Tis the season for giving! I’ve alluded to the fact before that my building is pretty big compared to many Associations. We have a sizeable staff when you include management, maintenance, housekeeping, etc. For as long as I can remember, our building has had a condo association employee holiday fund. It isn’t organized by the Board – a number of Owners have historically organized it. Funds are divvied up through a formula to all staff. The Board permits the effort, but we don’t spend resources promoting it – we leave it to the Owners. Seven years in, I still can’t decide how I feel about it.
On the positive side, I like giving Owners a vehicle for tipping the staff collectively. Many people want to contribute, and this gives them a vehicle for doing so. It reduces the human guilt of figuring out who you tip and who you don’t tip. It also demonstrates the building as a whole is supportive of our staff, which I appreciate.
On the negative side, I feel (and I may be projecting) that it is a bit of a guilt trip and it also makes people wonder if their lack of contributions will be noted by the staff. I don’t think that’s the case, but let’s be honest – people do notice those who make large contributions. That’s just life and human nature. We can debate fair or not all day long – it just is.
Despite my misgivings, I think it’s a good thing for the building. If you’re looking to organize a drive for your own building, here are my tips:
- It should be Owner led, not Board led. In my opinion, if the Board leads, it creates the appearance of conflict of interest or coercion.
- That said, the Board should make sure it’s not a tacky effort. Make sure your Owners are operating within reasonable guidelines and be sensitive to external factors – if the economy sucks, make sure the drive is appropriately moderated.
- If the Board provides bonuses separately through some sort of performance management system, make sure this is transparent and disclosed. Don’t make Owners feel as if this is the only source of bonus money for staff (unless it actually is).
- Be transparent about which staff members will receive money and how the money will be allocated among the staff.
- Restrict who has access to seeing who donated and who didn’t to remove any perceptions of favorable treatment for those who donate (or negative treatment for those who do not).
Done correctly, I think a condo association employee holiday fund can be a positive tool for buildings, but the culture of the building weighs strongly on that. If you can’t get enough Owners interested – it’s probably not for your building.