Sunday, January 21, 2007


Ever since his manager announced that every employee "will donate to the company's charitable foundation, period," my reader from the Southeast has worried that he'll be fired for not contributing.

"I absolutely hate being told that I must give," he writes.

He resents the expectation that he should give any of his hourly wage to a cause deemed appropriate by his bosses. What's more, some of the past recipients of funds from the foundation are groups whose causes my reader opposes.

The problem my reader faces is one regularly faced by many employees: How do you respond to a companywide edict to give to a specific charity, if you choose not to participate, without appearing to be uncharitable and/or risking your job?

Ever since the announcement, my reader has been Googling to see if he can find instances of people being fired for not contributing to a charitable drive. He hasn't. Nor have I heard of any. I've heard from readers who have been assigned to head annual charity drives and had the results reflected in their annual performance reviews, but to date I've never heard from anyone who claims to have been fired for not giving to a company-supported charity.

Don't get me wrong. I believe that company support for charitable efforts is admirable. An annual company effort to raise money or food is a smart way of gathering resources from people willing to give where they congregate most -- in the workplace. Teams of workers who band together to work with groups such as Habitat for Humanity to help construct much-needed low-cost housing in a community should be applauded.

But companywide efforts should not have the glint of coercion. For a boss to stand in front of his employees and demand 100-percent participation in giving to a charitable fund is wrong, regardless of whether that fund goes against their personal beliefs. That wrong-headedness may well drive away even those employees who would have been willing to contribute had the effort been presented as voluntary.

Too often a manager is driven to such behavior because he or she has been put in charge of running that year's charitable drive with some participation incentive attached. Such an arrangement may be well-intended, but may unintentionally result in the type of behavior my reader witnessed.

Better to avoid giving incentives to individuals running such programs, and better yet to assign some central department -- human resources, for example -- to organize the companywide effort. This will avoid giving employees any sense that their job security rests on whether they contribute and/or whether they get others to contribute.

The right thing for companies to do is to choose a charity or a group of charities that they want to help, but to give employees the opportunity to decide whether they would like to participate. If none of the charities the company chooses matches up with those that a given employee prefers to help, then that employee should feel absolutely no guilt or fear about saying no. They can contribute to their own causes on their own time.


Anonymous said...

Within a couple of weeks after being employed (temp status at that) by a County Government, I was asked to "donate" to a holiday meal, which was ok with me. Shortly afterward, I was asked to "voluntarily" donate to the boss's gift fund, which I declined. Shortly afterward, I was asked to "voluntarily" donate to a charity fund, which I declined. Shortly afterward, and lastly, I was asked to "voluntarily" donate to a fund for a co-worker's grandfather's death, which I declined again.

This "volunteering" was not done by the boss, but by the boss's secretary, whom, I might add, had dressed up as a Witch for Halloween - how appropo!

Shortly after all of this, I was fired because I was not suitable for the office atmosphere, and my "work performance". However, as recently as 3 days prior, my supervisor had told me I was progressing as expected.

Anonymous said...

Oxymoron, what?

This edict was presented to me in the late 70's by a large commercial lender where I was newly employed. Being a single mother, I might have been foolish. However, my answer was a resounding "NO" to enforced directed giving. No one could refute that tax monies were extracted from my earnings. Yes, much of that goes to national defense and civil order. The fact remains that much is also directed to causes that I would not support. If I earn the money, I plan to control as much of the spending as possible. This coerced "giving" is an idea whose time should never come.
A. Sue Fowler
Somerset, Ohio

Anonymous said...

It is important to give to charitable events and organizations. When you accept a position with a firm or etc., you should ask what charities are suppported by that company. Then you ask which 2 or 3 are their top priorities. You state then which organization/s you will support whole-heartedly. The most important thing is to give!

Anonymous said...

Various employers have 'encouraged' contributions to their pet projects. If I'm able to support their cause, both financially and mentally I will.

In two instances I was conflicted with their choice, so I did what businesses do all the time... I explained I had a set amount I donated to charity and my funds were earmarked for a community group close to my home. No one ever mentioned it again.

I DO think employers would be smarter to keep personal value decisions like charity out of the enployment relationship.

Wendy Hagmaier
Fullerton, CA

snekse said...

Are there laws against the coercion aspect? My wife got an email from her director stating that all salaried employees are expected to donate. That just seems illegal to me.

joseph levinson said...

The charity world is transparent.  We are accountable to our beneficiaries. We are open about our campaigning.
Joseph Levinson China

"Everyone is doing it" is no basis for doing it yourself

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