I got some internal mail asking me to donate as part of my office’s program for United Way. As a recent college graduate with student loans, credit card debt, and other obligations, charitable donations are not something that I have considered up to this point.
Can anyone offer me some good arguments why I should make this a financial priority? What will they do with my money? How can I be assured that it will go to a good cause? Would donating to the United Way be more or less of a moral good deed than taking the same amount of money and distributing it to the homeless I see everyday walking around my neighborhood?
I should point out that I think I will participate, but you have the opportunity to convince me to possibly give more money than I am considering or to guarantee that I will get that check written. Have at it!
Our office allows you to donate as much as you want, or as little as $5 per pay period, and it is done so as a payroll deduction. $5 per pay period works out to a $120 donation, and its pretty painless.
Any number of people should be along shortly to tell you of the evils of the UW. I tend to agree with many complaints against the UW, but I will let you make up your mind on how to balance the issues of feeding a pernicious scam, donating to people you do not want to get your money, and choosing the political opprobrium of telling your employer to buzz off.
There are two facts you should know about UW recipients.
If you really detest the Amalgamated Tree-Huggers and want none of your money going to that organization while you dearly love their competitors, the Friends of the Dirt, you cannot control who gets your money unless you bypass the UW. The allocations for UW recipients are drawn up before the campaign begins, then all the money goes into a single pot from which those allocations are made. Thus, out of a budget of $1,000,000, if Amalgamated Tree-Huggers is scheduled to get $100k and Friends of the Dirt are scheduled to get $97k, your $15 will be divided up with $1.50 going to Amalgamated, $1.45 going to Friends, and the remainder going to the rest of the charities on the list. In the view of UW, they are not really lying to you, it is just that they know that the vast majority of people will not specify a recipient and it is easier on their bookkeeping to say that various people pledged $50,000 to Amalgamated and $30,000 to Friends and, since Amalgamated got more than $50k and Friends got more than $30k, then everyone should be happy.
There are associated groups who are not on the UW recipient list, but who will accept money passed through the UW. If you donate specifically to one of these, the money has to be passed on, (since there is no general fund slush to cover the actual number of specified receipts).
Unfortunately, I know of a couple of these types of charities only by word of mouth and I do not know how to identify them if one does not already know about their situation.
The only thing I would recommend is more or less what tomndebb said: Forget the UW. Find out what your causes are, who you support. Research the organization. See if they’re doing a good job. And give money to them.
I’m sorry, but there are so many causes out there you couldn’t hope to support them all. Better you choose yourself.
Anyway, I am totally against company-encourage donations. I think companies should have the option in a no-pressure type of way.
Rather or not you choose to contribute to UW is your own decisions, however, I must address a point made by tomndebb. With my local area UW a donor CAN choose to which nonprofit organization their donation goes. If you choose Tree Huggers of America to recieve all of your donation, then the monies go to Tree Huggers of America and no other organization.
I do know that when I worked for a smaller organization who depended on grants from the local UW, we had to provide lots of information in our proposal for funding. It wasn’t like we approached them with our hands out and UW slapped $50’s and $100’s in them.
I know you may not be in a position to donate money (especially large amounts) to any cause other than the “Pay Back My Student Loan” cause you’ve set in your own name , however, if and when that time comes, I would suggest that you investigate to see if your area has a local non profit Foundation. In many areas, a local Foundation will take the money and put it towards an area of your request (cancer research, underprividledged children, education, homelessness, etc.), however, a Foundation may be in a position to invest your money so that the initial investement (which becomes property of the Foundation) is put into an account (sometimes with others who have the same interests) and the interest off that acount is used towards the program. This way, your “donated investment” is in a position to be used again and again, instead of a one-shot deal. Of course, most Foundations have a minimum (usually around $1,000) to open an account with them, but for someone looking to do some good with money that’ll help out as a tax deduction, it’s a good bet.
If I had only a bit to give monthly or yearly, and couldn’t do the Foundation route, I’d choose to give directly to an organization that I was very familiar with. There are a lot of organizations who are deeply in debt, their programs aren’t accountable (or are ill-managed), or aren’t pulling their weight socially. Become familiar with your organization–volunteer and know who is doing what. Otherwise, just buy a bottle of cheap booze and give it to the next panhandler you see.
I give a one-time donation of $1 each year. This is enough to satisfy my department’s attempt to get 100% participation and makes us eligible for a drawing for neat prizes like good gift certificates, another paid day off, etc. The woman who’s stuck with trying to get everyone to participate has said she will stick a $1 bill onto the donation forms if we really don’t want to give them anything, but I figure I can cough up a buck.
I prefer to donate directly; I have little to no confidence in UW’s bookkeeping and find the above-cited inability to truly specify where your money is going to be bordering on fraudulent.
Back when I was a “baby worker” (receptionist at an advertising agency), I was pressured into giving money to the United Way. At the time I could barely afford pantyhose. It was not a time in my life when I had the funds to “help” other people. It left a bad taste in my mouth that has never gone away.
I’ve never given since. Screw the United Way…now that I’m older and wealthier, I give to whomever I please…directly.
Some organizations/employers virtually insist on participation. In such cases a minimum or token amount usually appeases the demand.
My personal preference is to KNOW to whom I am contributing and the amount is between me and the recipient.
If you click the linked threads above, you’ll find many posts from me condemning the United Way for various BS policies and practices. But I’d rather see someone give money to UW than distribute it on the street. Charities associated with the UW that help the homeless know what they’re doing. They provide outreach, education, healthcare and support - all of which are necessary to help someone get off the street.
On the other hand, handing someone a $5 bill on the street has a much higher chance of being spent on something that does little to no help, let alone being counterproductive.
What I hate about the United Way is the way they conduct their campaigns and how employers strong-arm their people to donate. For that reason I choose not to donate to UW and spend my charitable monies elsewhere.
“Pressured” doesn’t come close to the truth with most large corporations. I shot a job once a lot of years ago. The client was a huge Insurance company whose name is irrelevant. They spent thousands upon thousands of dollars of company money to produce a video whose sole purpose was to cajole and encourage 100% compliance.
Many companies see it as compliance, even though they cannot word it as such. Employees are pushed repeatedly to make sure they’re not a sole holdout within their department/floor/zone/whatever. Managers are pressured to insure that 100% of their subordinates donate- mostly through direct paycheck donation.
It is, to me, a completely nauseating part of Americana. You have no choice. " You work for XYZ Industries. Everyone in the Sales Division donates. What do you mean you won’t donate??? "
You have student loans to pay for and a roof over your head to maintain. Donated funds are considered expendible income where I grew up. You’re being responsible and paying off your student loans? The management that is pressuring you should be told to go fuck off.
Except, you can’t. Because they’ll find a way to fire you. So you need to suck it up and do as they say, even if A) You cannot afford it, and B) You may or may not disapprove.