact [Name of Contact Person]. “So come out and have some fun.  Let’s raise the roof and raise some money to help support [Colleague and Spouse] during this difficult time in their lives. “Sincerely, [Names of Well-Meaning Co-workers]”

First of all, am I just crazy, or is there something horribly incongruous in the message “Hey everybody, [Beloved Colleague] has cancer!  Come out and have some fun!”?  I don’t happen to know this particular co-worker  personally, but if I did, finding out about her serious illness would NOT inspire me to go out to a local bar and “raise the roof”.  Heck, even without knowing her personally, I’m pretty depressed to read about her predicament.  Who on earth would enjoy the idea of using somebody else’s life-threatening health crisis as an excuse to party or as an opportunity to win a raffle item?

Secondly, while I deeply sympathize with families who are feeling the strain of a serious illness financially as well as in other aspects of their lives, aren’t colleagues and employers supposed to address this issue by means of official employee benefits rather than by randomly passing the hat?  We’re lucky enough at our workplace to have a pretty good health insurance policy for employees, and many of us have made compromises on salary levels and other employment perks in order to have a high-quality benefits package that is available to all of us.  If our employee medical coverage is massively inadequate for employees with serious illnesses (and I know that hardly any insurance policy will cover all expenses of a serious illness, which is deplorable), then by all means let’s take action to remedy that.  But the idea of trying to fill the coverage gaps for individual colleagues by soliciting cash handouts from co-workers who may never even have met them just seems really undignified. And it also seems rather unfair to other co-workers who may also be facing major expenses associated with serious illness in their families but prefer to keep it a private matter.  Should we really consider it acceptable to have our well-meaning co-workers blabbing the details of our private medical and family issues to all and sundry in our workplace, and arranging public entertainment events to spotlight our problems and our need for monetary help?  Is somebody who finds that appallingly distasteful just being a mean old unsympathetic grinch?

That said, I do think the idea of a giant get-well card that all interested co-workers can sign is nice.  Saying “Hey everybody, [Beloved Colleague] is going through tough times and needs your money!” may be tacky, but saying “Hey everybody, [Beloved Colleague] is going through tough times and needs your good wishes!” seems thoughtful and sweet.  If [Well-Meaning Co-workers] had left it at that, I wouldn’t have written this letter.    0719-11

{ 128 comments… read them below or add one }

many bells down August 25, 2011 at 11:48 am

Ooof. I’m torn on this one. Yeah, it’s a little rough to be asked to donate to someone you don’t really know. And the event organizers have no idea what your financial situation is. On the other hand, insurance doesn’t always get everything. I just had surgery twice for thyroid cancer, and even with our insurance I’ve got more medical bills than I can handle – following as they did on an unusual run of large expenses for our household.

I think if the fundraiser were being thrown for me, I’d be alternately embarrassed and thrilled. Embarrassed because that’s the sort of fuss I hate; but happy that we wouldn’t be emptying our savings account after all. I also think that if it were being thrown for a co-worker I didn’t know well, I’d take refuge in “I’m sorry, that won’t be possible right now”, no further explanation required.

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Susann August 25, 2011 at 11:50 am

I think to do something like this without the consent of the main party is wrong on so many levels I couldn’t list them all here, if this was indeed the case. I don’t feel the work place is appropriate for this type of thing. If someone insists on doing something like this then they need to take it to private communications, not work e-mail.

As to asking others for donations, just no, I won’t contribute to something like this. I save all my extra money so I can take care of my own emergencies as they arise and if others fail to do this I don’t understand why I should take from my savings to make up the difference.

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kjr August 25, 2011 at 11:50 am

This is always tough. Someone has good intentions but it can also be awkward. Recently, a friend was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was a waitress at a well-known high end restaurant in town. Her husband ran into an acquaintance one day, who said they had heard of her illness and donated $25 to the cause. He was confused, and asked what they meant, and found out that the restaurant had posted signs and put donation buckets out announcing to the world she had breast cancer and to help her out, without her or her husbands consent. This was a very personal matter for her, and he, though upset that the restaurant didn’t ask first, thought it was a nice gesture…until he found out the restaurant claimed it didn’t receive any donations that amounted to anything so she never received a dime. He was told by no less than a dozen people they donated. She no longer works there. It is unfortunate when a horrible illness such as cancer occurs and situations like these come of it.

In this situation, I hope it works out for the woman with the illness, but I do think that these things need to be done tactfully and with permission.

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Lucy August 25, 2011 at 11:51 am

I agree, it is a very difficult issue to address as while you may have every sympathy for the person in question it does get tarred with the same brush as other ‘gimme’ emails. I also wonder if the one with illness or there family even knows about the email. Speaking personally, I would probably be quite embarassed/cross if a well-meaning friend saw fit to inform everyone in my workplace of my illness and associated difficulties.

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sj August 25, 2011 at 12:02 pm

I also wonder if the employee who was diagnosed with the illness was aware just how many details were shared? Personally, I would not want this going around my workplace.

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Leela August 25, 2011 at 12:03 pm

I can see how this annoys you but I disagree.

The coworkers who organized this technically aren’t ‘passing a hat’, they’re throwing what appears to be a small-scale benefit concert. It’s like holding a telethon, or a bake sale, or selling some merchandise and giving the proceeds to relief efforts. Your coworkers can probably raise more money for their cause by advertising to the general public for this concert than by asking their immediate social circle for donations.

If you’re perturbed enough by your company’s insurance program, you could always go to HR yourself and see what you can do to change it, but I doubt this person’s medical bills are going to wait.

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Clair Seulement August 25, 2011 at 12:04 pm

It’s hard to say. I completely agree that this should not have come out in any official capacity, that the contradiction in the tone/message is off-putting, and that the intimate details should not have been indiscriminately revealed. That said, I do find it admirable that the sender/organizers are putting on a benefit for this co-worker. Offering entertainment/prizes in exchange for charitable contributions is to my mind less presumptuous than simply demanding donations outright–the giver remains in control, and receives something in appreciation. In other words, thought and work is going into this.

Perhaps a better tactic for announcing the benefit would be to post a simply-worded flyer–with no grisly health details enumerated–in the break room, which would be more in keeping with the fact that this is an extracurricular gift scenario predicated on one’s personal choice? Granted, the point about the health benefits still warrants attention and brings to bear a larger concern, but it’s possible that this woman’s benefit situation is unique, or exposes systemic shortcomings of which the company was previously unaware.

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Snowy August 25, 2011 at 12:07 pm

If I found out I was seriously ill, it would be a huge stressor. Every day would have a black cloud and I’d carry a mountain of weight. The idea of people coming together to have some fun with me, for my benefit, letting me feel light there’s still light in the world, would boost my morale greatly. And I know that those fund raisers keep the recipients from being as easily forgotten.

So, no, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with this, as long as the patient knows it’s going on and is okay with it. It’s certainly much better than saying, “She’s sick, sign this card and send cash,” and then forgetting about her.

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Katelyn August 25, 2011 at 12:10 pm

I agree with the OP that this well-meaning co-worker went about his mission in the wrong way; however I do not believe that spreading the word about a nice gesture by friends of the sick individual is a tacky thing to do. It was certainly bad taste and awkward for the email writer to have given details about the person’s medical condition, diagnosis or money problems. That is not anyone’s business and definitely should not have been sent out in a mass email for the world to see. However if he or she had made the email short and sweet by saying that [coworker’s] band was playing to benefit the sick person and gave details for the time and place for anyone who might be interested, I do not see anything wrong with that.

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LeeLee88 August 25, 2011 at 12:19 pm

Signing a card is fine by me, and maybe a group of folks who actually know the person could collect for a bouquet of flowers to be delivered to the hospital, or organize meal runs for the family, but soliciting people in the way the OP was solicited at work is simply tacky. It’s wrong for all the reasons OP mentioned, and if the band and community members wanted to raise funds through a benefit, okay, but leave it out of the work environment. I had something like this happen at my old job, and despite the pressure to give, I didn’t because I couldn’t afford to, and because I had no idea who the people were. Spilling someone else’s beans is tacky and disrespectful.

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Serenity August 25, 2011 at 12:20 pm

This is a fundraiser for someone in need of assistance over something they can’t control. No one is being coerced into attending or donating. And yes, even with the best insurance plan, people are often left woefully under-covered in the event of a serious/life threatening illness. I find it appalling that you liken it to “an excuse to party or win a raffle prize”. If seeing the signs promoting the fundraiser depresses you, imagine how the family of this critically ill woman must feel, To answer your question, yes, you DO sound like a grinch. In fact, your callousness stuns me. But for the grace of God, that could be you in the hospital needing help, and your coworker the one reading the signs and deciding to judge your “well meaning” friends. Shame on you.

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Nestholder August 25, 2011 at 12:23 pm

I have to agree. It’s likely to be of great comfort to an ill person to know that their colleagues care, so that get-well cards are entirely appropriate. Ideally not as a one-off, but on-going contact to say “thinking of you” would be lovely. But the cash solicitations strike me as wrong (not least because I’m in the UK, and our National Health Service is one of the best things we have). I quite agree that if the health coverage offered is inadequate, it’s better to work towards changing that than to make up for society’s/the employer’s deficiencies by seeking charity. And I would certainly not want vague acquaintances to know the ups and downs of my health and treatment!

It seems wrong to put this kind of solicitation on the same footing as people who want to spend more money on, say, a wedding or honeymoon, than they actually have. Illness or accident can happen to anyone. But… I don’t know, it doesn’t feel right.

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AS August 25, 2011 at 12:23 pm

I am not sure what I think about raising money for someone’s treatment, but if I were the receiving party, I’d have been very embarrassed (especially if I was doing well enough to pay for the treatment myself). If someone really cannot afford, it might not be a bad idea; but it seems like a lot of assumptions go in there. It indeed is a sweet idea to send a card and/or a care package (fruits, games, etc.). Maybe if some friends want, they could send cooked food for her family because they might be busy in and out of the hospital. But raising money seems a bit of overkill.
I have mixed feelings about some form of entertainment to raise money though. There are events like the dance marathon “Thon” which are fund raisers (for childhood cancer in case of Thon, though the money is given out to families who really need them). People involved are essentially “enjoying” themselves, but there is a good and selfless cause.

Talking about raising money for an illness reminds me of something that happened to my friend. My friend is wheelchair bound (has been from her childhood). But she has fiercely independent, lives on her own and has a Ph.D. and very good job. She was once going somewhere when a complete stranger came up to her and offered her some money. My friend denied taking the money, and was so embarrassed that someone would offer her money. I thought it was quite rude of the stranger to offer someone money without knowing anything about them. It seems like an interesting assumption that someone on wheelchair cannot fend for themselves.

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LovleAnjel August 25, 2011 at 12:27 pm

I agree with Admin. I wonder if the ill colleague was fully aware of this before it all happened. I would personally be horribly embarrassed not only by the party and solicitations, but if my medical information was announced to the entire company. That’s very private information. Whomever did that would no longer be in my good graces.

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Allie August 25, 2011 at 12:31 pm

I do agree wholeheartedly with your comments, Admin. That said, I once worked in a small community (small town on an island, so quite insulated) where a beloved family in the community was facing a stressful and expensive legal battle. I won’t go into the details, but sufficeth to say that the situation and the potential consequences were serious, one might even say dire. I worked with one of the family members, and to this day I don’t know how she coped. Anyway, members of the community (which seems to me categorically different than coworkers in a company) arranged a fundraising BBQ, which was really fun. There was no auction, there may have been a 50-50, I can’t recall, but the gist of it was that the community put on a massive potluck, which was proceeded by a parade and rally in support of the family, and community members could donate money (or not) as they saw fit. The family member I worked with was not happy about it. I think it she was embarrassed to take people’s money and accept charity. It was a beautiful event, though, and they are now successfully out of their troubles and had help with all the legal bills.

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MGB August 25, 2011 at 12:33 pm

I have had to be a grinch in similar circumstances twice in the last three years. Both times were very sad cases and people did die later. I felt at the time that the organizers were “highjacking” a very sad circumstance to aggrandize themselves. They were the “most” sympathetic they seemed to suggest. And, the implication that the rest of us would sit idly by and say or do nothing was insulting. And, I have learned to eschew any employee sponsored event that asks for money. These phony people always seem to spend the money on an event or token they themselves like. Selfish and indefensible. We are at work to serve the business not organize events of any sort for any reason unless asked to do so by the employer. These employee sponsored things always leave hurt or bitter feelings in their wake. Don’t start.

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Dominic August 25, 2011 at 12:34 pm

Sadly, even “good” health insurance doesn’t begin to cover the cost of medical care for catastrophic illnesses, let alone the other financial difficulties encountered by families dealing with this kind of issue. This past year, we received news that a co-worker’s husband was facing a terrible illness. She and her husband had to travel away from home for weeks at a time for treatment, and those costs (hotel, gas) were not covered in any way. Family and friends held a bake sale and several other events to raise money, though the invitations to participate were made in a far less intrusive way, without the intimate details, and many of us were honored to help. Some of the events were “fun,” and I think the joy was in helping and did not seem tacky. Ours is a smaller company and perhaps we know each other more personally, but even so, if I received such news about a colleague or co-worker, my response would be to help if I could and be glad that my co-workers would do the same for me. As for being offended or annoyed at the propriety of such requests, as with many situations, if you don’t like what you are seeing, ignore it or look away.

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Lola August 25, 2011 at 12:41 pm

Maybe I’m way off on this, but I don’t think it’s rude to solicit help for a friend in need, provided that said friend knows and approves of it. You always have the option of ignoring the request or responding in the negative.

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Xtina August 25, 2011 at 12:46 pm

I’m not sure how to call this one. Really, I think the raffle/event is very nice gesture and seems pretty well-thought out, and the invitation asking people to “think about” giving is not bad since the coordinators have put together a party and event, not just asked people to give money, or tried to mask the request for money as anything other than a charity event, which is exactly what it is. People are donating time and resources to the cause of the co-worker, so no cost is going to be incurred by anyone unless they choose to give. It seems (from the tone of the letter) that people who didn’t want to attend wouldn’t be singled out or put on the spot about it.

But I do see what the OP is talking about—the OP makes excellent points about the “party” atmosphere in the face of one’s medical issues, the dignity and privacy of the co-worker’s private business, etc. (I wonder if the co-worker was OK with her personal business being spread and a party held in her name to solicit donations). I’d also wonder the same—if anyone else in the office who was facing financial or medical issues would be treated the same—it’s like they’re going all-out for this one person, therefore setting a precedent for any other need that the collective office will ever have, and you can imagine what kinds of problems, both etiquette and otherwise, that it could set off.

So, I guess the invitation/event itself is not in bad taste, but the after-effects could be.

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Mjaye August 25, 2011 at 12:50 pm

I think the OP is being harsh. Here’s why:

1. They are not going around the business demanding money in front of all the other co-workers.
2. I live in the Philadelphia area and this sort of charity event is not uncommon. Normally, it is held in a bar where some of the bar tab goes to the family.
3. I also have a good insurance policy but it dfoes not cover everything. There are a lot of out-of-pocket eepenses and I think with a major illness; it would even ne worse.
4. The OP made a point about having fun while having cancer. As someone who has taken care of a parent who died from cancer, laughter and fun are just as important while dealing with an illness. Julia Sweeney (sp?) who was on SNL did a whole play that was funny about her cancer treatments.

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Teapot August 25, 2011 at 12:55 pm

Fund raising events like the one you’ve written about, spagetti dinners, etc. are reported on my local news channels quite frequently. Usually the person for whom the event is being held is interviewed and is overwhelmed by the love and support they feel and grateful for the financial help. And it gives them a few hours of fun that may take their mind off of their situation. Insurance only goes so far and doesn’t cover things like transportation and all costs of medications. If the intended guest of honor is OK with it, I really don’t think there’s anything wrong with this kind of event. The amount of work and time involved in organizing something like this must be really enormous and and I think it has to come from the heart.

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Giles August 25, 2011 at 12:56 pm

Working in a hospital, I often see first-hand how much of a financial impact serious diseases have. Even with treatments themselves being covered, there are lots of other expenses people don’t think of. I know in America, the number one cause of personal bankruptcy is medical costs.

That being said, trying to help out a co-worker in a time of need can maybe excuse stepping on some toes. No one is forcing you to give money, and making an auction/draw makes it a little more tempting for someone to give a donation. In our area, people regularly throw benefits like this to raise money for an individual or a general charity.

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Jayne August 25, 2011 at 1:06 pm

I’m also a bit uneasy about this type of workplace solitication on many levels. First, because it benefits a single employee while ingnoring other co-workers who may be quietly facing equal or more difficult challanges. This reminds me of those workplaces where “office showers” are held for some employees, but not for others, all depending on who their workplace friends happen to be. I think all fundraising events – be they for illness, weddings or childbirth – benefitting a particular employee should be arranged, publicized and held totally outside of the workplace unless your company scrupulously make sure you do them in an equal manner for everybody in those same circumstances.

I would also worry about prejudice against those employees who, for what ever reasons, chose not to attend or donate to the cause.

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Kat August 25, 2011 at 1:07 pm

This would bug the pants off me if I was the sick coworker. On top of everything else, my personal life issues are not for office gossip.

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Alli August 25, 2011 at 1:07 pm

I’m not sure I agree. I work with a woman who just recently lost her 8 year old daughter to brain cancer, and our office rallied around her by helping with meals, cleaning and, yes, sending around an email advising staff that we were setting up a (completely annonymous and by no means mandatory) collection pot to give as a donation to her family. Perhaps it is the nature of my office (a smaller not-for-profit where I work closely with all 15-20 people in the office), but that seemed completely appropriate and not gimme-gimme at all.

If the text the OP provides is the exact text of the email, I don’t see too much gimme pig behaviour. There is no guilt tripping, it seems as if each employee can decide whether or not they’d like to come. And while I do see the point that it seems a bit crass to go out and party while a dear coworker is battling a serious illness, it is a good way to raise badly needed funds and I’ve attended some of these events in the past (and the fact that insurance plans don’t cover all expenses in the case of illness is deplorable, but true. I have no problem donating my pocket change or going without my Starbucks for a day or two in order to contribute to someone who really needs it). I can understand how a mass email may be off-putting, but perhaps those kind souls organizing this evening did not know exactly who was closest with the ill coworker and decided emailing everyone was a safe way to ensure no one missed out on an opportunity to help out (if they so desired). And an email is easy enough to ignore. And as the OP mentioned, you can always just sign the card and leave it at that.

Perhaps the family gave the okay for a close friend and coworker to get the word out. We don’t know. And serious illness in the family can make people desperate and can make people consider things (soliciting donations, for example) they may not otherwise do. This story reads as sad to me, and yet it makes me happy that the ill person has (at least a few) lovely coworkers who want to help.

Different strokes, I guess!

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Jeanne August 25, 2011 at 1:10 pm

I have gone through a major medical problem while working and I find this very odd and somewhat intrusive. No one tried to raise money for me but I did have good insurance through work and managed financially. However, they did make me a poster sized card that lots of people signed and I loved it. I still have it.

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Blanche August 25, 2011 at 1:18 pm

I completely disagree… having an event OFF company premises that is optional only is a fabulous way to show support. I get very upset with the “pass-the- envelope” at the office game, where everyone feels obligated. If you don’t know the person, don’t go.

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Sorcha August 25, 2011 at 1:18 pm

I totally understand your irritation, but there are so many expenses related to serious illness requiring hospitilazation that no benefit plan will ever cover.
– hospital parking
– fuel costs to and from treatments
– hospital/cafeteria meals, coffee, snacks etc, not only for the patient, but their loved ones or support people
– increased, and often unpaid, time off work for the patient’s loved ones

And that’s just the start. I was involved with a charity that held benefit concerts for this very reason, and we donated it to the cancer ward at our local hospital… the money was given to families to help them cover these unforeseen expenses.

So while I understand your irritation, I think the co-worker who sent it had only the very best intentions, and this would be something I would just overlook.

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starstruck August 25, 2011 at 1:27 pm

i don’t find it to be tacky at all. in fact, i think it is a compassionate and caring idea. having gone through some rough medical situation myself, i know what it’s like to have a hard time paying the bills, and not having anyone offer to help. family included. that ‘s why now , i always check on people and make sure they are doing ok. and if they neeed help and i can give it, i do. i’am curious as to why this bothers you so much.

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Carolw August 25, 2011 at 1:28 pm

I agree that adding the plug for a “fun fundraiser” is tacky. Did the family of the ill co-worker request that the workplace contribute funds, or did a fellow-worker take it upon him or herself to organise the fundraiser? I’m not sure which is worse. I would be mortified if I were the one facing an illness and my co-workers presented me with an unsolicited check to help out with my expenses. Plus, the fact that the letter went out to the whole company, many of whom do not know the person in question, creates the impression that donation is not so voluntary.

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bansidhe August 25, 2011 at 1:30 pm

I’ve run into similar situations several times at different jobs. If the illness/hardship is legitimate and potentially devastating and the person involved does not have a problem with fundraising efforts being conducted on his or her behalf, then I don’t see a problem.

The last time this occurred at my place of work, the recipient of the fundraising needed a double organ transplant and her husband had just died of cancer, so she desperately needed help. Also, I know two people who have had to declare bankruptcy because of medical expenses in spite of having “pretty good health insurance.”

I think “Who on earth would enjoy the idea of using somebody else’s life-threatening health crisis as an excuse to party or as an opportunity to win a raffle item?” is a really unfair question. That’s not what is going on here at all. Just a few days ago, I bought two raffle tickets to benefit a family who is struggling after the death of the mother at a young age. When I bought them, I did not think, “Wow, I’m so glad this lady died of cancer so that I can get in on this raffle!” It was more along the lines of “This is so sad. I’ll buy a couple of tickets to help them out and on the off chance I win the item, I’ll donate it to them so they can sell it.”

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Pixie August 25, 2011 at 1:34 pm

One of my old jobs (Fred Meyer) had an official fund for this sort of thing. It was a company wide charity that Mrs. Meyers started called the Gold Star Program. (http://www.fredmeyer.com/company_information/Pages/culture.aspx) It was totally your choice whether or not to donate at any given time and a great way to support fellow employees without parading anyone’s business about. While I realize not all companies are big enough to do something like this, I personally feel it is a better approach that what OP encounters. I will say this, I agree with OP on most accounts. I think the whole rock out to raise money is kind of sweet and a nice idea.

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Enna August 25, 2011 at 1:47 pm

I can see where you are coming from. If something is said in a tackey manner it is annoying and wrong verging on rude to the person who the appeal is about “Hey everyone!” bit inappropiate considering the nature of the appeal. I think if a well meaning colleague re-pharsed the appeal for help and did it more discrepetely it would be different.

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kingsrings August 25, 2011 at 1:52 pm

I kinda agree, kinda not. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with people coming together, pitching in, to help someone in need, or advertising for help with having fundraisers such as this. As long as nobody is being pressured or bullied to participate, and their decline to participate is respected, it’s okay in my book. Yes, people have medical insurance, but it doesn’t cover everything, unforunately. Serious illnesses are extremely costly, and there’s a lot of hidden expenses and such that aren’t covered by medical insurance. Not only that, but sometimes, despite the best planning and responsibility, no matter how hard we try, we can all end up in a financial rut that is beyond our control. Life happens sometimes, and doesn’t always go as planned. I do agree with your complaint about the phrasing on the invite being inappropriate considering the matter at hand. I don’t think it’s a biggie that it was mass-sent, either. It’s impossible for the sender/planner to know every single person the person-in-need knows, so it’s easier to mass-send. As long as there aren’t constant mass-sends on this matter, I don’t think receiving one or two will cause that much of an annoyance.

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Clair Seulement August 25, 2011 at 1:53 pm

Another thought, which could be completely off base: although in theory, donating time or service to a fund-raising event is admirable, the tone of this e-mail and the fact that the featured performer at the benefit is another co-worker makes me wonder if the entire motivation is skewed–is this an opportunistic musician trying to score and fill a venue? One wonders whose idea this was and how it was planned, since they’re still soliciting raffle items etc.

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Meegs August 25, 2011 at 1:55 pm

I personally see nothing wrong with holding a benefit in someone’s honor to help them in their time of need. Especially since they are not saying “please hand us a wad of cash.” They are offering the participants something in return for their donation (live entertainment and prizes). This happens fairly frequently in my pretty close-knit community and as long as the sick person is OK with it, I don’t have a problem with it at all. If you can’t or don’t want to participate in the event there is nothing wrong with that either.

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RebeccainAR August 25, 2011 at 1:58 pm

As the spouse of a seriously ill person (breast cancer, and been hospitalized for almost 3 months with a complication from the chemo), I would be *mortified* if someone did this! Yes, money is tight, and yes, some support would be great, but asking coworkers, who have never met my partner, to give cash? Really?

I’d love the card, though. Really. I haven’t gotten any emotional support from my coworkers at all.

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josie August 25, 2011 at 1:59 pm

Well, I appreciate that attendance is totally optional, so that works in their favor. I’ve watched friends deal with major health crisis and even tho the insurance is good, there are still expenses. Like gas to get to and from drs, hospitals, treatments, ect. High deductibles and then 20% after the deductible is met (our insurance). Missed work with no pay. Food at the hospital for the spouse that’s staying bedside. Little things add up. The intentions are good, and if it helps the family, then that’s good too. I do hope the planners let the stricken one preview the email before it was sent, so it could be worded how they wanted.

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Meegs August 25, 2011 at 2:10 pm

I personally see nothing wrong with holding a benefit in someone’s honor to help them in their time of need. Especially since they are not saying “please hand us a wad of cash.” They are offering the participants something in return for their donation (live entertainment and prizes). It happens quite frequently in my pretty close-knit community and as long as the sick person is OK with it, I don’t have a problem with it at all. If you can’t or don’t want to participate in the even there is nothing wrong with that either.

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ladycrim August 25, 2011 at 2:13 pm

This is a hard one for me. On the one hand, I understand why the LW here has an issue with the request, for the reasons stated in the post. Requests for money at work – even for a cause as worthy as this – can be uncomfortable.

On the other, though, I’ve seen firsthand what a difference something like this can make. My mother has been fighting cancer for over a year now. (I’m happy to say she’s winning.) While her colleagues didn’t do outright fundraisers for her (that I know of), they collected money and sent her regular gift baskets while she was out having treatments and recovering from lung surgery. This past spring, she needed brain surgery to remove two lesions that had formed up there. She was worried she’d l0se some cognitive abilities. (Thankfully she didn’t.) Her colleagues bought her a refurbished iPad to keep her occupied during her recovery and keep her brain active. They’ve been so amazingly supportive and have kept her spirits up like nothing else. I owe them a serious cake.

Point is: as long as nobody is pressured to contribute, then I think a request like this is OK. It can benefit the recipient so much more than financially.

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Alexis August 25, 2011 at 2:15 pm

AAAAAAAACK! Broadcasting a person’s medical problems is a gross invasion of privacy. Done without the person’s knowledge or consent, it becomes a HIPPA violation as well. As Miss J says, the problem is inadequate medical coverage, not insufficient funds. Send the letter to the CEOs. Let THEM personally contribute what they do not provide through the workplace benefit package. Workplace charity drives of any sort, including United Way, are offensive to me anyway. it is not my employer’s or co-worker’s business IF I give to charity, nevermind how much and to whom.

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Rebecca August 25, 2011 at 2:21 pm

I don’t see a single thing wrong with holding a benefit to help those facing serious medical issues. I can’t even imagine why that would bother me. People don’t organize that kind of thing without the permission of those affected, so no, it’s no inappropriate to spread “the details of our private medical and family issues to all and sundry in our workplace”. During difficult periods, people need help, and I don’t think it’s either tacky nor inappropriate to ask for it. Not only that, but you get “instant gratification” in the form of food, music, raffles, etc. *while* helping someone who needs your support. So no, I don’t find this tacky.

I do, however, find getting offended about it rather tacky.

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Nadine August 25, 2011 at 2:21 pm

That sort of thing doesn’t bother me one bit. Restaurants and other venues often donate a portion of their proceeds to charity. More people get to sample their wares (and possibly return) and the person in need gets some help.

Not a big deal.

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Tribaldancer August 25, 2011 at 2:35 pm

I would certainly not call you a mean old unsympathetic grinch. You have your opinion of this type of thing and you are certainly entitled to act accordingly.

That said, I, personally, cannot fault the other co-workers for wanting to help their friend. I would guess that they look upon their fellow workers as a community and wish to support that community.
With medical costs skyrocketing even with good insurance it is not unusual for someone facing a catastrophic illness or serious injuries due to an accident to face bankruptcy due to the cost of treatment and therapy at a time they may be unable to work at all.

The people in this story have invited others to participate and all are welcome to do so at whatever level they are comfortable. If you would like to send good wishes to the family, do so. It doesn’t sound like anyone is expecting or requiring you to do more than that. If others would like to do more, that is their choice.

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SouthernBelle August 25, 2011 at 2:54 pm

This particular one doesn’t bother me too much. There is no indication that failure to attend will cause a problem or people guilting you at the workplace. You are actually receiving something for your contribution. One email alone isn’t a big deal. And whether your benefits are wonderful or not, illness is a financial drain.

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Wink-n-Smile August 25, 2011 at 3:07 pm

The thing about passing the hat is that it is rather public, as are raffles and public benefits. A confidential fund-raiser, on the other hand, is helpful and still anonymous.

At my workplace, when someone is in dire need, the announcement may be made: For those who would like to contribute, a fund has been set up at the company credit union. You may make donations to the account named “XXX”.

I have no problem with that.

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Madhatter August 25, 2011 at 3:07 pm

I find it distasteful, primarily because you have no way of knowing how much personal information the afflicted wishes to have spread around the office. If the sick coworker asked for it, it’s absolutely ghastly. If the coworker who planned this whole thing was confided in, and then organized a shindig, it’s still ghastly. I would feel betrayed, and then horribly embarrassed.

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Dark Magdalena August 25, 2011 at 3:22 pm

The other thing that rubs me the wrong way is, how does the ill coworker feel about this and about having the news of his/her medical illness spread around the entire office? I realize someone is just trying to help, but I think this is the wrong way to do it for many reasons, most of which the OP addressed.

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Nichs August 25, 2011 at 4:00 pm

What makes me so uncomfortable is all the personal information that’s shared in the email. If I had a serious illness, I doubt I’d want all the gory details emailed to the whole office, even if it was to garner support/funds. It makes me wonder if the honoree consented to this event or the email advertising it.

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Amber August 25, 2011 at 4:08 pm

I don’t see the problem with this. Health insurance doesn’t necessarily cover everything at the moment, even in good plans. Time off from work due to treatment can keep paychecks from coming in, especially if they had to take medical leave (which, BTW, does not come with payment at most workplaces in the US). Advocating change in the benefits package is fantastic, but won’t help the person who needs it at the present time. This was not someone forcing others to donate, this was not the person with cancer asking for a handout, this was simply a request for donations that, consequently, is also a raffle. I see it the same way as I see notices to donate to the company charity, or notices that it’s Girl Scout cookie time: if you want to, donate. If you don’t, no pressure.

The only etiquette problem I see here is the inclusion of serious medical info in the email. That may be embarrassing for the person who is ill.

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