The United Way and their tactics.

Can someone explain the United Way?

In the 1990’s I was working in Harrah’s Casino in Mississippi as a card dealer. Been there for about a year or so. One day a representative from the United Way (UW), to me at the time, some charity organization had a meeting which was mandatory for the workers to attend. The representative did her speech, and I went back to work.

About a week later, my immediate supervisor came to me in the hallway off the casino floor and told me that the management demanded “100 percent participation”. So while I was not under any obligation, management knew who “gave” and how much. So I reluctantly gave a $1 a week to this organization.

From that, I learned a lot from this odious organization and their operations. The UW is not a charity perse, they merely collect money and then distribute the monies to various groups while keeping a piece of the money for themselves. The leaders of this group make very good salaries.

This part I do not get, why do companies deal with the UW? The only thing I can figure out is that the company wants a tax write off, and not only does the company contribute, they strong arm the employees to do the same, so that the company can get a bigger tax write off on the backs of their employees. Again, very odious to say the least. The company has a list from the UW of who contributed and how much, and this is part of an employee evaluation. To give more is to seem as a “team player” and more likely to be advanced in the firm. The employees are cowed to give money while the company gets a huge tax break from the money the workers “give”. To me this is legalized extortion. Sort of like the monster who comes to your business and offers protection, as in “this is a nice place, hate to see something happen to it”. The UW is “See you have a job, hate for you to lose it or never be promoted to a better job.”

Some of the workers in these various companies even “volunteer” their time to UW events. Remember that a lot of these employees are barely making a living wage.

I have also noticed that the UW gets their shakedowns, I mean contributions from companies that have a lot of low waged employees. My company was exactly this. I made $5 and hour plus tips. Security and cage cashiers made about $8 an hour. Even the supervisors on the floor weren’t that well paid, made $40,000 a year for full time. People who were expendable for the most part and easy to replace. If I were for example an orthopedic surgeon and the UW came to my hospital, I could tell them to piss off because the hospital won’t fire me for this only.

To end, there was a story in our local newspaper website several years ago with the head local UW person and he said that the local UW broke records in 2008 and 2009, during the time of the so called “Great Recession”. Proof right there that people did not want to jeopardize their jobs and were pressured to contribute their money.

I hate the United Way. I personally think their tactics in the workplace should be made illegal. Then for the UW to keep about 30 percent of the contributions for themselves to pay themselves. Something is wrong here.

So what am I missing here?

First of all, and I could be wrong about this, but I think since you’re the one making the donation, you’re the one who gets to claim the deduction. Make sure its is on your paystub and claim it on your tax return.

Second. If you can find any proof, or get enough people to corroborate your story that you’re A)being strong armed into donating and B)your wage increases and ability to move up in the company depends on how much you donate (you’ll have an even stronger case if they don’t allow you to claim the deduction). Take that proof or other people that want to complain and get in contact with your state’s labor board or whatever department (likely the same one) handles whistle blowers.

What the UW does with the money the receive or how well they pay and treat their employees is of no concern to you. Or rather, it certainly can be of concern to you but if you want to fight a fight, fight the one that’s impacting you and let the UW workers handle their own problems.
Grouping the two things together only serves to muddy the waters and may make it easier for your concerns with how you’re being treated easy to dismiss.

TL;DR, find your states labor/unemployment/workforce standards department and poke around. You should find employer/employee/labor laws. Start poking around in them and see if you can figure out if they’re breaking a law.

Way back in 2002, a group leader where I worked sent out an email asking for volunteers to help build a wheelchair ramp for a disabled person. It was part of a United Way project.

I volunteered. It was estimated to take three days to finish the job (Friday, Saturday, Sunday). The group leader gave out the address of the person’s home. He told everyone to bring whatever tools we think we might need.

I gather a bunch of my tools and headed to the place Friday morning. At least 15 other people from my work showed up.

It was a nice ranch home in Beavercreek, Ohio. While I was busting out the old concrete steps using a sledge hammer, the homeowner came out to chat with us. He was walking and smoking a cigarette. He never said anything along the lines of “Thanks” or “I appreciate what you’re doing.” I said he had a nice place, and asked how much land he had. “We have 10 acres.”

That sorta pissed me off. I knew for a fact the area he lived in had *very *high land values. Why couldn’t he sell a couple acres of land? He could then easily pay for someone to build a ramp. Here I am, busting my ass trying to build this guy a ramp, and he lived in a *much *nicer place than me.

Around noon some guy from the United Way drove up in a brand new Cadillac. I guess he was the project manager, and wanted to see the progress. He didn’t lift a finger to help, nor did he thank us.

After that experience, I never gave another fucking dime to the UW.

My company was very big on charitable contributions. They used United Way when I started with the company to coordinate contributions. When all the UW shenanigans came out ages ago, they dropped UW and started their own in-house charitable organization. And when I say ages ago about the scandals I mean decades…like at least 20, maybe 30 years ago. There’s no reason for any company to use UW anymore.

Is this this more of a oldish pit rant?

The leaders of many charities make nice salaries.

The company doesnt get to write off what you donate.

Because quite often you can just sell of a couple acres. That’s a subdivide and it often isnt approved.

25 years or so ago as a manager I got stuck doing UW campaigns. While there was some pressure our employee base was such that they couldn’t force people to donate, though I totally believe the OP.
When I started doing it you donated and UW gave your money to any charity they felt like giving too. When enough people complained you finally got to designate your contributions, but to a limited set of charities.
There was a big UW scandal in Silicon Valley, and when I switched jobs the CEO of my new company hated UW with a passion, so I never had to deal with them again.

I had the same problem in the 1990’s when I worked for an organization. They DEMANDED 100% participation. Since charity is a VOLUNTARY thing and they couldn’t legally force me to do it, and I was pissed off about the demand, I refused.

Several managers came to talk to me about it, because I was the only person refusing to cooperate. I told them to feel free to donate money in my name in order to achieve that 100% participation, but I refused to give them a dime. None of them would do that. I said if the COMPANY insists that I do it, then THE COMPANY can give me the money to do it with. Again, nope. So they didn’t get their 100% participation that year and a few people were pissed off at me about it. I didn’t care. Hell, I even threatened to sue the ever loving shit out of both the company and the individual managers if they tried to hold it against me, again noting that they had every opportunity to donate in my name to achieve their goals.

Since then, I have steadfastly refused to EVER give The United Way a single penny in any form. Fuck those guys.

They’re essentially a clearing house. They take 19% off the top for their own expenses and then give to basically every other charity, which also have their own overhead, some of which are again, clearinghouses that give to other, smaller and more local charities. I don’t like the entire scam.

If you don’t know who to give to, it isn’t entirely bad. They help a lot of smaller charities that otherwise wouldn’t get the exposure and the money. But if you do the work and know where you want your money to go, giving it to them is a bad idea.

In a former life, I was the director of a small non-profit that got United Way funds. The theory behind the UW was good: it’d vet and act as a funding clearinghouse for charitable organizations. Employers and individuals would benefit by having fewer nonprofits with their hands out and by knowing UW vetted the member agencies; nonprofits would be able to focus on helping people instead of fundraising. The problem was that UW in that town couldn’t couldn’t come close to meeting the financial needs of the nonprofits, which operated on a shoestring, so we still needed to do a lot of fundraising.

As for UW fat cats, the national directors of major nonprofits often earn big salaries, but depending on the nonprofit, the money usually doesn’t trickle down to the locals. I don’t recall the salary of the local UW director, but believe me, she couldn’t have afforded a new Caddy on what she made. Nor did she come out and raise a hammer to help us on some project, That was fine, too, as it wasn’t her job, and she had a lot of nonprofits to visit. Since it was a small town, I knew she volunteered at the local Senior Center, which was not a UW nonprofit.

For reference, circa 1990, there were directors of the Minneapolis UW and of the St. Paul UW. Both made about $150k, which was really solid money in those days.

It was widely defended as claiming that those people needed to be top flight executives with lots of connections to other top flight executives and they had to live the lifestyle and afford the clothing, etc to blend in and press the flesh with those other executives to bring in money.

I have no opinion on the United Way, but the OP and several replies are talking about things that happened twenty or more years ago. Anyone have more current experience with the organization, good or bad?

That’s accounting double-talk. When you designate 100% of your $200 contribution is for charity XYZ, they simply donate $200 less from the general fund to XYZ.

It’s the same game states play with promising 100% of lottery proceeds will go to education. The legislature simply allocates less from the general fund for education. They kept their promise so that you will vote for the lottery, but it’s just more money for the legislature to spend as they see fit.

On the positive side -

UW has very little overhead (16%) compared to other organizations. This number is about 50/50 for administrative expenses, and fund-raising expenses. They can accomplish this because of a focus on volunteerism at all levels.

UW scrutinizes the agencies they fund, making sure that the money reaches the street and provides for community improvement.

Your company will push their local campaign hard for a number of reasons. One is just to be seen as a good citizen providing charitable funding. At my company there is a wide-spread culture of support for the UW over the years - Managers and other staff have served on the campaign or have been loaned reps to other companies. There is strong participation for “Day of Caring” whereby staff gets the afternoon off to provide agencies with workers. Participation (contributions) rate is over 80% and that includes wage and salary workers.

I’m a little surprised that that’s a thing. It’s been over a decade since I’ve read UW hate.

Anyway, here is a classic old Dope thread about the United Way. Enjoy: http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=272996

I’m pretty sure that I don’t need to read that thread to see that I posted the same story back then.

You have two people in this thread, myself included, complaining about the 1990’s United Way tactic of demanding 100% participation from involved companies and the illegal and immoral ways their corporate contacts went about trying to get it.

If they’ve learned from that experience and aren’t doing it anymore, than I’m happy about that. For myself, they earned a lifetime of non-involvement. I’m not going to apologize for that or change it. It just is, and I’ve moved on with my life.

Old rant then. :rolleyes:

Illegal? Cite?

Where I work, being asked to serve on the UW fundraising committee is regarded as a punishment for substandard work.

So what. How old does my experience have to be to be irrelevant?

Do you think it is legal for a company to force an employee to give money to any specific charity?

Got a cite for that?

Ok, enough of that nonsense, it’s non pertinent snark on your part.

It’s not. They don’t just split up all the general UW contributions among every agency listed in their book.

I was a long time volunteer, and for part of the time in charge of, at a crisis center. We had a hard time qualifying for grants from their general fund contributions because of the nature of what we did. It was hard to justify specific limited programs that their process at the time seemed to highlight. Meeting their reporting requirements when our client base was anonymous people walking or calling in to the center was also difficult. I don’t recall if we ever got any money out of their general fund contributions. We stopped even trying for those funds pretty quickly. It just wasn’t worth our effort.

We did, however, qualify for being a named organization. That was worth our effort. We got that money.

Force? :dubious: In a at will state, they can fire you for pretty much anything that isnt discriminatory.

And here’s what you said *"About a week later, my immediate supervisor came to me in the hallway off the casino floor and told me that the management demanded “100 percent participation”. So while I was not under any obligation, management knew who “gave” and how much. So I reluctantly gave a $1 a week to this organization.

This part I do not get, why do companies deal with the UW? The only thing I can figure out is that the company wants a tax write off, and not only does the company contribute, they strong arm the employees to do the same, so that the company can get a bigger tax write off on the backs of their employees.* "

So, they didnt “force” you, a supervisor suggested it strongly. "So while I was not under any obligation…"That’s not force.

And, like several have said, you get the donation , not the company, so that later part is completely false.

And memories that old arent worth much, and you are starting a rant here, not a Question, about something that happened personally to you decades ago. Where the question?