Cynical about charity

I work for a large company which has some type of partnership with United Way. It encourages its employees to donate a percentage of your income to them – actually, it doesn’t really encourage so much as it cajoles; the company gives employees who participate stickers which they can use to dress casually for the day. Also, a specific percentage of employees in the company must participate in order to keep Friday’s casual.

Personally, I have my own charity which I prefer to donate to. I don’t have anything specifically against United Way, but I prefer the group I give to. My question is this: Is this company simply using its influence because of altruistic reasons, or can it somehow get a tax break because its employees are giving such a large amount of money to this charity? Keep in mind that the donations come right out or your paycheck, so while the emloyee can certainly claim this on their tax form, could the company since it is giving the money from the employee directly to the charity?

Yea, I know I sound cynical, but I find it hard to believe that the company cares that strongly one way or the other about this charity.

If the money comes out of employee paychecks, then the company can’t deduct it as a charitable deduction. I believe they write off all employee salaries anyway, so taking a second deduction on this contribution would get them in very seriou tax trouble.

The setup is because the company is committed to supporting the United Way. I’d bet that the higher-ups are strongly associated with the United Way – probably on the board – and want to be able to show the other UWay board members how good they are at raising funds. OTOH, even this is egotism is for altruistic reasons – the person is on the board because they want the UWay to help nonprofit organizations.

I do think the pressure a bit higher than I’ve seen it at other places and comes close to crossing the line as too much.

Just about every big company in America has some deal with the United Way. Every employer I’ve has since college has had a deal like this, including the Federal government.

Why, I’m not sure. They are like a charity clearinghouse – they distribute the money to a large number of local and national organizations that actually use it for their own purposes. AFAIK, the United Way does not itself perform any charitable acts, though I could be wrong about this. In my mind, this makes it a middleman who simply takes an overhead cut of the money. Like you, I have my own ideas about who to give to, and they don’t include the United Way.

I have a suspicion that I have no proof of – just as employees get some prizes or bonuses for high contributions, perhaps people in the company hierarchy get some cool bonuses based on total contributions from their employees.

United Way homepage, included for informational purposes only and not as any type of solicitation or suggestion to contribute. I do not support United Way.