Bite me work, bite me United Way

Woohoo, it’s United Way time again. Yet another attempt at forced and guilt driven “giving” where I get to put all of my skills to use in avoiding giving any money. No silent auctions, no pizza parties, no raffles. I like to give my money by choice to causes I choose, not to feel coerced into giving my money by force because someone wants 100% participation. If we could turn all of the time admin assistants use in creating flyers, sending out poorly spelled and grammatically incorrect emails, and hounding employees into paying $2 for a stale doughnut all because it makes the world a better place, I bet we could finally make some real progress towards keeping our workplace running smoothly and getting real work done on time.

[inserting macro to automatically bump this thread one year from now when the same crap goes on.]

Preemptive request:

Can we just resurrect the previous United Way threads so as to save everyone the hassle of rustling up the requisite sites, claims, evidence, etc. this time around?

Every year I get a little envelope in my mailbox at work, I throw it away with the rest of the junk mail, and that’s the end of it.

I think if I was getting the kind of coercion that some others seem to get, I’d be very very upset about it, too.

Yep they just started it here too. I just hate this. Not that these groups don’t need the money - it the whole Organized Giving thing. Where organized actually means “pressure from supervisors to look good”. Once, many moons ago, I actually input the cards into the payroll computer of a steam plant. It was very disheartening how lineworkers would pony up major money “for the team” when supervisors gave hardly any. But if the numbers weren’t enough to impress Corporate, then the supervisors would push for more, more, more. It was sickening.

So imagine my surprise when my supervisor tells me this week that our branch needs a volunteer to pressure people to give. “Good luck with that.” Then he says that he was really hoping that I would step up. “Ummm no, I don’t support that. And why me?” Because I had so much more time, seeing how I didn’t have kids and school was starting and all. “Tell you what, I’ll do this when all other soliciting is banned inside this building. So all those parents selling crappy gift wrap and waxy chocolate don’t come by my office and beg for money for little Mary’s scout troup.” He wisely scurried away.

For the record, I support the United Way. But I don’t do it through the intimidation squad.

I am just waiting for this to come down the line in my not-for-profit employer. I know it’s been discussed, but no one will tell us what the answer is. I give my time, I’m on salary (and a real shitty one at that) so there is no way I am giving my hard-earned money as well.

First they’d need to (at least) double my salary.

I thank God that this year I am an independent contractor. Last year I worked for a law firm where several of the senior partners were heavily involved in the United Way. Unfortunately, as the Intranet and Internet administrator, I had to keep close tabs on it. I didn’t want to give since I already give directly to the charities I want to fund, but was pressured into it because, “Well, it looks bad for someone working so closely on United Way to refuse to give.” Well, I never wanted to work closely with United Way, you big dipshit - I just happened to be the unlucky sot who posts news about it on a daily basis. Thank goodness that is no longer the case.

Anyway, good luck to those of you who have to deal with it this year, and fight the good fight - don’t give in unless you absolutely have to!

“Go away or I’ll call the intimidation squad”

“I’m on the intimidation squad!”

“You ARE the intimidation squad!”

I can’t for the life of me figure out why a non-profit organization would do a United Way drive.

“George, I’d like you to donate to the United Way to get Krack 4 Kids at a 100% giving rate.”
“But wouldn’t it be more efficient for me to actually donate directly *to *Krack 4 Kids, instead of utilizing the middle man of United Way, thereby reducing a substantial percentage of my gift towards administrative costs as well as supporting Krack 4 Kids’ competitor, Speed 4 Suzie who is also a United Way recipient?”
“Er…yes. But did you see the nice plaque we got last year?”

As someone who works in the fundraising field, I would like to set out three misconceptions about United Way, to forestall the inevitable flood of UW defenders who will respond to this thread.

  1. United Way is not a charity, it’s a fundraising consortium. Fundraising consortia collect money from donors, take a cut for “overhead,” and pass the remainder to charities. With a very few exceptions, UW does no actual charitable work of its own.

  2. But, you say, surely UW does a great service by centrally processing donations, right? Some have wondered. Take, for example, this local UW site, which claims:

They’re bragging about how low that is. An organization which I am a member of, the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, notes that the average overhead for university fundraising departments is 12.5%. Some organizations have even lower overhead rates. If you’re eating up almost one dollar in five in overhead, you’re not doing that great a job.

  1. But, and this is the biggest problem of all–if a charity receives money from UW, they still incur overhead costs. At my last job, processing gifts from UW and other fundraising consortia was one of our biggest headaches, what with dealing with tax regulations and filling out endless forms, which ate up staff and mailing costs. Worst of all, it could be months before we actually received any of the money due us from UW donations!

Not to mention all the scandals and problems a disturbing number of UW branches have faced: this one, from Arizona, being an unfortunately typical case. Particularly troubling there was that

Even our five-person office at my last job followed those rules, BTW.

Bottom line? If you want to donate to a charity, write a check to the charity. Don’t go through a middleman, which is what UW is.

My fault for not explaining properly. I meant mandatory giving to our company, not mandatory giving to the United Way.

But this did get a laugh out of me.

Oh, and don’t call me George. :smiley:

Oh, BTW, the 501©(3) I work for actually does a UW drive. No, I can’t figure it either. I threw my envelope out.


Yeah, but a lot (and by “a lot” I of course mean “nearly all”) of those numbers are absolutely bogus. You get a lot of administrators who only bill their administrative hours to overhead, and bill their fundraising hours to “donated time” which doesn’t count towards those overhead figures. If it’s an hourly employee, it doesn’t matter - you count what they’re paid for. But it’s the salary folks that skew this number beyond recognition.

Additionally, why shouldn’t a fundraising department have high overhead? If I donate a dollar to Organization X, I want Organization X to maximize the use out of that dollar. Any decent economist will tell you to keep reinvesting that dollar until your exchange rate approaches 99.9999%. It is only convention that has dictated that that 12.5% is “standard”.

It’s an endless cycle, and one that’s not going to be broken until the IRS starts doing some actual leg work to discover that many (most) organizations are doing this.


I’m not sure what you mean by this for other organizations, but for educational fundraising departments, it’s pretty simple: take the department budget and divide by the money received in donations. There’s no billing adminstrative hours to overhead–all costs incurred are considered overhead. My salary is part of it, as are the salaries of anyone else who works here.

Furthermore, if UW has a high overhead, they’re doing a bad job. Keep in mind that the only purpose of UW is to collect and process donations. There’s no such thing as “reinvestment” of monies they receive. If they use a dollar in overhead, the charity for which the donor intended their money loses it.

To an extent, I disagree. If UW can take someone’s dollar and go into a new market and turn that dollar into $1.01, they’ve done a better job. (Though I don’t know if that would be 99% overhead or 50% overhead.)

I don’t donate through United Way primarily because they do not distribute the dough to my charity of choice. For reasons i find reprehensible. So I donate directly to my charity which takes a certain degree of initiative on my part beyond filling out a payroll deduction form.

BUT. If I lacked that initiative and yet had the money to donate, UW would be effective at getting *some * money out of my wallet and into the coffers of charitable organizations–even if they take 50% of my $100 contribution, that’s still $50 that goes to Krack-4-Kids that would otherwise go to Domino’s or the liquor store.

But I agree that pressure from management corrupts the spirit of giving and breeds resentment of the giving process. It is not unlike that college sorority blood drive scandal a while back.

Whenever employers would push for UW donations. I would decline… (Hey! sometimes I was hard up for money myself at times just making minumum wage) They would whine and complain that we weren’t do all we could blah, blah, blah… I dug in my pocket and handed them a penny and said “that’s all I can do” :smiley:

In some companies, the supervisors from middle management and up are pressured to give a very large percent of their salaries in “contributions.” It’s not, strictly speaking, required, but should they fail to pony up, they risk being noted as “not a team player,” or failing to be “responsible in the community,” or some such thing.

Fortunately, I don’t qualify for that. Especially since some of the more recent scandals, I do as some others have mentioned and give directly to any charities that I have an interest in supporting. I also don’t especially care to share with my employers any information I don’t have to share, like what charitable causes I support.

I would discourage anyone from doing this. Yes, UW is not the best way for you or your company to focus your donated money. But each individual donor (from a penny to an entire estate) costs UW a flat fee for processing, thanking, remailings, etc. By throwing a penny at them, you’re going to end up costing them more money and thus diverting money away from worthwhile organizations.

I know, it’s a nitpicky argument. But there *are * good organizations that really (unfortunately) rely on UW’s money each year.

I can second that. No pressure and I never give it a second thought.

Strangely, the United Way stuff is one of the only things I like about the company I work for.
Every year, at that time, we get a letter in our envelope. The company has a bake sale with good food and reasonable prices. The person who donates the most gets a nice prize. Other than the one letter, we don’t get hassled. We aren’t required to donate. We can buy from the bake sale or not. I noticed that a lot more people donate at this company than others I’ve worked for, simply because we aren’t pressured into it. I don’t support many charities. So, for me, the UW is an easy way to feel like I’m helping somone.

Now, the non-profit TV station my fiancee used to work for MADE everyone donate. I think the minimum was a one time $10 contribution. My fiancee gave his $10 and then added $10 into the expense report for a recent business trip. He refused to give his money just because they wanted to look good. He didn’t want to donate and shouldn’t have had too. Before any of you think he was cheating the station by padding his expense report, let me just say that his report was still $150 less than the guy he went with. Anyway, this was the same station that “asked” their salaried employees to “volunteer” for pledge drives (they didn’t have to pay them the overtime). My fiancee was hourly and usually wasn’t allowed to work pledge drives unless it was his regular shift.