Down With United Way Activities!

I’m all for philanthropy, helping others who are less fortunate than me, who don’t have the physical or mental skills to be fully independent.  Helping others is very important in our society.  It not only is a life line for those receiving the benefits, but it makes us feel good about ourselves that we can help in some way.  And, although we don’t like thinking about it, but what if we happen to find ourselves on the receiving end of those benefits one day.  Wouldn’t it lessen the guilt you may feel of becoming a “burden to society” knowing that you’ve contributed in the past?  (You should never feel like this but people do.)

And so every October, United Way comes knocking on our bank accounts asking for donations.  I have no issue with this.  What I do have an issue with is all of the hoopla associated with it.  Why can’t we simply leave it as, “if you’d like to make a donation, please do so.  Fill in this form and mail it to us or give it to your employer to take the money off of your cheques.”  But no, corporations have to frame the whole philanthropic pursuit with posters and games and lunches and entertainment and prize draws and cook-offs and guest speakers and garage sales and activities and…. the list seems endless.

This year’s slogan is “I am United Way.”  Why do we even need to have a slogan?  Isn’t it enough to say “Please give to the United Way?”  Why put all of this effort into having an annual slogan change?  In this year’s talk, the speaker explained why it is called “I am United Way.”  In her speech, she said they chose that slogan because either you, or a person you know, or a person you know knows a person who has used United Way.  If that’s true, why is someone I know that knows someone who uses United Way make that “I am United Way?”  Wouldn’t “Someone in Your Network Uses United Way” be a more realistic slogan?  I’m not United Way.  I’ve never used a service from United Way so don’t force that slogan onto me and pretend that it is true.

For thirty days we have to be inundated with “give,” “give,” “give” advertisments and messages.  And, although these extra activities produce more funds for United Way, I can surely do without them.  I would gladly contribute the extra money I may have spent on these activities in one lump sum than have to endure four weeks of a constant barrage of United Way communiqué.

As an independent consultant, I’ve worked at many different corporations throughout my career and have seen every possible activity that you could dream up in order to pull more cash out of our wallets while we “pretend” to have fun throwing a ball into a hoop or winning a prize that will never be put to use.

For instance, at work this year, they have a prize draw.  Each event you participate in you receive ballots that you can use to enter into a draw for prizes.  I decided to check out the prizes and here’s what I found:

  • Pink Rogers Blackberry – uhhh, yeah… like I’m going to use a pink blackberry.
  • On Hour of Public Speaking Coaching – Not needed as I’m fairly comfortable and compentent at public speaking.
  • Use of Condo in Florida for One week – (airfare not included)  Gee, win a prize and have to spend extra cash to use it.  And that is if you can get that specific week off from work.
  • Two Hour Cooking Lesson – I don’t cook.  I heat and eat.
  • Moose Hockey Game on Dec 4th – Sorry, I play hockey that night.
  • Learn to Cook Curry – See cooking comment above.
  • Hand Crafted Jewelery – A wedding ring and a watch is all the jewelery I wear.
  • Ski Lessons – I haven’t skiied in years and I don’t plan to start again any time soon.
  • Organize Your Office Advice – I don’t think my office can get any cleaner.  My co-worker calls my cubicle “sanitary.”
  • Two Weeks of Free Parking – I take the bus.
  • Half Day Off With Pay – I’m a contractor, they wouldn’t allow me to have a half day off with pay.
  • Night at the Ballet – Yikes!  No thanks!
  • Blue Bomber Tickets – I already have season tickets.
  • Career Coaching – I already know where I’m going and how to get there with my career… ie. the PMP and Prince2 certificates that I have already earned.
  • Custom Made Baby Scrapbook – My wife already has these done.
  • Designer Purse – Um.  Nope.
  • Art for Your Office (Pictures of Flowers) – Can you imagine if I put this up in my cube?
  • Marriage Commission Service – Already married.
  • Coffey Service for a Week – I don’t drink coffee.

… and the list goes on.

So you can see, what’s enticing me to participate in these events just to win a prize that I wouldn’t be interested in and would never use.

In conclusion, please do make a donation to United Way, but don’t encouraging corporations to put on all of the extra curricular activities to scratch and scrape every last penny from employees.

My two cents (perhaps I should donate these to the United Way).


About brianwawryk
PMP and Prince2 certified project manager.

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