Monday, November 14, 2011

When Work and Charity Collide


A few weeks ago, my employer went on a strong push to encourage its employees to donate money to a certain charity as part of an annual fundraising campaign.

In theory, a company supporting a charity - and encouraging its employees to support a charity - is just fine, and I am happy to be employed by a company that supports local charities. However, I'm a bit annoyed at how this is carried out in my office.

Based on what I can piece together from over a dozen emails, there is a committee in my office specifically to raise money for this charity. Some fundraising efforts are great - like "Be Seen In Jeans" week. Chip in a few bucks and dress casual for the week. Everybody wins! Or, have a BBQ, and the proceeds to to the charity. Great, I love burgers! I'll pay $10 for a charity lunch.

Others efforts more tedious - like the distribution of donation forms directly to the desks of everyone in the office. These forms have options for one-time donations, or you can opt to automatically donate a chunk of cash from each paycheque. To be fair, this may be a great option for employees who are invested in this particular charity, and a good way to remind irregular donors to donate something to someone (if only for tax incentives). However, during this fundraising drive last year I recall hearing this gem: "You haven't returned your form yet." Umm... it's because I wasn't going to, and I should have no obligation to do so.

During peak fundraising week I was receiving daily progress emails, with quotes like "we're at 60% of our goal!" That's a neat update to receive, right? What about when it's followed by a statement like this: "...but it's only because of the generousity of eight employees, and we need more participation!" I read that and felt like I was being called a cheapskate, which certainly didn't incentivise me to donate.

The sum of all these initiatives, for a few weeks every year for the past two years, makes me feel like I'm constantly being pestered for my pocket change on top of the expectation of a larger lump sum or payroll deduction contribution.

Again, this is just how I feel, and it might be because I manage my charitable donations quite closely. I skim $20 from every bi-weekly paycheque and donate in $50 or $100 increments to causes that appeal to me. Every other cause I say "no" to, including the $1 donation requests at so many grocery store checkouts.

So, work colleagues, grocery store employees and other field agents of charity, don't give me the stinkeye or think I'm cheap when I refuse to donate!