My boss told all of us on the team that he and his wife were having a child and that he'd be out for a week or so. When he told us we were happy for him and wished him the best. Yesterday, we got word that they had a baby girl and everything went smoothly.

Today, a co-worker of mine came in with a card for everyone to sign. When I got the card, there was money in it (only $10 in the form of two $5 bills, but still). I don't know who added it, but I signed the card and handed it back with no extra money.

Do I need to add something to the card or is me giving well wishes in the card sufficient?

  • Were you asked? At the same time, if it was implied that you should give a cash gift, why don't you suggest to the card writer that a gift is purchased instead?
    – Bluebird
    Oct 8, 2015 at 21:02
  • 2
    @BobtheBuilder I wasn't asked and there didn't appear to be any implication that I should donate to it. The card was handed to me with the money in it, so maybe that's the implication?
    – BDD
    Oct 8, 2015 at 21:05
  • What country / culture are you in?
    – A E
    Oct 9, 2015 at 8:02
  • Something to keep in mind: Everyone has something to celebrate sooner or later. Would you appreciate folks chipping in to get you something appropriate? Part of the assumption in companies where this is common is that it eventually averages out to something close to fair.
    – keshlam
    Oct 9, 2015 at 8:34
  • In some cultures it is considered lucky to "cross a baby's palm with silver"
    – Prinsig
    Oct 9, 2015 at 8:49

7 Answers 7


If it was a funds raising for a gift and the card was for those who wanted to contribute, then signing it without adding money would be viewed rather negatively.

If the purpose was just to get a card signed by the people and some people decided on their own to add some money, then your action was fine.

Unfortunately, only your co-worker who gave you the card can answer this one. Asking about it will not be viewed negatively, so this will be the safest course of action.


You are being given the opportunity to chip in. You are free to decline; you will be considered a bit antisocial but not much more than that.

  • 1
    No intent either way. If it's part if the local culture some may react that way You need to decide for yourself what that's worth to you. For what it's worth, you're less likely to get pushback for declining to contribute or sign for someone "at your own level" than if the gift is for a manager. And if you choose to opt out don't complain when nobody arranges to congratulate you at your significant events. Read the local culture, ask coworkers whose opinion you trust (possibly folks you don't directly work with) and do what seems to make most sense to you in that context.
    – keshlam
    Oct 8, 2015 at 22:40
  • I should probably edit that into the answer.... I thought it was implicit.
    – keshlam
    Oct 8, 2015 at 22:41
  • 3
    Typo -- less likely to get pushback if the gift is for a manager (it seems odd to some for money to flow "upward"), more likely if the gift is for a peer.
    – keshlam
    Oct 9, 2015 at 0:26
  • @juancarlosoropeza: SE limits our ability to edit comments, and the android app doesn't let us cut-and-paste them into new ones (or into the answer, grr; I'll have to flip to browser to clean this up.)
    – keshlam
    Oct 9, 2015 at 0:28

If it was given to you with the money in it, then the expectation is that you're half-expected to contribute as well. But you don't have to. Little things like this are remembered and talked about though. In my own case I would have chipped in the fiver unless I was broke but it's too late for that I guess.

Small things where people all contribute a token sum are good for team morale if nothing else.


The topic of office fundraising/charity etiquette appears to be an issue worth a number of perspective articles and blog posts (e.g. here, or here).

Even if some of the situations described in these links are not applicable to this specific case, I mention them because the issue is likely to resurface in various forms, whether it's for a birth, school fundraising, retirement, or death. (It is interesting to consider that someone you know know may have given money for one or more of these events in your own life...)

Whatever the case, it appears that the answer depends on the specific workplace culture, as well as one's individual principles/values, goals, office politics (personal likes/dislikes) and budget.

The OP's question seemed relevant to me as I have come across a variety of "office donation" situations over the past year and have been wondering what approach seems most sensible. The 'fundraising events' have included:

  • a death in the family of a colleague in my immediate office;
  • a death in the family of an employee I never met, who worked in a different office but who apparently was well known in our larger organization;
  • school fundraisers of various types for a child of a manager of another team in my office area;
  • fundraising for a good cause that one of the managers I know supports.

Our behaviors communicate something to others, and make an impression which over time may grow into a 'reputation'. For this reason, consistency is an important consideration.

If you donate once or twice to a specific cause (or type of cause, or situation) you may develop the reputation as someone who cares about XYZ, and will be approached (and counted on to contribute) for the same or similar causes/situations in the future.

On the opposite, if you donate for the new baby of colleague X but not for the baby of colleague Y (and whether/to whom you have donated or not becomes known to someone else), this might send a 'message' about who you like or dislike, with potential consequences for office inter-relationships.

Donation on principle might mean you only donate to events of type X, but not of type Y. For instance, only for serious or expensive life events like births or deaths, but not for optional/non-events, like school or charity fundraisers. Or vice versa. Both approaches depend on individual value system and neither is more or less appropriate. It's a matter of personal judgment.

For what it's worth, my own approach from day one with my current employer has been to contribute to whatever I am asked to contribute to. In our organization -- and I know this by checking with colleagues who have been here a while -- the average donation considered appropriate is $5 or $10. Slightly larger donations (around $20) are also appropriate, though less common. Doesn't really matter.

I have not kept track, but a rough cost-benefit breakdown for the past year would go like this:

  • Losses: about $40-50
  • Gains: (a) knowing that I have responded when someone asked (or didn't); (b) a reputation of a 'team player,' someone who cares and gives freely to support causes important to one's colleagues; (c) positive impression made upon/relationships strengthened with colleagues on other teams in our office area and the larger organization; (d) ability to count on the fundraising individuals (e.g. moms soliciting for their kids' school fundraisers) for calling small favors, such as valuable advice in situations where I might need a second opinion on career or workplace dynamics.

Whether the trade-off is worth it is a matter of individual decision-making. One bonus associated with the approach I have taken is that I don't need to think too long and hard about each occurrence, but instead give my $5-$10, smile, wish them the best and move on with my day. Good luck!


The best way these gift buying operations work is:

  • Someone buys a large card, with an envelope.
  • The card is sent around the office, in the the envelope, with some money inside.
  • People sign the card, and if they wish - contribute some money.
  • The organiser then uses the money to buy a gift for the person.

Because all the money is pooled inside the envelope, the amount each person has contributed remains anonymous.

As to whether you should contribute money - it's up to you, I would generally suggest yes, not for a professional reason, but because it's a nice thing to do.


Last time I checked, there's no space on a $1, $5, $10 bill that says "this money came from _________ (person's name)". Why can't well-wishing be just that? You're not obligated to sign the card, nor contribute. It's all about the intention. If others end up looking at you as cheap, that's their problem!!! Don't allow others to impose their values upon you.


Where I have worked at bigger companies, emails with photos of babies would make the round, but I haven't seen either cards going around or money being collected. Only in the case of co-workers that are both very close and appreciated there was no collection of money, but presents purchased.

Whether "boss" means actual company owner or manager, donating money to your boss seems very inappropriate. Now if he publishes how much he makes a month and it is less than my salary (and I mean monthly, not annual), I will change my mind.

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