Saturday, February 26, 2005


Faith, Hope and Charity

An interesting post at Amendment XIX via Kim DuToit on the coercion of employees to contribute to the United Way. Yep, every year I get the same donation "request" in my inbox, with the dreaded "Action Required" prefix. I vacillate between immediately returning it or waiting until the slob entasked with ensuring 100% participation starts pinging me incessantly (it's usually some administrative type who has no clue about what it's like to be a consultant servicing clients). It never fails though, as when I get to the intranet site and select the "I do not wish to contribute" button, there's always the "are you sure?" reminder repeated several times (implication being you're the world's greatest cheapskate if you don't fork over at least some of your hard-earned salary) before it lets you finish the deed. Of course, the system automatically generates a "thank you for your generosity" e-mail with a zero contribution (I really should save one of those for laughs).

One year when there were Betriebsaktionen, we felt especially pressured to contribute. I decided to give a lump sum (a princely two figures) instead of payroll deductions (no freaking way, I've got kids to support!). You were still made to feel like a cheapskate for not signing up for the payroll deductions, but you got some form of commendation (which mattered not a whit in the annual evaluations that year). I well remember looking at the list of charities that you could direct your contribution toward, although it was strongly suggested that you allow United Way to use your money as it saw fit. There wasn't a single charity that I felt totally comfortable donating money to, as all of them had either LLL agendas or the anecdotal on them was that they were ineffective or worse. I finally selected the least obnoxious out of the lot, and was done with it. A dear friend and co-worker refused to contribute that year. He's a religious Catholic, and didn't want a dime to go to any charity that endorsed or facilitated abortions in any manner. I admired him for standing up for his principles. Despite being one of the highest performers we've ever had, not to mention having subject matter expertise in a particularly difficult and lucrative type of engagement, he was caught up in the resource action, a coincidence that wasn't lost on any of us.

There's only one charity I contribute to at work, and it has nothing to do with anything other than the person putting the bite on me is a long-time team member and friend, and that said charity is for a disease that has touched some people I know, so out of respect for my friend, I cough up a few bucks once a year (coincidentally, she happened to ping me this week for my annual contribution). The rest of my favorite charities I contribute quietly to here and there, usually around Rosh Hashannah.

A while back I commented on how my old elementary school had been at least partially schnookered by one of those "adopt a kid and get two letters a year" deals, so my cynicism goes into high gear whenever the word charity is mentioned. Especially when you're flooded with useless trinkets that try to guilt you into a contribution, and especially when you relent and give money to some charity that may seem worthy and you suddenly find yourself on a mailing list (or worse, phone list) of soft touches. The Do Not Call list has been stunningly ineffective in turning off charitable solicitations, and the dinner hour interruptions are on the rise again.


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