Charitable donation angers unit owner

RR writes:
Dear Paul: We have a unit owner who is very angry when the Board makes a $50.00 donation
to a charity upon the death of an owner. The donation is made in memory of the owner to the
requested charity. We are 33 units and this amounts to a donation of $1.51 per unit. The
opposing owner is adamant that the condo fees are strictly for operation and reserve funds and
should not be coming out of the budget. The Board argues that this is an act of kindness,
respect and acknowledgement of the deceased owner’s contribution to the Corporation. How
should the Board handle this? Does this need to be written into the by-laws? Should the Board
stop acknowledging the death of an owner by any manner such as a card or flowers or a
donation? Your expert opinion on this matter would be appreciated.

Paul replies:

RR: This is a great question. There are two sides to every argument and this one is not
different. Showing kindness, respect and acknowledging the deceased owner’s contribution to
the community is a nice gesture. I would ask the Board to consider who this caring act is for.
The departed owner will not know. The deceased’s family may not live in the condo or know
anyone residing there. A charitable donation may be well received if the owner had some
connection to the charity. Having established that it is a nice gesture, is it reasonable that it
come out of the corporation’s operating funds? Because it involves the money of all owners, do
all owners agree with the expenditure? Obviously not.

It is the principle that matters here, not the amount. One could argue that $1.51 per unit is
inconsequential. But, is it a legitimate cost of doing business? How would owners react if the
donation was for a political party, the local homeless shelter, or some organization that tends to
offend the sensitivities of our society?

Every owner should agree how their dollar will be spent. Monthly funds are collected for the
maintenance, repair and operation of the building. In other words condo fees are to cover the
corporation’s expenses. Is the Board making the decision unilaterally or is there a Rule or Bylaw
that allows for it to do so?

I would recommend that the Board encourage the establishment of a social committee
comprised of a few owners who would solicit a small contribution from owners who are willing to
cover the cost of donations in the event of a death, a card for someone who is hospitalized, or
other life events that the committee decides upon. The criteria for spending the money should
be clear, known to everyone and not spent outside these guidelines. Separating the business
from the social aspect of the community will go a long way to respecting everyone’s views. Stay

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