my manager is hassling me about charitable donations, being late to an interview, and more

It’s four answers to four questions. Here we go…

1. My boss knows what I contribute to United Way and is pushing me to give more

I was just recently hired on at a company. I knew going in they were big on working with United Way and there was a mandatory 24 hours of volunteering per year. I am all for giving back and make my fair share of donations throughout the year. What I was not informed about was the expectation that I contribute through my paycheck to United Way. However, knowing the culture of the company, I did authorize a small amount of my paycheck to go to the charity.

Here’s the problem. My manager pulled me aside and said he “strongly urged” me to reconsider adjusting my contribution to a higher amount by about $25/month. I know that seems minimal, but I have a family and several expenses. They hired me on at the same rate I was making before, so this would be a loss of income. They don’t know what my financial situation is.

The bigger deal is: how does he know what I contributed? Isn’t that supposed to be confidential? I’m contributing what I feel is fair and can afford. The impression he gave (and from some research this evening), I get the distinct impression this could adversely affect my career here. If I would have known of this unspoken requirement, I would’ve pushed harder for a higher salary to accommodate this. Am I wrong in thinking that sharing employee contributions is wrong and unethical? Who really has a letter legal right to that info? I get that they may need a total dollar amount for tax purposes but by employee doesn’t seem right.

It’s actually not unusual for your manager to know how much you contributed to a company-side charity drive like this. I share your discomfort with it, but some companies that work with United Way have really high pressure tactics to push donations, and this is one way it sometimes plays out. It’s messed up.

I’d just say this: “More isn’t in my budget.” If you get resistance, call it out directly: “It’s not something I budgeted for, or something that I’m able to do. Is this going to be a problem?”

2. Should LinkedIn profiles be first person or third person?

Should LinkedIn profiles be written in the first or third person? Mine is in the third person and someone commented on how that’s “unusual.” Is it a bad thing?

It’s super common to see them both ways so I wouldn’t worry too much about it, but I do think first person sounds more natural and conversation, which is what you want. After all, it’s not a third-person blurb about you on a book cover or something like that; everyone knows that you wrote it yourself.

3. Writing a thank-you note for an interview I was late to

I just completed an interview that went very well EXCEPT for my one stupid mistake. I arrived late at the interview by 5-10 minutes late. I stuffed my cell phone in my tiny purse to avoid distractions and relied on my watch. When I got to the subway station, I then noticed that my watch’s batteries were dying and it was 30 minutes behind! I didn’t have time to call HR in the subway and taxied over to the building (the ride took 5 minutes).

I am now in the process of writing a thank-you email but have no clue how to address that one mistake. Would thanking them for their understanding and accommodation be good enough?

Assuming that you apologized when you arrived, I don’t know that you need to bring it up again. Maybe as a parenthetical, like “(and thanks again for your graciousness when I was a few minutes late — I was mortified!”), but making a bigger focus of it than that will come across weirdly, I think.

4. Registering for conferences when I might have left my job by the time they happen

My boss recently told me that he’d like to send me to some upcoming conferences for professional development — which is great, as I’ve been at my job for over two years now and really want to learn some new things outside of my office. However, I’ve also been job searching for since the summer and plan to keep doing so, since I’m dissatisfied with my job and my salary (I’ve been refused a raise due to a tight budget, despite glowing performance reviews). Some of the conferences in question are pretty far off — for example, one is in June. There would definitely be enough time for me to find a different job before then, if things worked out.

How exactly do I navigate a situation where I’d like to attend professional development opportunities in the near future but I also want to get out of my current job ASAP, which, if I did, would mean I wouldn’t be available to attend any of those conferences? My boss would be footing the bill, and I don’t know what would happen if I said yes to a conference, he paid for it, and then I got a job somewhere else. I’d hope these conferences would be able to refund money if someone couldn’t attend, but I also don’t want to say no to any conferences that look great but don’t have a “no refund” policy, just on the off chance that I get another job. My boss doesn’t know I’m job searching, so unfortunately I can’t bring it up with him.

Make plans for your current job as if you’re going to be there long-term until you know for sure that you’re not.

People leave jobs all the time with outstanding business trips and conferences that they had planned to attend in the future and now won’t be able to. It’s just a normal part of doing business. Conference registrations are usually either refundable or transferable, but if they’re not, well, that’s just how this stuff goes. It wouldn’t be practical for people to never commit to this kind of thing just because they might leave before the event rolls around.

{ 251 comments… read them below }

  1. Blurgle*

    Is it wrong for me to say that I would never work for an employer that expected one thin dime of my money to be spent on charitable donations or one micro-second of my time to be spent volunteering?

    I would find that intrusive, offensive, and deeply, deeply immoral.

    And I wouldn’t give money to the United Way if my job depended on it.

    1. Blurgle*

      And by this I don’t mean that I don’t give money or time: I mean that I don’t need Big Brother Corporation to tell me how to allot my resources.

      1. Sharon*

        I’m big on volunteering and also donate quite a lot. But I 100% agree with you. It’s none of their beeswax what the employees donate or volunteer to do!

    2. Artemesia*

      I don’t have a problem with volunteer activities IF they are on company time. I know of people in the tech field who have refereed robotics competitions for young people for example and this was supported by release time from the job. For a company to make a commitment to community and make that part of the culture is admirable IF the company is paying for it.

      As for United Way — my father used to have his ‘fair share’ typed into his payroll paperwork at the large corporation he worked for — the pressure was huge — I found this beyond offensive and have never contributed to this organization although my company did push it. We give quite a lot to a local homeless shelter, the local food bank, planned parenthood, and a couple of cultural organizations — but the bullying of United Way is not for me either.

      1. Hush42*

        I agree this year my company has decided that it should give back to the community. So their picking a charity and the employees who want to be involved are all volunteering together for a day. But it’s completely voluntary and we’re getting paid for the day a if it were a normal work day.

      2. Connie-Lynne*

        I’m on board with this. I am happy to engage in volunteer work on behalf of my employer, as long as my employer counts it as part of my work time. I am more than happy to engage in volunteer work on my own for organizations I personally support, and similarly pleased to give those groups money.

        I might consider working outside work hours on behalf of my employer if I knew up front it was expected of the job and I supported the cause.

        It is gross behavior for an employer to monitor one’s charitable donations and it is reprehensible of them to pressure people to donate to a specific charity as part of workplace culture. How dare they. Especially an organization as awful as the United Way.

    3. Melissa*

      I’m okay with companies that strongly encourage and maybe even require a certain amount of volunteering/pro bono hours per year, but I think dictating the organization with whom to volunteer is crossing the line.

      1. Not Today Satan*

        The thing I don’t like about volunteer requirements is that “volunteering” is a very specific, limited way to give back to your community. And there’s actually a shortage of meaningful volunteer opportunities. So you can get “volunteer credit” for being one of 30 servers at a soup kitchen, but not for visiting your elderly neighbor, making meals for a grieving person, or babysitting for the single mother next door.

        1. INTP*

          This is a great point. When I graduated college, I wanted to volunteer until I found a job, and I basically found that the volunteering “market” was so saturated that unless you could commit a significant number of hours per week for at least 6 months, or you had a specialized professional skill (and experience using it) to donate – like providing legal assistance – you were basically limited to participating in massive beach cleanups or a day at the soup kitchen here and there. Which are great things to do, but not necessarily more helpful to society than picking up trash as you go about your normal day, or donating your excess food instead of keeping it until it’s beyond expired.

          I do think it’s great that so many people want to volunteer that the opportunities can require commitment and experience, but it’s frustrating that “Volunteer! Volunteer!” is constantly promoted as THE answer to how to contribute to your community, spend your time when unemployed, and so on, when it’s just not needed to that extent.

          1. non-profit manager*

            from the perspective of someone who works for an organization that relies heavily on volunteers:

            We have nearly 500 volunteers and we appreciate every moment of time they give to our mission. We could not do what we do without our volunteers. At the same time, we spend a tremendous amount of time and money on training (new volunteer, “re-fresher” sessions, and specialized topics), supplies, insurance, and other things. The math simply does not work unless volunteers are willing to make a certain commitment.

            1. Oryx*

              I volunteer for an arts organization with about the same number of volunteers and it comes with perks specific to the organization. Every season, the volunteer coordinator makes it very clear that unless you put in the minimum number of hours expected, you will not be asked to return next year.

      2. Snowglobe*

        Fun fact: you see this a lot in banks, because there is a federal law (Community Reinvestment Act – CRA) that requires financial institutions to provide services to the communities in which they serve. Certain volunteer activities by bank employees count as “CRA credit” for the bank. So banks are very much interested in encouraging volunteerism of their employees and tracking volunteer hours, etc. My company allows employees 16 paid hours to do volunteer work per year, but also encourages us to report additional volunteer time, whatever it may be.

      3. neverjaunty*

        If the volunteering/pro bono is paid, then yay. Otherwise, it’s insisting that employees work for free/put in extra time to make the company look good.

        It’s pretty common for big law firms to make a huge thing about their pro bono contributions (so as to shift attention from how much they represent clients who screw over poor people, the environment, etc.), but SOP is to credit that as billable hours, just as it would be for a paying client – otherwise nobody would do it.

    4. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon*

      No, this seems really strange to me too. My charitable activities are my business, as are my finances. Personally, I’d want to withdraw any donation now, because I wouldn’t want to support an organisation which sanctions these kinds of tactics, and I’d probably be looking for a new role (if I could) as well.

    5. browneyedgirl*

      So the company I work for has a United Way drive every year… and all of the higher ups have their own charities that there’s a lot of pressure to donate to/buy expensive tickets to go to dinners. This would be fine if I made the same amount of money as most of the other people in the company, but I don’t.

      However, the conversations can get super awkward, so what I do is I donate to a group of my choosing that I really believe in so when someone asks me about donating to XXX I can say “I’ve already made my charitable donations for the year, more really isn’t in my budget. Have you hear about the great work being done by XXX?”

        1. Hellanon*

          I’m pretty sure browneyedgirl means causes/organizations that they specifically support, not organizations they’ve founded. At my company, most of our higher-ups sit on various local boards, but they certainly don’t have time to *also* run charities!

          1. Charityb*

            Ugh, they might as well just cut your pay at that point. If the employee is required to give money back to the employer, it’s basically a pay cut.

    6. Tricia*

      My company does a United Way drive every year too. I quit contributing when I discovered only .09 cents of every dollar I contributed actually went to people in the community. If asked about it, I would just point that out and say I make my contributions to XXX organization because more of my money gets to those in need.

      1. Hellanon*

        That’s how I handled this one when it came up many years ago. For reasons I don’t need to get into, I refuse to support United Way, so I was firm about that and explained that my budget for both money & volunteer time was already committed.

        1. Chinook*

          Be careful about saying you donate elsewhere as the local UW says you can do your donations through them and have it directed to the non-member organization. Since I have an ethical issue with at least one program they support and a port in of each donation goes to running the campaign and UW itself, I prefer to write my donations directly to the groups I believe in. Plus, I support a cause that is politically divisive and am not prepared to our myself when the issue has nothing to do with my job.

          1. Arjay*

            This is the battle I’ve fought too, as they try to reach “100% participation.” No, I will not donate to my preferred charity through the middlemen of United Way. And no, I will not fill out your card, even with a $0, so you can claim 100% participation. I am not participating.

      2. Connie-Lynne*

        Right? All those United Way dimes … and they don’t even use ten cents out of a dollar for their supposed mission.

      3. UW employee*

        I’d check your local UW policies….our local UW has a 5% admin fee. So if you give $100 to a charity of your choice (not UW) then they receive $95. If you give to multiple orgs, it’s not a bad way to do it.

    7. Elizabeth West*

      You’re not wrong; I was thinking the same thing. I don’t like pushy charity things, not in my personal life or in my professional sphere, either. I decide on my own what I want to give and how much.

      I do appreciate when my company makes it convenient or easy to donate, either through my paycheck or another way. It’s very big on giving back, so we have numerous opportunities throughout the year, including donation bins, volunteer events, pancake breakfasts, etc. But it’s all entirely voluntary. Nobody is pushed to do so, and if they are, it’s coming from their individual manager, because it’s definitely not a company thing.

    8. Florida*

      It’s not wrong to say that you would spend one dime of your paycheck on your employer’s choice of charities, but I wouldn’t say that to your employer. I would stick with the “it’s not in the budget” line.

      The reason is that as soon as you start trying to explain that UW sucks, your employer will double-down on trying to convince you how great UW is. Clearly, if you really understood how great this charity is, you would give. We just have to keep trying to convince you.

      But if you stick with the “It’s not in my budget” line and just keep repeating that, then it doesn’t matter how great UW is or how many people they help or whatever else, it’s still not in the budget.

      BTW, last year, United Way Worldwide raised $3.87 billion. They are number 1 in America, in terms of dollars raised. (Chronicle of Philanthropy) It pisses me off that such a crappy organization raises so much money. If UW doesn’t fit in my budget this year, or any year, it won’t matter.

      1. Artemesia*

        We really do our homework on charities since the number one goal of most charities is to provide cushy jobs for grifters. The situation at Susan Komen which turned out to be a cash cow that provided first class travel and enormous salary to the founder is fairly common. In my last town, the local children’s charity spent almost all its income on 6 figure salaries for the founder and his wife, his grown children and his daughters and sons in laws. When I was pushed on United Way at my last job, I just said ‘I have researched charities that really deliver to their target population and we give to those.’ And when people would ask, I would then identify some of those organizations — convinced a couple of people to shift their giving to those organizations. Almost every city has a couple of organizations that do heroic work for the homeless for example and many food banks have a very effective ratio of overhead to service.

        1. Kira*

          FYI, overhead expenses is a very poor way to measure impact. My nonprofit spends plenty of money on overhead-supervisors, facilities workers, accountants, fundraisers, and it’s all to support the amazing work our client services staff do, ensure we attract and keep great talent, and establish a strong financial base so that all our work doesn’t vanish if funding shifts unexpectedly. Some of our staff earn six figures, and they bring at least that much value back. You’d probably categorize us as doing heroic work and really serving our population, without ever knowing how much of our budget is spent behind the scenes.

          1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

            Yes, this is a bugaboo for me too. How do the meals get served to the hungry kids? By paying people to develop project plans, create relationships with landlords to use their space, negotiate with grocers to buy their products, engage with communities to find out what kind of food kids need and want, manage payroll, cook the beans, call the volunteers to make sure they show up.”Overhead” is PEOPLE.

            1. Emily K*


              An overemphasis on keeping overhead costs low is hamstringing a lot of nonprofits from being more effective.

              The figure that people look at – how much is spent directly on the cause, or in other words, how much is left over after paying all the bills and salaries. You know what the private sector calls that figure? Profit. If a for-profit company had an 80% profit margin, that is to say their expenses were only 1/5 of their revenue, they’d be considered wildly successful. But in the nonprofit world that’s considered a barely acceptable overhead ratio because 20 cents of every dollar you donate is reinvested back in the nonprofit.

          2. Florida*

            Agreed. You measure a nonprofit based on how it achieving its mission. If the organization exists to find a cure for cancer, measure them on how well they are doing that. If the CEO makes a million bucks, but they find a cure for cancer, he/she deserves that much money and more.

            Also, most people don’t realize how much the overhead figure can be manipulated – some of it is legal, some not so much. It makes an organization look like they spend little or no money on overhead, but of course they have some overhead.

    9. Traveler*

      No. I’ve worked for nonprofits most of my life that desperately need money and I still think this is wrong with a capital W. Its socially uncomfortable and to me the company that pays you wanting your money back or to direct where you put your money is a conflict of interest. Frankly I’m surprised its allowed and still socially acceptable to do this.

    10. Green*

      I think it’s OK for a company to have any conditions they want on employment **as long as the details are known up front** so you can decide whether or not to accept it before you wind up stuck.

      I knew the company I worked for valued 100% participation in United Way, so I’d planned to make a nominal donation even though I can’t stand United Way. I did NOT know that I would get a hard sell for a minimum $5,000 donation to join some young leaders circle crap.

    11. INTP*

      No, I agree. I’d be fine with required volunteering during work hours (and truly during work hours, not just an official line that you can do it during work hours, but your boss whines whenever you try so you must do it off the clock or something), but nothing more than that. If a contribution of $X or Y hours is not worth my company’s resources, to donate themselves or to allow for volunteering during work hours, then why should they get to dictate that it SHOULD be worth my (much less plentiful) resources?

      I think it’s much more fair, ethical, and inspiring to employees if the company sets an example by, say, donating a certain percentage of profits and a certain number of employee hours per year (“on the clock”), even if it means the salaries or perks are not as great, than if they demand that employees give their own resources in ways that were not specified during the pre-hire discussions. The latter is a total bait and switch.

    12. Temperance*

      I don’t find it unreasonable for companies to host Days of Service – where you’re paid your normal daily/hourly wage to do a service project, but I otherwise agree with you.

    13. BB*

      My company requires it in order to gain a day off. Its a percentage of your paycheck. If 80% of each office does it, we get a day off. They really push it, but at least there are a ton of little charities that you can choose that are connected to United Way that its not so bad. We are 1 person away from 100% participation, and I overheard leadership talk about tracking that person down and paying for them so that our office looks good. It isn’t about charitable giving (not even some tax break for the org), its about looking good like ‘omg we are awesome cause we care’.

    14. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      I grew up in a large manufacturing city (at the time) and the United Way – then known as the United Fund – was critical for all the non-profits/charities in the city.

      Some years later – when I worked for a “pacesetter” company – people were concerned over where the money was going – and, as a result, you could “earmark” your contribution to one or more charities in the United Way umbrella, and exclude others.

      At my current employer – we had a boss that had embraced a charity – legitimate, to be sure, but certainly obscure. And we were asked to support that. Conversely – I advised that I am doing a great deal of work for a more prominent local charity – and will continue doing that and working toward that one. I was looked at oddly – but stuck to my guns.

      If you have a favorite cause – SUPPORT IT. But just as you should not have to be forced to support the boss’ or the company’s charitable endeavors, you shouldn’t expect others to support yours.

    15. That Marketing Chick*

      United Way is a great organization and I know several people who work there. HOWEVER, they also take a huge chunk of your donation for their overhead, before it ever reaches your charity of choice. For that reason, I donate directly to the organization. Additionally, many non-profits are not under the United Way umbrella because they choose not to follow their strict guidelines. I know a couple of non-profit CEOs who have told me they choose not to be a United Way agency because it imposes too many rules on them.

  2. Jenniy*

    My company sends the paper home with every employee – after making them sit through a 15-20 minute spiel every year when it’s time to renew the contributions. And every department has a 100% donation goal. If your dept coordinator hasn’t received your paper back, or gotten the notification that you did it through the voice system, they will ask you daily until you do, or finally tell them to go away.
    However they do not see you amount, and that would really bother me

  3. DMR*

    I hate the United Way. They claim that they don’t push high levels of involvement, but it was very clear at my old employer that we had a long record of 100% participation and that was important. I attempted to break that last year but was guilted into contributing. I did make my opinions known, though. I hope someone is strong enough to end this BS soon – I think participation rates would fall significantly at that office once people felt they’re not the ones messing up the organization’s reputation with the United Way

    1. Rebecca in Dallas*

      I got roped into being a chairperson for our drive at Old Company one year. I found out that “participation” just means that the employee has given back their paperwork, it doesn’t mean that they chose to contribute anything. I made sure all of my employees understood this. I never got asked to help with the campaign again. :)

  4. Anon for this*

    The UW thing is obnoxious. I’ve donated about $100-150 total to a few organizations this year, I think United Way got $10 or $15 from me when my company did a campaign. I also volunteer about 2-5 hours monthly, spread across a few organizations. It may not seem like a lot of money or time to others but it’s honestly all I can give right now and it offends me when people act like I don’t donate enough time or money to charity. I work FT but I’m also in grad school which is a significant drain on both my free time and my extra cash. The nonprofit organization I work for called all of the administrative employees into a conference room this year during the UW campaign to tell us that our salaries came primarily from UW funds and if we were interested in keeping our jobs we’d donate more significantly. I found it totally inappropriate and demotivating.

    1. Tiffany*

      The reality is that UW is one of the few grants that will fund administrative costs. The large majority of organizations, foundations, etc. out there will only fund program expenses. That’s a really crappy way for your org to try and solicit donations though. I am very much involved with my local United Way (I interned there for over a year and now serve on several committees for them), but I’d never advocate for companies to practically force someone into a donation. That’s wrong on so many levels.

      1. Kyrielle*

        Huh. What’s it like, from your perspective? Everything I’ve ever heard about the United Way is how it doesn’t use its money efficiently, and how it pushes organizations to use pressure tactics like these. I’m curious what it’s like from a more sympathetic perspective, because I’ve never heard that side of it.

        1. Tiffany*

          The thing to remember is that there are over 1000 United Way’s in the US alone, even more internationally. They are all independent 501(c)3’s and ran by their own independent Board of Directors. So there is going to be some differences in how they are run. Branding is typically the same, broad initiatives are the same (Education, Income, Health), etc., but each one uses it’s funding how they want and they do what programs they want. Of course, some programs individual UW’s run are programs started by Worldwide, but not all are.

          There’s also a lot of changes in the past few years as to how funding is used. More and more United Way’s are moving away from the ‘we raise money and give it to our partner agencies’ model and switching to a collective impact model, where they fund specific initiatives that are done as part of the larger community. For example, locally we have a lot of at-risk youth in our school district, so our UW started a coalition with the city, school district, and a couple other nonprofits that work with that demographic. We act as the backbone organization to raise funds for the initiative, but everyone pitches in to help solve the issue. In this case, our solution is to set up a mentoring program that aims to match each of the 10000 at-risk kids with a mentor. I could give a ton of examples like that. We still give to partner agencies, but as we increase our fundraising every year, the majority percentage is moving towards funding collective impact (we do this without decreasing the total amount we give to partner agencies). This is because research into collective impact models of funding is proven to increase donations.

          As for what UW grants to partner agencies can be used for. Yes, it’s one of the few grants that can be applied towards administrative costs. That’s because we understand that in order for programs to happen, you have to have expenses on the admin side (staff, fundraising, marketing, etc.). However, we don’t choose what the grant is used for. The agency writes the grant, a volunteer committee then determines how to allocate whatever the total grant funding is to the individual organizations requesting it, and the agency then uses the funds for whatever they wrote the grant for. So if a nonprofit is using UW funds to pay for the salary of its administrative staff, that’s on them. UW will allow it, but they aren’t telling them that’s what they have to use it for, unless they wrote the grant asking for it. (In other words, a nonprofit can’t write a grant to fund free flu-shots for low-income families but then decide to use it to fund something completely different). That’s true of all grants, UW or not.

          1. fposte*

            Good points, Tiffany; our charitable contributions go through the local one.

            However, don’t the local ones have to give the national org a proportion (I see 1% on one local chapter)? So if you’ve had it with the national org, I think it’s understandable if you’d prefer not even to engage with the local chapters, since it does benefit the big dog too.

            1. Tiffany*

              Yeah, there’s fee’s to Worldwide. It’s pretty minimal though I think.

              I get not wanting to donate to a specific organization though and I don’t think companies should force someone to donate when they don’t agree with an organization or can’t afford it or any other reason. I just hope that people keep an open mind and don’t let opinions of 1 local office affect the opinions of every other one. There’s a lot of UW’s doing a lot of really awesome work.

      2. Green*

        The United Way also shifts its funding priorities with no warning, so organizations can go from receiving $150,000 a year from United Way to nada. It’s devastating to small non-profits. United Way itself also has really high overhead and does almost no direct service: they’re fundraisers and their execs are well-compensated for that. Whether or not you like the high-pressure tactics employers use, United Way is complicit in them.

        1. Tiffany*

          “United Way itself also has really high overhead and does almost no direct service: they’re fundraisers and their execs are well-compensated for that.”

          This is true of United Way Worldwide, and of some smaller United Way’s, but the model of funding is shifting. I wrote more about it above, but the model is shifting less from just giving money to other nonprofits to actually funding and running specific initiatives (Collective Impact). Also, in terms of salary, you get what you pay for. If you don’t pay execs well, they’re going to go work elsewhere.

          “The United Way also shifts its funding priorities with no warning, so organizations can go from receiving $150,000 a year from United Way to nada.”

          Again, maybe true for some….but not as a whole. The nonprofit industry is changing. Not just for UW, but for all organizations. No one is just blindly giving money to organizations anymore and hoping for the best. People want to see results and those results happen with collaboration. If organizations don’t change how they work, they aren’t going to survive.

          1. Green*

            The head of one of the United Way orgs in my state made a salary of over $300,000 PLUS benefits (i.e., a car) and retirement/pension, and one of the others makes $250k. That’s a half million dollars on CEO salaries for TWO CEOs in one state. There are over SIXTY United Ways in my state, each with administrative staff. That is a lot of overhead for an organization, especially when it’s primarily a fundraising pass-through/grantmaker.

              1. Green*

                That one is “for-profit” and the other is “non-profit”? That I give one money in exchange for a product, and I give another money for them to give to do good? That one has an obligation against private inurement in the tax code and the other doesn’t? (One of the factors for private inurement: “Salary scale paid to others in “like enterprises” under “like circumstances[.]”) I’m not saying that everyone in a non-profit needs to be poor, but that salary is more appropriate for a national organization head than one of sixty in a single state. Meanwhile, my friend is CEO of an international nonprofit and draws $0 in salary, so yeah.

                1. esra*

                  Meanwhile, my friend is CEO of an international nonprofit and draws $0 in salary, so yeah.

                  So all the CEOs of nonprofits either have to be independently wealthy, or… dependently wealthy? I think I’d rather have them be qualified professionals.

                  In general I think CEOs in North America are repellantly overpaid. But nonprofits still have to be competitive or they are severely limiting their pool and not getting the best people for the job.

                2. Green*

                  Apparently you missed the line in the comment directly above you: “I’m not saying that everyone in a non-profit needs to be poor.” They should be paid on a salary scale paid to others in “like enterprises” under “like circumstances.” It’s hard for some people who start non-profits to draw salary if you can do without when 50 cents provides a dewormer to a kid and vaccines are $2 — because the sacrifices you’re making in your own family can seem pretty trivial compared to where the money could go.

                  There are tons of qualified professionals in this world who make less than $350,000. And there’s no reason United Way needs to have as much overhead — or pay their regional CEOs so much.

            1. Temperance*

              That’s actually reasonable. Compare those CEOs to the CEO of say, the Susan G. Komen Foundation.

          2. swissmiss*

            Thanks for your comments, Tiffany. I actually work for a local UW (in fundraising) and hearing stories about people being forced into donating makes me cringe. I am not a salesperson by nature and kind of fell into my role, but have stayed with it for four years because I have actually been really impressed by and proud of what my UW does. It is important to remember that each one is local and very different. We have a very low overhead rate at about 11.5% and though we have shifted our funding model, we have full buy-in and support by all of our partner agencies. UW does really have a place in the community, as it can act as a backbone organization, it’s just a shame that some of the fundraising practices are so crappy within a lot of companies. I agree that that definitely needs to stop.

      3. neverjaunty*

        If you are that involved with United Way, then you cannot possibly be unaware 1) that it is the rule, not the norm, for companies to pressure employees to donate so as to get 100% participation and 2) how much this sours people on donating to UW if they have a choice.

        So sure, UW got my $10 a month or whatever it was back when I had an hourly wage job where contributing was “optional”. Now that I have a comfortable salaried job and can afford to give much more, UW will never see a dime of my money.

        1. Temperance*

          I’m pretty involved with the United Way in my city, and it’s absolutely not the rule at most larger corporations to push for 100% participation. It depends on the individual organization, actually.

      1. DMR*

        Yep. They say that participation is optional, but the pressure (at least in the organization I worked in) for 100% participation to show “our commitment to the mission” was high. Maybe this was pushed in the past and the attitude has become ingrained in the workplace campaigns. In my opinion, showing up for work and doing my job well shows my commitment to the mission of the organization I worked for, but we’d be told that failing to contribute to the UW could indicate we’re not committed and we’d lose funding.

    2. INTP*

      The way you describe it makes UW seem like more of a pyramid scheme than a charity, yikes! It seems unethical somehow to collect donations from the employees whose salaries you’re supposed to be paying, especially when I’m sure UW has something to do with the high-pressure tactics the workplaces that contribute to them use to extort donations from employees.

  5. Sourire*

    Can someone please explain to me the 100% participation thing for United Way. Is there any actual benefit to a company other than merely being able to state they made the 100%? I feel like there must be since so many companies push so hard for it, but I’ve never heard a good reason why…

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        I might add that I worked for a company for 8 years that pushed UW, but not nearly to the extent I’m reading about here. They wanted 100% signup on a website, but once you registered, you could decline to give, and anyone who registered (whether you gave or not) was entered into a raffle.

        Reading the stories here…god, I’m glad I’ve never had to work for such a place.

        1. Kirsten*

          Sounds a lot like my company. 100% participation is everyone signing into a website. They don’t track donations by individuals.

          A lot of departments here will have fundraisers during the campaign (walking tacos, chili, etc) where the money goes to the campaign, and there is always a large raffle with donated items. I am not as offended by that as I am by forced payroll contributions. Thankfully that’s not the culture where I am. I’ll buy a bowl of chili when the campaign rolls around every year, and continue donating to the charities that are meaningful to me.

        2. sprinkles!*

          I used to work for an ad agency that heavily pushed United Way as well. The first year I worked there, the push to donate was subtle but not too bad. The second year, we had layoffs. The lucky ones that got to keep their jobs had 10% pay cuts. They went into full-court press mode with the UW donations because they wanted 100% participation, meaning everyone donated something. I thought it was such a tone deaf move for an otherwise good company. (This was also when the Recession hit, too.)

          I barely had the gas and parking money to drive into work, and they wanted me to donate? Now, I would respectfully decline but at the time there was so much pressure. I gave a one-time gift of $5.

        3. Snowglobe*

          I work for a company that has that rule – “participation” just means that you respond, even if your response is “no”. I don’t know the reason. However, even though at the individual level you aren’t required to donate, there is an overall company $ goal, and each department has a $ goal. So managers are encouraged to reach their department goal and sometimes push their employees to donate, even though the company doesn’t tell them to do that.

        4. Not The Droid You Are Looking For*

          My office used paper forms that were turned in to HR :( it was pretty clearly meant to be tracked.

          1. Kira*

            We also have the paper forms turned into HR, but there’s no follow up or pressure if you just say $0. I think that’s in part because we don’t assume all our staff can afford it, and in part because we get UW funding and while we’re required to run a campaign to be eligible for funding, it seems backwards to give money so that you can get some of it back.

    1. Florida*

      I can explain the benefit. Back in the day, United Way used to tell companies to try to get 100%. Most United Ways don’t do that anymore, but some company executives still have that mindset.

      It’s also an easy way to guilt you into giving. “John, you are the only person in accounting who hasn’t donated yet. We want everyone to participate. Can you give something?”

      Most United Ways make a list of all of the largest workplace contributors. Great Teapots Inc. wants the glory of saying “We are such a great company. Our employees gave millions to United Way. We are such good neighbors. We’re number 1.” There are people who will give $1 to satisfy the requirement, but most people will give more. So if they push for 100%, they know you will give something.

      The whole thing is wrong on so many levels. It serves primarily to provide jobs for the people at United Way and to give bragging rights to the companies who raise the most money.

      1. Stephanie*

        Oh boy! I could help the CEO go to a fancy dinner with other CEOs?! I MUST HELP HIM TO GET TO THIS GOAL.

        1. Anx*

          As an added bonus, you can be relieved of the burden of indulging in a dinner out or social outing so that you can contribute!

          (for those on stricter budgets)

    2. Hlyssande*

      My company does the same. We all have to fill out the pledge form or we get hassled until we do.

      Funny, they don’t hassle you if you pledge $0, which is what I do.

  6. Katie the Fed*

    I thought united way was kind of a crappy charity. Besides, I donate to my friends’ various fundraising efforts and buy my husband a goat from Heiffer International every Christmas. My charity dollars are spoken for.

    1. fposte*

      United Way isn’t just a charity–it’s like a charity clearinghouse. So you give to Doctors without Borders or Habitat or maybe Heifer International (can’t remember if I’ve seen that one but I know the others are there) through United Way. They’re not the only ones who do that, but they’re by far the best known. It’s a way to give employees a big “menu” without needing the overhead of work with each charity.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I don’t like that you sometimes can’t choose which ones your dollars go to, however. I don’t want any of them to go to an org that is non-inclusive or has anything to do with churches that discriminate. I prefer to donate directly.

        1. fposte*

          Right, I wouldn’t like that either. But that’s about an employer’s agreement with United Way, not United Way per se.

          I’ve just looked at our charitable slate, and it looks like we have seven aggregator agencies and four standalone charities. You can direct your donation to individual agencies within the aggregator to just to the aggregator or standalone; there are quite a few local charities included among the aggregators as well as the usual national and international suspects. There’s definitely encouragement to donate, but I wouldn’t consider it pressure; it’s occasional group emails about the date and info about the participation rate. And that makes sense, because these things aren’t free to arrange for the employer and they want to see that they’re used.

          And I think it’s a good thing; it’s a good way for me to donate and keep donating on my radar without feeling pain from it, it’s and it’s pre-tax so that’s advantageous as well.

          That’s a different thing than being told your job requires you to donate or insisting it’s to any particular organization, I realize, but I thought the donation baby was in danger of getting thrown away in the mandatory bathwater :-).

      2. Florida*

        “It’s a way to give employees a big “menu” without needing the overhead of work with each charity.”

        This isn’t completely accurate. It actually creates more overhead for the charity. The only thing United Way does is shift the overhead from the nonprofit to United Way. Either way, it is being paid for by your donations. The problem is the model. Most granting organizations do not raise money. They only give money. Ford, Carnegie, and even smaller local foundations do not have people on the ground raising money. Yes, Ford Foundation has overhead, but Ford is not spending money on raising money. They already have all the money.

        Contrast that with United Way…United Way is paying fundraisers to find the donations. They are paying their people to process the donations. Then they give what is left to the charity. Meanwhile, the charity is paying it’s own people to raise money, paying more people to process donations, etc. So you have double overhead.

        The original idea of United Way was that United Way would do ALL of the fundraising for DoGooder Nonprofit, so that DoGooder could focus on doing good. If that worked, it would be awesome. But it doesn’t work because they do a very small portion of fundraising for most organizations – much less than most people realize.

        1. CAA*

          It’s been 20 years since I worked at a company that had a United Way campaign, so it’s possible this has changed, but one of the things that I learned when I was assigned to the UW committee was that just because you earmark your gift for a specific charity doesn’t mean that charity will get it.

          The charity has to apply for UW grants, which will be funded by the earmarked gifts, and they have to show sufficient community support (i.e. fundraising from other sources) in order to actually receive the grants. Also the charity is not allowed to do any other fundraising campaigns during UW season, which can be a quarter of the year. I decided that I preferred to give directly to the charity I support rather than via UW.

          1. Editor*

            The United Way serving my area provides a list of groups receiving support, and I can choose to direct donations to those groups, but not to groups that aren’t on the list — if they’re not on the list, I have to give directly. Fortunately, the United Way drive is very low-key even though the company owner is on the UW board.

            One thing that’s good about this United Way is that a few major donors support the UW administrative expenses so the donations do go to local groups, not to paying rent and salaries.

            Another detail some people don’t know is that some (or maybe all) UW pledges can be directed to different UW groups. I used to work for an employer whose main office, in the center of the county, was in one UW group, but my home in the east of the county was in another UW jurisdiction and my job was in an area served by a third UW. I was able to split my donation so half of it went to the region where I lived, not where the company’s main office was.

            A rural area where I lived had a small United Way, and it operated on a shoestring. A volunteer director had a hole-in-the-wall office at the chamber of commerce that the largest local employer subsidized by paying for the phone line (and a computer, I think), and the chamber paid the utilities. The director basically took a lot of emergency calls at home, particularly since the area was on the fringes of the American Red Cross chapter, which was a toll call away. It’s a lot easier to be enthusiastic about United Way when it isn’t a corporate behemoth.

          2. Not Today Satan*

            I don’t think that this is the case anymore. My mom works for a nonprofit and occasionally gets donations via UW drives. I’m almost positive that her org doesn’t have to apply to get that money.

            1. Florida*

              I think it depends on the United Way chapter. The way it works here is that there are people who donate to United Way generally, people who donate to broad categories such as homelessness, and people who designate specific charities such as Eastside Homeless Shelter.

              If someone designates $50 to Eastside Homeless Shelter, then Eastside gets that money without applying (but usually there is an administrative fee taken out). If someone gives to a broad topic like hunger, then all of the hunger organizations can apply for that money. If someone gives to UW in general, then any human service organization can apply for that money. So there is some that you apply for and some you don’t.

              That’s how it works here. I’m not sure if that is universal.

              Another thing about UW that people don’t always realize is that they only support health and human service organizations. They don’t support arts, environment, animals, education, and tons of other types of great organizations – just health and human service.

              1. Not Today Satan*

                Thanks for the clarification. About health and human services orgs only, do you mean directly? Because there were multiple animal shelters on the list we could give to through UW.

                1. Florida*

                  Maybe the animal shelters figured out a way to get on the list. They could’ve been pretty creative and convincing by saying that if you adopted a dog, you would improve your own health and well-being. I don’t know – I’m just speculating here at this point.
                  There might be some exceptions depending on the area, but in general, they only do health and human service.

                2. Nother Name*

                  Our UW does support the local Humane Society, and you can give direct donations to them. I’m not sure how they got on, but it might have to do with the health aspect of not having a bunch of strays wandering around?

                  I only do direct donations to UW, because I don’t support all the groups that they contribute to, and when I do, I specifically give direct contributions to a group that I’m pretty sure the execs don’t support.

              2. phedre*

                That’s not true in my area. I work for a nonprofit that has a grant from our local UW and we are an education org. I think each United Way can set their own priorities.

        2. doreen*

          “This isn’t completely accurate. It actually creates more overhead for the charity. The only thing United Way does is shift the overhead from the nonprofit to United Way. Either way, it is being paid for by your donations. ”

          I don’t think fposte was referring to the charity’s overhead. I think she was referring to the overhead of the employer trying to give a large menu of choices without using an organization similar to the United Way. For example, my employer has a coordinated appeal across all state entities. All of the money from payroll deductions goes to one central place- no matter which of the hundreds of associated organizations the funds ultimately go to. It probably involves less overhead on the state’s part than each state entity independently working with ten charities.

          1. fposte*

            Exactly. My university won’t individually process for the over 100+ charities that are available to me through the seven aggregators.

        3. Abcd*

          I love this point that giving to UW doesn’t reduce the charity’s actual fundraising costs. We spend a lot of money (in the form of staff time) each year preparing United Way applications, defending our programs to a team of UW volunteers, and reporting. In recent years, we have even stopped applying for UW grants for some of our projects since the grant amount was less valuable than the staff effort it takes to prepare it.

          Oh, and they could take back all our grant money if we ran a fundraising campaign (like a holiday appeal letter or #GivingTuesday) without telling them about it ahead of time.

      3. Green*

        If that’s the case, then why do all of the large employers with United Way campaigns also work with Benevity or EasyMatch?

        The issue is that United Way makes a lot of money from pretending that you can direct your donation, while making it a hassle do so, holding donations for over a year before ‘directing’ them to your charity and taking out a 10-15% overhead. Meanwhile, many regional United Ways have not adopted inclusion and diversity policies related to the organizations that they award grants to.

        1. Florida*

          My local UW has always had an anti-discrimination policy. They won’t give to organizations that discriminate in their services. That seems pretty reasonable, right? Back in 2000, when the Boy Scouts started banning gay leaders, our UW made a specific exception for the Boy Scouts! So we won’t give to certain organizations because they refuse to serve certain races or religions or whatever, but we will allow the Boy Scouts to discriminate against gays because they are such a wholesome organization and do such good work. That’s when I decided I was never giving to UW.

          1. Green*

            Mine makes a distinction between service recipients vs. leadership/board inclusion policies but then exempts an entire county in our region from all of it because some orgs they really wanted to fund don’t like gays. No.

        2. fposte*

          To be clear, I’m no special fan of United Way, and I actually give through a different aggregator. But they don’t always work with EasyMatch, because they don’t at my employer; I don’t know if they work with Benevity or not, or why that would be good or bad–can you explain?

          Additionally, while I agree with the overall point that it’s better for charities of choice to get more of your money, that’s not the same thing as saying that it’s not worth it if any overhead is taken out, and I think we’re in danger of suggesting they do mean the same.

          1. Green*

            Point was that at the majority of companies with employee giving programs, United Way doesn’t replace the aggregator services so the benefit to a company is almost exclusively reputational.

        3. grasshopper*

          The difference between United Way and EasyMatch is that United Way is usually a charitable foundation or non-profit versus EasyMatch being a for-profit company. Easy Match sells their services to a company to administer their employees’ charitable giving.

    2. Cat*

      Does your agency make a big push for the Combined Federal Campaign? Every time I go to the agency I do a lot of work with this time of year, there’s a huge number of signs about it. Then there’s a breakdown of which office gave how much and since I know some of the offices have 4-5 people, and there’s clearly a set amount those offices give, you imagine someone must be putting on the pressure.

      1. Stephanie*

        At my former agency, there was definitely pressure to do CFC, but it wasn’t as overt as the United Way drive at Big Corporate. You’d get pummeled with emails and such about CFC, but I didn’t contribute one year without any blowback.

    3. eplawyer*

      Let me just say I think it’s great that you donate a goat in your husband’s name every year for Christmas.

      1. Al Lo*

        One of my dad’s annual Christmas gifts is the latest version of the “Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader”, as a joke an the amount of time he spends in the bathroom. The year my mom got us all gifts from World Vision, she got him the gift of a latrine in a community. My mom, who’s very proper and mannered, was giggling like a little girl at the idea of giving him a toilet.

      2. Green*

        Just throwing this out there for your consideration:

        Animals aren’t usually the most efficient form of protein or calories, a high percentage of people in the regions that HPI serves are lactose-intolerant, it’s difficult to care properly (and ethically) for the animals in places that lack crops (and for people that lack money to feed themselves, much less their animals), etc.

        May be worth considering alternatives like A Well-Fed World. There is a reason that many diets around the world are primarily plant-based.

        1. Linguist curmudgeon*

          This is a late comment, but – that anti-heifer/pro-vegan blog post was pretty thoroughly debunked. Teff, for example, is already eaten as a staple in Ethiopia. They put the other food *on* the bread (injera) to eat it. They don’t need to be eating teff on their teff, and saying they do is insulting and infantilizing. Don’t spread that idea, please.

      3. neverjaunty*

        This is an awesome idea and I am going to start donating bees for Christmas. Even though I don’t observe Christmas.

  7. Myrin*

    I agree that a profile written in third person isn’t “unusual” but as a reader, I totally prefer first person. I regularly encounter this in an academic environment – my university’s website – and Alison totally nailed the reason: I know that the person it’s about wrote the piece themselves and it comes off as slightly pretentious (? for want of a better word; I’m not sure that’s it exactly) to me. And thinking about it more, I realise that it’s really only because I know the person herself is the author – I don’t have that reaction at all if it’s on some “external” website, for example, where the teacher in question is introduced in a piece about her institution, all written by another author. So I absolutely wouldn’t say it’s a horrible thing or something but my preference absolutely lies with first person and I imagine many others feel that way as well.

    1. BRR*

      I feel the same way. One of my classmates from grad school while still a student wrote her profile section on LinkedIn in third person. Obviously she wrote it. It felt so weird to me.

  8. AdAgencyChick*

    #4, absolutely continue to do your job and register for those conferences until you have something else lined up. I’ve you resign it’s your boss’s problem to get reimbursement.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Agreed, and as we’ve seen here many times, it’s not always a given that you’ll find something right away. June could roll around and you might still be looking!

  9. BananaPants*

    Oh, how I hate the United Way. Their workplace campaign is obnoxious. They make employees sit there and listen to an impassioned speech by a well-dressed fundraiser, and to watch a video about people who have been helped by the United Way after which an executive stands up and tells everyone to give, give, give. For the employer to get 100% participation everyone has to log in to the site and “thoughtfully consider” what they might be able to donate. If you choose not to donate, then you’re on their mailing list until the end of time.

    A bunch of us have given up on the annual UW-coordinated day of volunteerism and instead volunteer together through Habitat for Humanity. It’s fun, is more meaningful, and we still get to do it instead of go to work for a day. For a donation amounting to around $2/week to the United Way employees can wear jeans on Fridays. I’ve considered doing this because I do like wearing jeans to work, but I keep resisting because it’s associated with the United Way. I also don’t participate in other events that are set up as UW fundraisers. I’m not loud or rude about it, I just decline to participate.

    I’ve been told by my manager that at his level some donation to the annual campaign is expected, and at higher (director/executive) levels, a donation of at least 1% of salary is expected. This is not written down, of course, but if someone is being considered for management who does not give at all they’ll be spoken to about this expectation and “encouraged” to re-consider in light of all the wonderful things the United Way does. Basically for those who receive incentive compensation, it’s as required as it can get without being a formal requirement. Now, my heart doesn’t particularly bleed for people earning 6 figure salaries plus 5 figure bonuses being expected by their employer to give to a charity – it’s the principle of the thing.

    When my husband worked for a big box electronics retailer there was a ton of strong-arming to have every employee donate. Yes, they were pushing single parents earning minimum wage to give $5 per paycheck or whatever to the charity of the company’s choice. He knew of department managers who would give their employees the money themselves in order to claim the 100% donation rate that they were expected to achieve. He eventually knocked down his donation to $1 per paycheck, but it was still frustrating that people earning such little money were being pushed so hard.

    I don’t think the United Way is a particularly special or good charity – they’re a no-value-added middleman for donations. If I want to give $100 to a charity, I’ll give it directly to that charity so that the United Way doesn’t take their (ample) cut. I donate to the charities I choose to support; I shouldn’t have my employer trying to dictate that I support their charity of choice.

    1. Samantha*

      Ugh, I feel the same way. In college I worked part-time for a small nonprofit that received UW funding and was pressured to contribute from my paycheck. I was working maybe 15-20 hours a week making $10 an hour – barely enough to cover my bills. I declined.

    2. fposte*

      Some of that’s on your workplace, though; nobody at mine is required to do a thing with United Way.

      To be clear, I also hate donation pressure, but I think the opportunity to donate via paycheck is excellent, and I really like having it.

      1. Samantha*

        Yes, but this pressure to give very frequently seems to go along with United Way in particular, because of the way they operate their corporate giving campaigns and the pressure organizations feel to meet that 100% participation mark, which they then pass on to employees.

        1. fposte*

          It’s still up to the org to accept it, though. It’s kind of like a crappy 401k–yes, the company with the 401k sucks, but it’s the employer who agreed to it thoughtlessly who’s really at fault.

          1. neverjaunty*

            It’s definitely on the company, particularly the BS about promotions, but c’mon; other charities don’t operate this way and don’t act shocked, shocked that companies are pressuring employees to give more. If UW doesn’t have programs and tutorials on ‘how to get more participation from your staff!’ I will eat a beet salad, and I hate beets.

            1. fposte*

              I don’t know if UW acts shocked about pressure, but sure, other orgs do pressure like this–we hear about them all the time.

              I *hate* that some employers treat this or any charitable contribution as an obligation, and that people ever feel any connection between their employment status and their donation. I hate that employers are trying to build their corporate profile on the backs of private contributions by their employees. I am deeply suspicious of national United Way and I think they’ve earned that suspicion repeatedly, and they’re not the only charitable organization of which that’s true.

              But I still think that workplace charitable giving can be a good thing, because there’s a lot of math beyond what I’ve outlined.

              1. neverjaunty*

                I don’t think anybody is disagreeing that, as a general principle, workplace charitable giving can be a good thing – especially when it’s done in a way that leverages the company’s ability to help (like matching donations) without coercing or pressuring employees.

                But that’s a different issue than punting UW’s behavior by saying a company doesn’t have to give in. When so many people say the same thing about a particular charity over many years, I think it’s difficult to assume that UW has nothing to do with it and it’s just on the corporate side that things get out of hand.

        2. BRR*

          The pressure is really from your company. United Way just happens to usually be the charity because of its history as well as it can be presented as you can give to your charity of choice and it benefits your local community.

    3. Not The Droid You Are Looking For*

      I worked for a university foundation that went *insane* for the UW campaign and did a week worth of activities (which was separate from the week of activities in the spring where they raised $$$ for the university through the staff campaign).

      The pressure for every staff member to donate was ridiculous and they used things like early-release and extra vacation days to get staff to put pressure on each other. Not to mention the constant updates with each departments percentage.

      And the worst was the unwritten expectations that your title corresponded with what your donation amount should be.

      1. BananaPants*

        Yes, I was already getting into TL:DR territory but there are competitions between departments on our corporate campus for getting an ice cream party. There are daily emails attempting to spur competition and updating on participation rates. First time donors are entered into a raffle for an iPad mini, donors giving at least 1% of their salary are entered in a raffle for a free extra vacation day, etc.

        Several colleagues share my dislike of the United Way corporate campaign and we’ve noticed that they’re falling short of the goal amount by a greater percentage each year, especially since the recession. 10 years ago they’d meet the goal, now the campaign nets maybe 60-70% of the goal amount. This isn’t at all surprising.

        1. Not Today Satan*

          1% of their salary?!?!?

          Personally I give more than that to charities/causes, but they’re various causes that I hand select. 1% is still a lot of money for one particular drive.

          1. Not The Droid You Are Looking For*

            The level that went with my title was 5%, and I wasn’t particularly high ranking.

              1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

                If you didn’t give the percentage they felt went with your title, it meant you couldn’t move up.

                1. Nother Name*

                  Was that net or gross? (I mean, I know it’s gross in the slang sense, but what about in the financial sense?)

          2. Abcd*

            Nationally, households in the USA donate about 2-3% of their salary, with higher income households donating a smaller percentage. So that’s like asking for half of the donations from your family to go to UW?

            1. Aceso Under Glass*

              > higher income households donating a smaller percentage

              That’s not quite true. The data comes from itemized tax returns; itemization is only beneficial if you have a certain amount of deductions. Middle income people are more likely to be itemizing for mortgage and property taxes, and then throw in whatever donations they made while they’re at it. Rich people will have a ton of deductions. Poor people tend not to have other deductions, so they will only itemize if they donated a significant amount of money.

              *Everyone* uses those numbers so I can’t find the raw %, but it’s at least not as big a gap as it appears.


          3. Temperance*

            1% of my gross salary is a few hundred dollars, which, with student loans, is more than I can do while also having my own “fun” budget.

        2. Not The Droid You Are Looking For*

          I hated it because we would get the emails that were like, “we only need 15 more employees to make their gift and everyone will get an extra day of vacation this year.”

          And, if you were in one of the departments that wasn’t listed as 100%, there were people who would come around and ask if you had made your gift.

        1. Not The Droid You Are Looking For*

          I’m on the board of a small arts nonprofit, and we recently decided not to pursue a grant because the funder asked about staff participation and said they gave preference to organizations with 80% or more staff giving.

          1. Samantha*

            I hate that. Whoever decided that was the measure of employees being passionate about or supporting the organization’s work? I support my organization’s mission by showing up to work every day and doing the best job I can do for less money than I could make in the for-profit sector.

            1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

              Exactly! The board’s major focus right now is increasing staff pay and transition some of the part-time people to full-time!

    4. Purrsephone*

      I hate the UA with the passion of a hundred million burning suns. They are the Ultimate Sleazebag of organzations (and that’s not a an easy title to earn with all the competition). I have never and will never give them a penny. When I worked for a particular commercial real estate broker, not the firm, I was fortunately not subject to those that underlings of the firm were: an hour presentation by a salesperson … oops, I mean representative of UA with balloons and upbeat talk and so on until they were browbeaten into the 100 percent giving. (The brokers who were all their supervisors were not subject to this presentation.)

      Several years later, I went to work for Santa Barbara City College, a two-year community college in southern California. This one too had that 100 percent crap. But the first time it came around, a few months after I joined them, I said no immediately. This was instantly noted by my co-workers in the small building, and for the first time they said no too. I have never given even though that pile of crap comes around every year. Nor do I volunteer since the college feels we should be proud to give up five hours of our own time on a Saturday to do that.

      As I said, I hate UA. Total sleazebags. My father hated them when he was at AT&T (when it was Ma Bell). I really began to hate them when the scandals began to surface: executives giving money to their mistresses for home renovations, executives getting interest-free loans to buy homes, etc.

      Hear this United Way: I HATE YOUR FRIGGING GUTS.

  10. Merry and Bright*

    I admit I hadn’t heard of United Way. But I just googled them and see they landed in the UK last year. I have looked at their UK website too. Just wow. Combined with the heads-up from you guys I will be prepared if they come my way. Thank you.

    From my own experience with employer-led volunteering, I don’t think the corporate definition of voluntary is the same as the dictionary’s.

  11. Sandy*

    Get this: at our workplace, executive bonuses are tied to the organization’s participation rate.

    I wanted to throw up in my mouth just typing that out.

    1. Rebecca*

      Wonderful. So executives pressure underlings who make a fraction of what they do to donate to a charity so said executives will get better bonuses? OK, now my head is spinning off my shoulders. Good grief that’s awful.

    2. BananaPants*

      I’ve heard (but can’t confirm) the same at my workplace. They weasel around it by claiming “participation” as those who register on the United Way donation site and make a donation election, even if that donation is $0. So employees don’t have to actually give money for the executives’ participation rate to be high. And of course the executives themselves are expected to donate at a certain level.

      My boss’ boss told me a few years ago that even at his level, it’s noticed if a manager’s group isn’t participating. Fortunately he thinks the campaign is over the top and gives himself only because it’s expected of managers. He knows that a number of us aren’t fans of the United Way and there’s never been any pressure to even “participate” by filling out the online form with a donation of $0.

      This year HR made our summer interns (in engineering!) work on soliciting donations from local businesses as part of their intern program.

    3. Not Today Satan*

      Ugh, this stuff makes me so mad. I actually tithe (about a third of which goes to church, 2/3 to charity) but that’s my personal business, and my employer doesn’t need to get involved. I really don’t need any sort of guilt trip about not donating to a specific campaign when I already give regularly, privately.

  12. Mkb*

    #1 my husband’s old company was exactly like this with United Way. He was bullied into committing to $25 per paycheck for the year, then when he quit in June, they took out a lump sum of what the rest of the year would have been making his final check $300 short. I was so annoyed. Don’t let anyone make you donate more than you’re comfortable with.

    1. Abcd*

      Oh, that’s right. UW treats it as a pledge. So if you commit $25/month to Charity X, UW will view that as a $300 pledge, to be paid out to Charity X in two payments 12 months and 18 months after you actually donate. They’ll take their 20% admin fee from the first payment. If you leave the company, they just call it an unfulfilled pledge, but don’t adjust the admin fee.

  13. Techfool*

    I give to small, non- glamourous charities with a narrow focus. I’d explain that to anyone trying to push me into giving money to a big charity. That, or, “it’s none of your business”. Bible says that when you give, don’t let your right hand know what you’re left is doing. Or something like that.

  14. Tamsin*

    Okay, when it’s mandatory that an employee “volunteer” a minimum 0f 24 hours — to any charity, here it’s United Way — then doesn’t that now enter into a business expense? I am dead serious. Individuals generally cannot take as a tax deduction time they volunteer to a charity — but this is no longer volunteer.

    I just feel there should be more recourse for individuals whose employers are requiring them to not only contribute money but also their personal time. And that it’s potentially a tax law issue.

    1. Jenny Next*

      If it’s required to “volunteer”, I imagine that non-exempt employees can put it on their time cards and get paid for it. Exempt employees would be SOL, of course.

  15. Anonathon*

    Re: #1 – Honestly, the volunteering requirement bothers me as much as the monetary one. First, um, it’s not voluntary when it’s required. Second, 24 hours a year works out to 2 hours a month — which is probably going to be symbolic more than anything else. Volunteers are hugely important to the nonprofit where I work, but they commit to at least one 4-hour block per week, they get significant training, etc. We don’t benefit from people who can only come once a month. As others have said, there aren’t that many meaningful short-term volunteer opportunities out there and plenty of folks contribute to their communities in significant ways that are outside the definition of conventional “volunteer work.”

    1. MK*

      Volunteer hours need not be evenly distributed during the year and not all volunteer tasks require training. Many charities need more help at specific times of the year and are thankfull for all extra hands they get.

      1. neverjaunty*

        Where I live charities are overwhelmed with volunteers at ‘specific times of the year’. There’s always some news story where the charity representatives struggle to find a polite way to say “It would be really nice if you people showed up during the other three-hundred plus days of the year that AREN’T Christmas or Thanksgiving.”

        1. Stephanie*

          Yeah, this is why I always hunt out more off-the-beaten path charities or nonprofits. I used to volunteer as a docent at my city’s science museum, but they had so many volunteers (usually high school students) that I had nothing to do. I’m in a state with a lot of snowbirds and a lot of charities here get swamped as well.

        2. Kita*

          Exactly! We currently need volunteers who can commit to 1 day a week for at least a year. That’s not a good fit for many people, but they’ll try to guilt us into spending time making an opportunity for them. “Oh, that won’t work for me and my friends. We were just hoping to come get some service hours on the weekend or something.”

          And the donations–with the holidays coming we have received so much canned food. It feels like there’s a daily drop off where the excited donor comes in the door saying, “I have a lot of food here for you! Can you all come help me carry it in?!” It’s seasonal, so we have to find storage for all this food to distribute throughout the year.

          1. Kita*

            Better volunteer example: everyone offers to come paint the office/kid’s play space. I swear that we get new paint colors every single year.

        3. MK*

          I am not talking about Christmas or any other holiday, I mean there are charities who by the nature of their work are busier at certain times of the year.

    2. Not The Droid You Are Looking For*

      At my old job, it was up to 24 hours that you could use or not use.

      And there were a couple of small nonprofits around town that would use us to do things like stuff the fall direct mail letter. Things that didn’t require a lot of training, but took up a lot of staff time.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I would do this. I love stuffing envelopes. Much of my job at NonProfit was mailings and I was damn good at it. I can do a 400-piece mailing all by myself. :)

        I just don’t want to do it for political campaigns. :P

        1. So Very Anonymous*

          ENVELOPE STUFFING BUDDIES. One of my favorite tasks at an OldJob was coordinating mailings. It was so hard to get myself to let an intern do the stuffing because I wanted to do it!!

        2. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

          I always enjoyed it! There was one org that needed help with their newsletter as well (folding and tabbing), but I loved it because it was a two person shop and the ED’s desk was right near the conference table where we sat.

          She would catch us up on the organization while we worked.

        3. Hlyssande*

          That was my work study job in college! Entering prospective students’ info into the database and mail stuffing. It was glorious and I loved it.

  16. INFJ*

    #4 I 100% agree with Alison that you should treat your current job as though you’re staying, right up until the time you have an offer from somewhere else and give your notice (and have a confirmed start date, and all those other caveats).

    But… Be prepared to pay back the price if you end up in a situation in which you have to give notice right before the conference. The kind of situation you’re concerned about happened to a good friend of mine and they made her eat the costs. Her last paycheck was less than a dollar. That may be an extreme case (anyone else experience something similar?), but it’s worth considering if this is something your company would do to you.

    1. MK*

      I don’t think it’s legal anywhere to deduct these expenses from the last paycheck. But quitting right before a conference should be avoided if at all possible; and I wouldn’t blame the employer for some bad feeling, even if it couldn’t be avoided.

    2. BRR*

      I don’t believe they can deduct business costs. They can raise a stink but companies can’t just raid your paycheck. Your friend should look into this. Even it’s been awhile she should look at state laws and contact her local company.

      1. Florida*

        I have heard of places that make you pay back tuition reimbursement if you leave within a year (or some set time frame). But that is tuition reimbursement toward a degree, not a conference.

        1. Stephanie*

          There’s usually some agreement you sign when you get tuition reimbursement that clearly states the terms of the clawback. Conferences, not so much. Tuition assistance/reimbursement is also a much bigger and longer outlay.

      1. Nother Name*

        Yes, that happened to me. I was signed up for a one-day seminar related to work, and ended up having to go out of town for a funeral, so they just arranged for someone else to go in my place. (Then the whole thing got cancelled for lack of attendees, anyway.) My point is that work conferences aren’t like other events – the organizers are generally OK with changing who an attendee is, as long as you aren’t scheduled to be on a panel or something (and even then I’ve seen subs).

  17. Mimmy*

    For the past few years, I’ve volunteered on a community investment committee for the United Way, so seeing the dislike for UW is hard to read. What these committees do is read and score grant proposals from nonprofit agencies for annual allocations. One of the questions on the application does ask whether the agency participates in the annual campaign; I myself have never felt pressured to donate, but a couple of the agencies have said that their campaigns are aggressive.

    That said, I do not agree with aggressive donation campaigns. I don’t know if that comes from UW management pressuring companies, or is it just the companies alone pushing the donations. Any donations that come out of your paycheck should be voluntary and within reason.

    I’ve always seen UW as supporting other charities and encouraging community investment, and everyone I’ve worked with have all been pleasant. But I admit seeing what you guys are saying and things that I’ve read about how they truly allocate funds does give me pause. Hmm.

    1. Abcd*

      Mimmy, there’s something I’d love our local UW committee to hear but can’t tell them because it could risk our funding (it might not relate to your UW at all). The process to apply for UW funding is crazy intense. We get asked exhaustive questions about everything we do, print thousands of pages so each reviewer can have a copy at our expense, and get called in for multiple interviews to answer inane questions that are answered in the proposal or year your armchair suggestions for how our programs should work. I’d love to see UW take a page from how private foundations handle grant making — it’s much more efficient and focused on getting money out into the community rather than forcing a nonprofit to jump through hoops. To make it worse, I feel like our local UW doesn’t want applicants to “get too comfortable”. Each year they tweak priorities, add questions, or demand more thorough answers to existing questions.

      Sorry for my negativity, I’m in a bad mood about UW right now and wanted to vent. Thanks for your volunteerism, and may you keep doing good work to support your community.

  18. Come On Eileen*

    #5 — I recently got to attend a conference because someone on my team left for a new job. It was easy to transfer her registration over to my name, and I got the benefit! So I wouldn’t worry too much about it, most companies are well-equipped to deal with stuff like this.

    1. Not The Droid You Are Looking For*

      We were able to send a new employee to our industry is national conference this way! Normally as a brand-new employee, she wouldn’t have been on the rotation to go, but everyone else’s schedules were already booked.

      And, it forced us to look at who we were sending. She was a recent college grad and was able to garner so much from the conference that we increased the budget the next year to send all our new employees!

  19. Tiffany*

    There’s a lot of negativity in these comments about United Way, so I’m just chiming in to say that while there are some poorly run UW’s, not all of them are. When you have nearly 1500 local UW’s, just in the US, there’s bound to be some bad apples. Each one is run independently of every other one though.

    As someone who is heavily involved with my local UW, I can tell you that there are ones out there doing some amazing work. I can say that from experience as an intern (who was treated the same as staff) and as a community volunteer serving on multiple committee’s and as someone in need who has been helped by the work they do.

    Please don’t hate the whole system just because of a bad experience with 1. (I’m not saying that anyone is doing that, it’s just my 2 cents).

    1. Weekend Warrior*

      I agree. I like the ease of paycheque donation as fposte has noted but most importantly my local UW is one of the highest rated charities in Canada and supports social research and policy change institutes as well as direct programs and small organizations. But I also agree that high pressure corporate pressure to support the UW or any charity sucks and is counterproductive. It should be presented as an opportunity, not an obligation.

    2. BRR*

      I think there’s a lot of hate misdirected to UW. It’s the employer that is the one exerting the pressure. UW might be doing some but they’re only allowed to come in and ask because of the company wants them there. I also think the negative feelings come from that if you do donate to the charity of your choice they only receive a partial amount because UW needs to cover their overhead. And that makes sense they need to cover their overhead but if the angle is “hey you can still donate where you want,” it will rub people the wrong way that the full amount it going to their charity vs. a company encouraging employees to give back where they want.

      1. Not The Droid You Are Looking For*

        I do think that these workplace campaigns often overshadow the work United Way does.

        However, even doing some freelance grant writing work and helping out an agency the United Way grant request was more complicated than some of the federal funding request I was working on for them, for a significantly less amount of money.

        1. Abcd*

          Yup, we have a lot of complex bureaucratic government grants. But the UW proposals are the most time-consuming to prepare and apply for.

          1. Mimmy*

            Oh god yes!! I’ve read many, many UW grant proposals. Every year I do these review committees, I swear the stack I bring home is 10 pounds, easily. lol. The score sheets are equally tedious.

            I also review grants for my county human services advisory council, and their process is similarly time-consuming. But unlike UW, these score sheets are much simpler.

      2. Artemesia*

        The common denominator is UW — companies didn’t just come up with these strong arm tactics on their own — this has been the SOP of UW forever. My father over 50 years ago had his ‘fair share’ typed into his payroll paperwork so that the only way he could give less or not give would be to proactively go to payroll and get it changed. He felt he couldn’t ‘rock the boat’ on that although my mother was always furious about it. This bullying is the strategy and companies may be on board with it but these tactics were invented by UW including the concept of ‘fair share’.

    3. neverjaunty*

      A lot of people use the phrase “bad apples” to try and say that it’s just a few exceptions and most (_____) aren’t like that. The term comes from the aphorism “A few bad apples spoil the barrel.” That is, you can’t just handwave off the bad apples; the fact that even a few are bad makes all the rest seem rotten.

      1. catsAreCool*

        I’ve heard that in restaurant franchises, one of the most important things is to make sure that there is consistency so that people can walk into a franchise restaurant anywhere and know what to expect. Part of the consistency is to make sure that they use reasonable standards. Seems like this should apply to UW also – gotta get rid of bad apples.

        1. Tiffany*

          UW isn’t a franchise though. They’re the own, independent nonprofit. It’d be amazing if everyone of them had the same high standards as a lot do, but that’s not the reality. I highly doubt that’s the reality for any nonprofit that has multiple locations/chapters/offices/etc, especially when the organization is the size of United Way is.

          1. neverjaunty*

            Then you’re trying to have it both ways: benefiting off the independent UWs who do good work and letting national UW take the positive reputation they build, while handwaving off UW organizations that don’t by saying “oh, well, they’re all independent” so whaddayagonnado.

          2. Treena*

            Um, no? The National United Way whatever allows them all to use their name, that is the non-profit version of a franchise. Plenty of national/local non-profits have a system in place where standards are met and in return you are allowed to use the name that gives you recognition. Because that recognition should mean standards.

  20. Rubyrose*

    I’ve experienced the high pressure United Way tactics and hated them. I’ve experienced the CEO sending out the email strongly encouraging all employee to write a check to contribute to a Senator’s re-election campaign and the CEO would personally gather up all the checks and deliver them. Hated that too. The high handed push to buy savings bonds from the military contractor was bad, but at least in the end you got the bonds. The only tastefully done push I’ve experience is with my new job, at a large nationally known non-profit hospital with it’s own charitable foundation. There was a five minute video during orientation, ending with telling us forms were in the back of the room, if we were inclined to donate. No other push. And it worked.

    When are these companies going to learn?

    1. Artemesia*

      I’d like to see a business strong arming political donations be a felony. That is far more egregious than charitable strong arming because you are talking about helping elect people to push policies that those forced to give are seriously damaged by. Awful.

      1. Florida*

        Agree. There is a timeshare CEO here that sent an email to the thousands of nationwide employees they have that said if Obama gets elected, we are going to have to close our business and you will all lose your jobs. Miraculously, they are still in business and the CEO is still making enough profit to build the largest house in America.

        1. Hlyssande*

          The CEO or CFO of my division did the same thing with the 2008 election. I still wish I’d kept a copy of the email because it was…really gross. Really, really gross.

    2. BRR*

      My dad’s company strong arms political donations. It’s one of those situations where it happens but there’s not enough evidence to do anything about it. They check political donation filings to make sure everybody donates.

      1. I'm a Little Teapot*

        It would be pretty great if your dad e-mailed whatever evidence he does have to the press. That is some serious wrongdoing and I’ll bet journalists who cover political and business news – especially those of a muckraking bent – would be very interested.

      2. neverjaunty*

        I’m sure there’s evidence to do something about it, even if your dad doesn’t have that in hand!

    3. Blurgle*

      We had something similar happen in 2012 re. donations to some US politician, although with far less pressure. I replied pointing out that the candidate in question was legally unable to accept donations from Canadian citizens under the Federal Election Campaign Act. That was fun.

  21. Kristina*

    Hi there, I’m a professional fundraiser and I try to give about 2% of my salary as charitable gifts, mostly supporting a housing justice org I am on the board of, as well as some orgs I’ve worked for
    in the past that I still love. While I don’t support UW, I do think it’s good that workplaces have a charitable giving component and encourage their employees to participate. If you don’t want to, just say your annual donations are already allocated elsewhere.

    1. BRR*

      I’m also a fundraiser and it’s just going about it the wrong way. If you want to encourage employees to give then establish a matching gift program and let them volunteer during hours the work hours. Don’t tie bonuses or anything else to participation. And at the end of the day, an employee’s philanthropy is not company business.

      1. Kita*

        Another fundraiser here, I love matching gifts and employers who donate to charities where their staff volunteer!

    2. Not The Droid You Are Looking For*

      Honestly, I think the best way that an organization can encourage charitable giving is to offer a match.

      Knowing that my company will match 100% of my donation is a lot more encouraging me to me than feeling strong-armed to give at the office.

      1. I'm a Little Teapot*

        +lots. It also shows that the higher-ups at the company are actually committed to giving, not just to making themselves look good at the expense of people paid much less than they are.

      2. MinB*

        I really like the way my husband’s company does it. There’s a 100% match on his regular donations and they make it easy to deduct it automatically from his paycheck. The company will also do giving campaigns sometimes but it’s not a big push to guilt people into doing it – they just match at a higher rate towards a specific org for a limited period of time. You can choose to give or not.

        And for volunteering, they don’t do the big corporate day of caring stuff that can be more trouble than it’s worth. I work in a nonprofit and have seen the other side of those events. We’d rather take one or two focused volunteers consulting on their area of professional expertise than 50 people in one day doing a bad job of mopping and reorganizing our supply closet. Especially when some companies insist we shut down all programming on the day they’re coming in to ‘help.’

        Instead, his company provides a generous cash match for his volunteering hours. No pressure to volunteer at a specific place for a minimum amount of time but if you do care enough to volunteer, the company will make your work for the charity go a little bit further. They also provide enough vacation time for people to actually get out in the community, which goes a long way.

    3. Florida*

      I don’t think many people have a problem with the workplace having a charitable giving campaign. I think the part where people take issue is when the company uses strong-arm tactics to get the employees to donate.

      In many workplaces, you can say you don’t want to donate and your donations are allocated elsewhere, and that’s not an issue at all. Sadly, in other workplaces, it is a huge issue. If your boss’s bonus was based on whether or not you donated money to a certain organization (as some commenters have said), that makes it pretty awkward for you if you don’t like the organization.

  22. Rubyrose*

    And I forgot about the volunteering. The last two companies I’ve been with allotted 16 paid hours a year for this. Which I think is great. Frankly, I did not take advantage of them. Partly because of the restrictions placed on them. There could be nothing with a religious overtone, so working at my synagogue’s annual Thanksgiving food basket build was out (even though the baskets were donated to a secular agency). My real problem, though, is that the companies nixed my using that time because I was working 50+ hour weeks constantly and they could not afford to let me off. It seemed like the only people who could use those volunteer hours were either the slackers (it was good to be rid of them for 16 hours) or those who really did not have enough work to do.

    1. Rebecca*

      I know a lot of people have problems with The Salvation Army, but here in my rural area, they really step up and help people. They put on a free lunch every week day, and many people volunteer to contribute food, cook, serve, and clean up. I’ve done it twice. There are usually 75-100 people every day who come for lunch, and the local grocery store donates shelf stable items for people to take home with them.

      Our company intranet site had a blurb about the company matching charitable donations, and I thought that would be great – I could donate money toward one of the meals, and they would match it, but nope. They won’t match any donation for any religiously affiliated charity.

      1. Steamroller*

        I stopped giving to the Salvation Army after they refused to help out a gay couple whose home had been destroyed in a fire.

        1. Artemesia*

          Same. It is in many ways an admirable organization and we use to donate several hundred dollars a year to them as they do a good job of delivering services to real people with low overhead BUT I am just not supporting an organization that discriminates like this, so we now direct that contribution elsewhere. We used to give to the Red Cross too until we saw what a grifter organization it was under Libby Dole (maybe earlier too but we didn’t know that until then).

        2. Anon Accountant*

          My family too. We won’t donate to our Red Cross for similar reasons. But other chapters may be different with the Red Cross.

      2. Temperance*

        I personally think it’s a *good* thing that companies aren’t funding religiously-motivated organizations. The Salvation Army does some great work, in some instances, but it would open the door to people trying to get your company to donate to churches directly, or possibly even anti-LGBT organizations.

    2. Chinook*

      “There could be nothing with a religious overtone, so working at my synagogue’s annual Thanksgiving food basket build was out (even though the baskets were donated to a secular agency”

      That would suck for someone like me. I am president of our local Catholic Women’s League and we do a lot of work in the general community (think major supporter of food bank, hospice society and community links which supports families in need.” Yet, your company would believe that my time supervising the women’s dorm for the Alberta Summer Games because of the group I do this with. It is doubly frustrating as there was a time a generation or two ago when these types of women’s groups were the major volunteer organizers.

      1. Bartlett for President*

        But, how does a company differentiate between CWL vs. a religious group that refuses to provide services to gay couples or a Christian organization that requires a declaration of faith before they will provide food in SE Asia (and thus results in the “rice Christians”)? The blanket no-religious overtones/affiliations for volunteer work prevents the company from being tagged as anti-gay, etc since they are indirectly supporting that organization. The company would also find themselves declared discriminatory if they said they would approve religious charities on a case-by-case basis, and then approved a Jewish organization but not a Christian one.

  23. Rebecca*

    #1 – I’m against a company of any type pressuring employees to donate to any charity. It seems to me there’s an unfair dynamic at work. Employees feel pressured to participate whether or not they agree with the charity’s goals or not, and I think it creates a lot of bad feelings. The company I work for had a big push to donate to their pet charity, published it on the intranet page, sent emails, etc. I ignored all of it. This, after years of no raises? And you want me to contribute part of my ever shrinking take home pay (thank you increasing health insurance copays) to your charity? Uh, no thanks.

  24. TootsNYC*

    Don’t mention being late; I don’t even think you need to apologize for it.

    And if you do mention it again, I would keep it low-key (“Thanks for your graciousness when I was late”) but don’t go overboard (I wouldn’t suggest you add “I was mortified!”–I’d be really uncomfortable if an candidate wrote that to me–it feels out of proportion, and it’s too big of an emotion for me to want to know about it). If you wanted two sentences, say, “I’m normally punctual” or “I want to assure you, I value punctuality.”)

    Maybe other people get more bent out of shape over this than I do; I live in NYC, and all your plans for travel can blow up in your face–but then, they can do that in car-based cities as well.

    1. Jessica*

      I think you definitely need to apologize for being late at least once, hopefully at the beginning of the interview. If you didn’t mention it during the interview for some reason, then the employer probably wants to hear you acknowledge that you were late and that you’re sorry and this was a one-time fluke. If you said words to that effect on the day of the interview, I don’t think you need to bring it up again in the email.

  25. Stephanie*

    I hate United Way drives. Ours made me long for the days of CFC when I was a fed. My company is also a big supporter and pushes 100% participation at the manager level. I had already logged off for the evening when my boss asked me to log back on and pledge. Many of the supervisors at my company (myself included) make low wages and have second or third jobs. I found it pretty tone deaf and donated the bare minimum I could (like less than a dollar a paycheck).

  26. UW Employee*

    I am an employee of our local United Way. I’m very sorry that so many people have had negative experiences with UW; I’ve seen a lot of misinformation here, and I’d like to clarify a few things.

    First, local United Ways are just that–local. Each is governed by a local board of directors and decides how it will allocate funds, etc. I am responsible for the annual fundraising campaign at our UW, and I can tell you that we absolutely do not condone strong-arm pressure tactics. When invited, we do go into companies to let them know about what we are doing in the community, but in a presentation, the most I will say about actual donating is that we couldn’t do what we do without community support, and we thank XYZ Company for the support that they give us. I don’t ask for 100% participation, either. That’s unrealistic and tends to make people mad, which is not what we want! I know that some corporations in some areas will heavily pressure people to give. I am personally opposed to that (worked for a place like that years ago, before coming to UW), and it is awful. But please understand that that is the company speaking, not United Way.

    In our area, many people know and have good impressions of the agencies we fund, but they often don’t realize that those organizations get some of their funding from us. We’re in a heavily manufacturing area, and lots of employees at local companies (or their families) have used the services of one or more of our agencies. They’re often willing to support us because of that. When I can, I bring along someone from one of our agencies so that they can talk to employees about what they do.

    Someone said that United Way’s only focus is on health and human services, but that is inaccurate. United Way’s focus areas are education, income, health, and basic needs. These are broad categories, and local UW’s may emphasize them differently. Our UW has a particular focus on education; we sponsor some very successful initiatives (outside of our funded agencies) to increase reading skills.

    Every local UW has its own policy about designations (directing your donation to a particular agency). Our UW honors all designations to any 501(c)(3) organization, whether it is one of our funded agencies or not. We do tell people that all donations stay in our county unless the donor tells us to send them somewhere else. When that happens, we send the money to wherever the donor wants it to go, and we do not charge an admin fee, though some UW’s do. Again, since every UW is locally governed, they all handle this differently. So please find out the policy of your local United Way if this is an issue for you.

    As far as big salaries and plush offices, we don’t have them, and we never will. Like all of the nonprofits in our area, we operate on a shoestring budget. We have three part-time employees who are definitely not in it for the money. Our overhead and administrative costs are very low and will stay that way. The furniture in our office is all stuff that somebody else was getting rid of and donated to us. I tell people that we treat their money as carefully as if it were our own (and we all donate as well).

    I understand that UW is not for everyone. We do a lot of good work, and I only ask that before you bash us, you take the time to learn about your local UW and its work. Look up its 990 to find out about its financials. You can learn about the national organization at

    Thank you to all who support United Way and the work we do.

    1. Mimmy*

      As a UW volunteer (see my post upthread), thank you for your excellent post…it made me feel better about my own association with them. Plus, it verifies my suspicion that the strong-arm tactics come from individual companies, NOT United Way.

    2. neverjaunty*

      UW Employee, I appreciate your talking about the work your group does, but I don’t think you’re seeing the problem here. When many, many people talk about years (even decades) of experience with UW donations in particular being aggressively promoted by their companies, profit and non-profit, then UW has a problem and it should take steps to address that problem, because clearly between presentations like yours and corporate giving time, somebody is hearing the UW message in a way you don’t want them to hear.

      Waving complaints off by saying ‘but we do good work’ or ‘well, MY independent never does that’ or (as another commenter has stated) ‘there are always going to be a few bad apples’ is not really addressing the problem so much as trying to make it go way – or, more cynically, for the organization to seem like it really wants these practices to stop, while quietly continuing to benefit from them.

      I appreciate that you don’t run UW and may have very limited ability to fix things! But when an organization has a longstanding, widespread image problem about a particular issue, don’t you think it makes sense for the organization to figure out why that’s happening and how to fix it?

      1. LBK*

        Agreed completely. I just don’t buy that there’s nothing UW does to encourage the 100% participation goal (and therefore the pressuring tactics that go with it), otherwise it wouldn’t be so unbelievably common and UW wouldn’t be the only charity where this was a frequently problem.

    3. Bartlett for President*

      I immediately side-eye any person who bases the majority of their argument on the notion that we just don’t really know how it really works. This is usually accompanied by the obligatory “don’t bash us before you actually take the time to do your research/learn about us, etc”. I HAVE taken the time to learn about UW, and there are clearly many other people in this thread that have. Sure, there are some good UWs, but there are a lot of really bad ones as well. Incredibly high pressure tactics have long been a hallmark of UW’s company-sponsored giving campaigns across the country, and that isn’t some magical coincidence.

      But, my real distaste from UW comes from the volunteer committees that screen grant applications. It is incredibly common across the country that local grant review committees cause considerable additional work for staff and strain on resources of the charities/non-profits requesting the funds. They have incredibly strict requirements that include stipulations are arbitrary (and, have been acknowledged by UW leaderships as arbitrary!). They also tend to believe they know what is best for the requesting organization, and make suggestions and/or demands for changes that are wildly inappropriate and made by people without any expertise in the programming area. Money then becomes contingent on adhering to requirements that are harmful or useless. I think it is great that volunteers at the UW take the time to review grant applications as that certainly cuts down on the work that paid staff needs to undertake. HOWEVER, they aren’t experts and aren’t qualified (except in extremely rare random circumstances) to be “suggesting” or demanding changes to a program.

      Again, are there good local UWs? Sure. But, a few good apples doesn’t keep the whole bushel from spoiling. So, before you dismiss our concerns as just ignorance as to how the local UWs work, perhaps you should ask yourself: are we ignorant and uninformed, or have we done our research and have formed our dislike of UW based on that research and facts? In this thread, there are clearly a lot of people who fall into the latter category.

    4. Aceso Under Glass*

      This post really rubs me the wrong way. First, it’s reasonable for people to assume organizations with the same name have something in common and vaguely approve of each other. No one is saying The CEO of NYC United Way is evil because the DC United Way uses high pressure tactics, they’re expressing general annoyance at the general concept of United Way. And while there are regional variations, the United Way franchise system as a whole is very integrated with corporate giving and has set itself up to benefit from these high pressure tactics, with no effort put into preventing them.

      Honestly the best argument I see is that managers were going to pressure their employees into donating *somewhere*, and better the United Way than their personal charity. But one of the costs of that is that people are going to have negative feelings about the United Way as a whole

  27. Jim*

    To quote from LW1: ‘…mandatory 24 hours of volunteering…’

    The words ‘mandatory’ and ‘volunteering’ do not, in any sane or rational universe, go together. I have no idea what the enployer’s thinking is in this situation.

  28. aproductmanager*

    I see a lot of comments about donations, particularly for UW on this site. Obviously, this thread contains quite a few due to the subject matter. Is this due to the (my perceived..) relatively higher # of non-profit job holding commenters on this site? I work in the medical device industry for a few companies for the past 8 years and if someone even brought up my finances or what I “ought to do” with them, I’d likely laugh said individual out of the room.

    I do see periodic food drives or pot-lucks driven from HQ (I work at home in a different state than HQ) but other than that a company-wide charity initiative would be so off the wall is seems foreign to me seeing this volume of comments that it’s common or ‘the norm’ at certain orgs.

    1. Green*

      I’m private sector, and I’ve seen high pressure pitches. I got a high pressure pitch suggesting that I make a minimum donation of $5,000 to United Way at one employer.

      It’s fine to have charitable initiatives at work — “if you want to help with X, there’s a box in the kitchen!” — but they should be low pressure and purely optional. Or, heck, they should be beneficial to everyone — a la employee matching to gifts to non-profits.

    2. Temperance*

      I work at a for-profit law firm, and the UW is pretty ingrained in the culture in my company and our competitors.

    3. Artemesia*

      My dad worked for a private corporation in the aerospace industry and that is where is ‘fair share’ for the UW was typed into his payroll paperwork by the company.

    4. Stephanie*

      I’m in the private sector at a very large for-profit company (that’s a household name) and it luuuuuuuuurves the UW drive.

  29. Temperance*

    I handle my office United Way campaign (not by choice); I work on the pro bono side of our firm, and it sort of all melds together. Yes, the people running the campaign at your office can see what you contributed. No, they aren’t supposed to be jerks about it.

    I don’t pressure anyone, ever, but some departments at my firm will. If someone comes to me with concerns about the United Way, I encourage them to choose a nonprofit to donate to (if they want to participate). Apparently at some other firms, payroll distributes letters with your salary and your expected contribution during payroll, and higher-ups speak to you about it.

    1. Green*

      Has an office or firm ever given responsibility for the United Way campaign to a man? #justcurious

      1. Lia*

        Our organization’s campaign chair last year was a man. I’ve also seen numerous men assigned to the department strong-arm — I mean, coordinator, roles.

        I give no more than $10, cash only, and absolutely NEVER as a payroll contribution.

      2. Temperance*

        Funny story: it was given to a man this year … who backed out at the last minute and dumped it on me, again.

  30. Brett*

    #1 Never treat your paycheck as confidential; many states treat them the same as vendor payments even when made to regular full time employees. Occasionally we get people sunshine law mining for specific paycheck deductions and employees are surprised to find that paycheck garnishments, pretax deductions for insurance and retirement, and charitable contributions can all be sunshine law requested.
    More importantly for a private sector worker, anything that can show up in your tax return (like those three previous) can be safely pulled by your current employer and pulled with your permission by future employers.

    (The favorite thing people sunshine law prospect for is wage garnishment for taxes and for child support.)

  31. Arrived late to interview person*

    Hi everyone,

    I’m the person who went to the interview about 5-7 minutes late and I didn’t get the job because they found someone else who had a better match to the job description, even though I had more education (Masters). However, they encouraged me to keep looking at the college’s career website. I was too embarrassed to ask for feedback on the interview but in retrospect I really should have. So some lessons learned from this experience:

    – yeah, like AskaManager said, don’t make it weird if you only went to the interview 5-7 minutes late. I felt like I did by reminding them that I came in late in the thank you email (on the other hand, I did write a fabulous thank you email based on another thread, reiterated why I would be great for the job)
    – trust the phone more than the watch. Stupid batteries. Don’t stash the phone away until you arrive at the place.
    – it’s a two-way interview: I’m glad that I asked about the workplace and student culture. Through that question, I found out that the job wouldn’t have any contact with college students, which would be a waste of my Master’s degree in student affairs.
    – Accept rejection and move on!
    – if I can’t channel the nervousness into excitement, then it might be a sign that the job isn’t for me

    Off to do another Skype interview on Monday! Considering mailing a thank you card to the office, especially the coordinator who took so much time confirming Skype IDs, times, and answering my questions.

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