Isn't there something blantantly wrong with a company that you pretty much enjoy working for, pressures you to donate to a specific charity?
August 31, 2006 1:48 PM   Subscribe

Pressured into charity by my employer, isn't there something wrong with this?

The large corporate entity that I work for has a partnership with one of the largest U.S. charity organizations, each year having a big push to contribute or even better, auto-deduct from your paycheck each period (of course!) Well, my manager goes on the other day, "I'm proud that we've had 100% participation in our department each year, and I would strongly encourage everyone to give what they can so we can keep up our reputation." I've pretty much interpreted this as some form of cordial demand to do so. (As by tone of voice and that fact that I know him fairly well.)

I'm fairly put off by the fact that I'm being put in this position, and its not about the money, more so about the fact that I choose who I give to (more local specific non-profits).

Do many corporate employees go through some form of this pressuring at most large corporations, isn't there something wrong with this kind of behavior?

I realize I may come off as a stingy jerk, but again this is not about the money, its about being forced into giving...which should something somebody should do anyway, not because their arm is being twisted by the Man.
posted by Asherah to Work & Money (43 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
United Way, right?
posted by ambrosia at 1:52 PM on August 31, 2006


United Good Neighbors used to do this at one of the companies I worked for. I simply let my boss know that I didn't like it and wasn't going to play. (This was back before the scandals, when United Good Neighbors still had a spotless reputation.)

But it's a decision everyone has to make for themselves.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 1:53 PM on August 31, 2006


Do many corporate employees go through some form of this pressuring at most large corporations
Yes.
isn't there something wrong with this kind of behavior?
Yes.
posted by MrMoonPie at 1:59 PM on August 31, 2006


My former employer used to do this with the United Way, and it was ridiculous because about half of our employees were so underpaid that we probably would have qualified for aid from them.

I wouldn't bitch about it (nobody likes a whiner), but I would make a token contribution of a hundred bucks or something so that the boss can still brag about 100% participation.

Oh, but if management asked me directly why I didn't donate more, I'd simply reply that I already donate $X per year to other charities.
posted by MrZero at 1:59 PM on August 31, 2006


donate a token amount, i.e. $1 and donate the rest that you "should have given" to your preferred local causes
posted by knapah at 2:03 PM on August 31, 2006


"100% participation" in the context of United Way simply means that everyone has filled out and returned their forms (at least in my experience). You can fill out the form for $0 and still count towards 100% participation. We're pushed towards "100% participation" as well, but it's always been made clear to us that that means "100% of forms filled out and returned," not "100% giving non-zero amounts."
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 2:12 PM on August 31, 2006


a token contribution of a hundred bucks or something

Holy crap. I'd define "token contribution" as more like $25. Anyway, Asherah, you could decide to dislike the coercion and still comply by thinking of your token contribution as a tiny insurance policy to keep you on your boss's good side.
posted by scratch at 2:17 PM on August 31, 2006


make a token contribution of a hundred bucks

Dude, what world do you live in? $100 is big money.

posted by croutonsupafreak at 2:19 PM on August 31, 2006


Easy option: give in and donate.

The right option: stand up for yourself. This is wrong.
posted by reklaw at 2:21 PM on August 31, 2006


I despise this shit. It's even worse than the weekly guilt trip at the grocery store where they ask if I would like to donate $1 to help March of Dimes/YMCA/Local Charity Du Jour/United Way and I have to say "No."

Donate the absolute minimum amount possible, even if it is $.50 per pay period. If anyone ever gives you shit about it then tell them you already donate to X charity and complain to human resources.
posted by gatorae at 2:23 PM on August 31, 2006


gatorae, why do you feel guilty about saying no?
posted by pineapple at 2:26 PM on August 31, 2006


My former employer used to do this with the United Way, and it was ridiculous because about half of our employees were so underpaid that we probably would have qualified for aid from them.

I experienced the exact same thing. Mega-retailer, near-minimun wage employees, United Way.
posted by Marla Singer at 2:31 PM on August 31, 2006


To give an appropriate answer I suppose we’d have to know how we are to define wrong in this instance.
posted by ed\26h at 2:32 PM on August 31, 2006


My employer does something similar, and yes, I hate it. However, the suggestion that you give $1 or some similar paltry amount is probably worse than giving nothing, because it gets you labeled as a jerk and a smartass. If you're more worried about the opinion your boss has of you than anything else, your best bet is to try and discern whether your boss considers 100% participation to mean that all employees actually contribute, or that all employees merely return completed forms, as DA suggests. If you just need to fill out the form but not necessarily donate, then that's easy enough. If your boss really considers it important that you donate, I would think the $25 or $50 it would take to stay in his good graces would be worth it.

If, on the other hand, your concern is less about perception in the workplace and more about the shady practices of mega-charities working with employers to coerce funds from employees, then by all means, take a stand. Volunteer to organize a donation campaign for a series of local charities worthy of the funds as an alternative to donating to the mega-charity.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 2:34 PM on August 31, 2006


Isn't there something blantantly wrong with a company that you pretty much enjoy working for, pressures you to donate to a specific charity?

I'm going to dissent here. I don't think there's anything "blatantly wrong" with it. In fact, I don't think there's anything "wrong" in an abstract sense. As long as there are no adverse job consequences, they can ask all they want, and you can (and should) say no. Despite the pressure to do so, I don't contribute a dollar to the United Way -- I've explained that I donate thousands of dollars a year to a particular charity that is very personally important to me. And if I had another dollar to give it, too, would go to that charity. End of story.
posted by pardonyou? at 2:39 PM on August 31, 2006


I agree with those who say you have to weigh what it's worth to you. A friend of mine just sent out an e-mail to all his MySpace friends asking for money to fund his trip to LA to try to become an actor. I find the request in somewhat bad taste, but he's been a good friend to me, so I'll shoot him a little something. If you like your job, a one time yearly donation of (X dollars you won't really miss) wouldn't kill you.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 2:40 PM on August 31, 2006 [1 favorite]


I used to work for a company that pullled this same crap. I despised the huge pressure they put on the employees - send them to a half-day meeting to watch some tear-jerker presentation about how they helped flood victims and battered women, listen to a speaker talk about how they had lost everything until the charity stepped in, then each department manager was supposed to bug their team about filling out the cards and giving 'whatever you think is appropriate'.

Just on principal, I always filled out the card with $0 (I probably would have donated something if it weren't for my irritation at being harrassed - the charity did good things, but their fundraising tactics bugged me). If I was ever questioned (and I never was), I planned on explaining that I felt charity is something that should be kept anonymous, and that I give what I feel is appropriate to the causes most important to me.

This same company, by the way, used to send out emails urging its employees to vote for certain candidates or issues that were favorable to the company's objectives. I always wondered about the legality of that, but I figured the suits had at least checked with the lawyers before clicking 'Send'. God, I'm glad I left.
posted by jknecht at 2:41 PM on August 31, 2006


My company put the screws to us on this as well. And I believe that there was United Way involvement. I was happy to discover that I could contribute to specific charities however, and I gladly ponied up some cash for two of my favorites; the Humane Society and Planned Parenthood.

That way, if anyone asked, I could say I was doing my part to support puppies and abortions.

I drew a perverse glee from this that was worth way more than the $30 I ended up giving.
posted by quin at 2:49 PM on August 31, 2006 [1 favorite]


It is what it is, forget the rights and wrongs. Ask any federal employee, military member, and employees of state and local governments. Donate the appropriate amount for your position and don't work against or trash mouth the campaign. The importance that executives put on these campaigns probably seems very disproportionate to you but at the end of the day those same executives can make or break your career and reputation. Not worth the fight nor being remembered as the person that was against giving to charity.
posted by KneeDeep at 2:50 PM on August 31, 2006


My Special Lady-friend has encountered this same thing at the company she works for. Not participating in the optional charity all but ensures difficulty for yourself in the future of the company.
posted by clunkyrobot at 2:54 PM on August 31, 2006


Modern companies are moving in the opposite direction - places where I've worked in the past have banned any promotions for charity or fundraising, to the extent that Girl Scout cookie orders are now banned just because they want to remain impartial.

Your employment or performance is completely unrelated to charity donations. Any linkage is inappropriate, any intimidation resulting from which is unethical.

If your manager is proud of your department's 100% charity participation and feels the need to announce it on company time, then his/her priorities might be a little screwed up. You might piss this person off by abstaining. And no matter how inappropriate that is, you'd need to deal with that somehow, because he/she is your manager.

If you think he/she is counting on your donation, be clear that you will decline the opportunity. Try to talk it out. Don't be dodgy. (Two wrongs don't make a right) You may settle things cordially and this just might be anxiety over nothing. Then again, if you honestly feel like this would lead to an explosive situation, that charity money is going to be a necessary treatment for a job that you'll need to get out of soon afterward.
posted by brianvan at 2:57 PM on August 31, 2006


Yes, this is "optional" in name only and standard practice in many industries.

Back in the lates eighties (yes, I'm old), a high participation rate was tied to free trips to swanky resorts for senior executives and their families. I was explicitly told that you didn't want to be the employee that denied an overcompensated bigwig a free perk.
posted by mozhet at 2:59 PM on August 31, 2006


I'm firmly in the "this is sleazy crap" camp. If the company wants to donate, they should donate company money themselves, not guilt their near minimum wage employees into doing it.
posted by MegoSteve at 3:18 PM on August 31, 2006


Are there coporate tax breaks assciated with this type of thing?
posted by robofunk at 3:22 PM on August 31, 2006


It's sleazy and likely being used in unethical ways (if not donating will be tied to your standing in the company...which, unofficially, is likely the case.)

Fullfilling the letter (if not the spirit) of the request is likely your best political bet, i.e., donate a dollar, so that they can trumpet 100% participation!!
posted by desuetude at 3:46 PM on August 31, 2006


My company just went through the UW rigamarole, too. I stuck by my annual plan of keeping my head down - a technique I perfected in grade school to keep from having to speak in class. I usually take one of the forms, keep it on my desk for a few days, then eventually shitcan it.

Officially (warning, pdf), the UW doesn't condone this sort of thing - I suppose that's like officially, the US doesn't condone abuse of immigrant labor.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 3:50 PM on August 31, 2006


Somehow, this remind me of Robert Cormier's The Chocolate War. Anyone else see the correlation?
posted by changeling at 3:54 PM on August 31, 2006


I'm fairly put off by the fact that I'm being put in this position, and its not about the money, more so about the fact that I choose who I give to (more local specific non-profits).

Do many corporate employees go through some form of this pressuring at most large corporations, isn't there something wrong with this kind of behavior?


It's not just at work. It's everywhere. Churches expect you to leave a contribution when you go to someone's wedding or funeral, waiters expect tips, there's lots of places where you might be socially coerced into giving money you might not otherwise. (Few people give poor waiters no tip.)

It all comes down to "logically, it's wrong, but it's all about maintaining the status quo". We do a lot of things that are logically stupid or unnecessary but there are greater motivations than logic. I'd pledge $5.
posted by wackybrit at 3:54 PM on August 31, 2006


When did United Way start giving to Planned Parenthood again? I seem to remember back in the 90s they quit funding them, or am I wrong?
posted by 6:1 at 3:57 PM on August 31, 2006


"Dude, what world do you live in? $100 is big money."

Just outside of a major city like Chicago, this is a common amount for donations. Living in NYC and San Francisco, I've seen a lot of people, including myself, be guilted into hundred-dollar donations.

Even in smaller towns with lower average income, the average person who reads MeFi probably makes at least $500 to $600 a week... $2 a week isn't that much for a donation.

The real problem is that it isn't merely employers encouraging charity. It's effectively a private tax to enforce a charity's goals, which might conflict in moral or practical ways with one's own.
posted by anildash at 4:04 PM on August 31, 2006


Just say no. Do you want everyone to like you or do you want to be secure in your personal ethics? Do you want to live your life taking the easy way out? Stick to your guns, don't let anyone push you around. Keep on truckin'.
posted by cellphone at 4:14 PM on August 31, 2006


a place where I use to work offered a paid day of for $100.

A paid day off being worth way more than $100 meant I always contributed and then cashed the day in at the end of the year.

Some places Push merchandise and donate a portion to charity.
posted by Mick at 5:18 PM on August 31, 2006


Thanks for the input everyone...I previously did not include the fact that I don't plan to stay at this job for more than one year (I'm trying to enter a graduate program next fall) so damaging an extended career with the company doesn't matter one bit to me...

However, I may do the "fill out the form thing," haven't quite decided yet. Ugh...but once again, thanks MeFites.
posted by Asherah at 5:20 PM on August 31, 2006


Not worth the fight nor being remembered as the person that was against giving to charity.

Don't be ridiculous. There's always plenty of people who don't give anything; as has been said above, the "100%" is about the forms (and is bullshit anyway).

They've pulled this crap at every big corporation I've worked at, and I've said no without an ounce of guilt. I give to charities I choose, and nobody has the right to try to pressure me to give to somebody else's. Just Say No.
posted by languagehat at 5:27 PM on August 31, 2006


I recently interviewed at a company that allowed employees to wear jeans on Fridays, provided they gave $5 every Friday to a company specified charity. I give to a few chariities that I have picked on my own, and when offered the job, I chose another based on this. I don't know, I don't think your place of work should make you give to their chosen charity, although I know that the upper echelon folks in most companies are asked to...
posted by WaterSprite at 7:39 PM on August 31, 2006


jknecht: I always wondered about the legality of that, but I figured the suits had at least checked with the lawyers before clicking 'Send'. God, I'm glad I left.

Don't be so sure of that. They may well simply not know or care that it's illegal.

My company constantly pulls shit that is completely and totally against the labor laws of the state, and they get away with it most times. It's not like they don't know better, they're one of the major Labor Law law firms in the general metro area. Every once in a while someone will call them on something and the Labor Board makes them pony up.
posted by Meep! Eek! at 7:51 PM on August 31, 2006


Where I live, you can list the specific charities of your choice on the form, even if they aren't United Way charities. So that's one way around it, if you already donate.

However, I have a big problem with companies that run "fundraising" programs that are actually made up of employee contributions, not corporate contributions. The company gets the PR without spending anything (in many of my past employer companies' cases).
posted by acoutu at 8:30 PM on August 31, 2006


My SO's employer does this. Employees that donate are allowed to wear jeans on Fridays. Yes, this is horseshit.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:39 PM on August 31, 2006


My employer does this, and the pressure is nonstop from about this time of year through christmas. It's extremely high pressure, and although they insist that participation is voluntary, I have heard many times that at the management level participation -- and not just any amount, but a certain percentage of your salary -- is damn near required and you are even more strongly pressured to contribute.

I think it's tremendously lame how much money is spent on the campaign to get us to donate money, but on the plus side, we have choices other than United Way. UW is the main one, but we also have American Cancer Society and a couple of others. I donate a little over the minimum to ACS just to get them off my back.

We've also got a political action committee we're drilled about once a year with an absolutely required presentation. I refuse to contribute to that one.
posted by twiggy at 8:49 PM on August 31, 2006


At my company we're forced to work on company time to help the charity that the boss' idiot son works for, when we should be doing our own work for paying clients. Even the people at the charity make fun of him and admit they're using him to get free work from his dad's employees. Wish our option was to give a few bucks instead.
posted by Miastar at 9:31 PM on August 31, 2006 [1 favorite]


This same company, by the way, used to send out emails urging its employees to vote for certain candidates or issues that were favorable to the company's objectives. I always wondered about the legality of that...

The IRS doesn't mind it as long as the company isn't trying to claim a 501(c)3 status. Federally it's not against the law but I don't know about individual state laws.

Personally, I don't see any ethical problem with it. If you are a company who makes and sells widgets, and Congress is considering a law which would severely restrict the importing of raw widget goods, something that would affect the bottom line of the entire company and presumably every employee... it makes perfect business sense to try and get your votes out. It'd almost be negligent not to.

If corporations and trade associations can spend millions of dollars on lobbyists to try and directly influence public policy, I don't see how asking employees to vote a certain way could be problematic.

It's not like your boss drives you to the poll and stands there while you vote pro-widget. Informing you about pending legislation or referendums or pro-widget candidates seems less coercive than nagging you for United Way money every week.
posted by pineapple at 7:34 AM on September 1, 2006


On the back of these cards, there is always a write-in charity. If you feel guilty or overly pressured, you can give to your favorite local charity by putting that name in the "Other" field. I've done that with great success. In fact, when I contributed (~5/mo) to local charities this way, I usually got a nice letter of thanks from them.

That said, I despise United Way for their ethics. While the business my be filed as a Not-for-Profit, the execs are paid what you might expect an exec of a huge corporation to be paid. If I'm giving money to help the needy, I want the needy to get it, not the guy with a four car garage and no place to keep his boat.
posted by kc0dxh at 10:04 AM on September 1, 2006


Oh, just steal some printer cartridges and sell them on eBay, and whatever you make (less s/h) is the perfect donation amount. And yes, this is wrong, and worse than wrong, it's tacky.
posted by Scram at 5:20 PM on September 1, 2006 [1 favorite]


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