Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The story speaks for itself

I am a life-long contributor to the United Way, something I started at the Lincoln Police Department more than 35 years ago. I think my first contribution was something like fifty cents per pay period. The habit stuck through the decades and pay raises, and as I have gained perspective and maturity, I have been happy to support my favorite local charities through the United Way.

The Management Services Unit and the Accounting Unit coordinate our department’s annual campaign, which is underway right now. They go to the meetings, distribute and collect the pledge forms, and come up with an annual strategy to encourage employees to donate through the painless mechanism of automatic payroll withholding.

Every year for the past 20 or so, there has been a video shown during the campaign —a professional production from the United Way of Lincoln and Lancaster County. I saw this year’s video last week in lineup, and again yesterday morning in our management staff meeting. It put a lump in my throat both times. It is a story gracefully told by Trudy Meyer, about the ways United Way agencies have served her family. I’ve seen a lot of these videos over the years, but I thought the United Way had hit the ball completely out of the park with this one. I assumed it had been produced by a top-quality production company. I was right, but I was also surprised to learn exactly who that company was.

Little did I know—until yesterday—that it was produced by my own staff. Capt. Joy Citta and Sgt. Don Scheinost heard Trudy speak at the City’s kickoff luncheon for the Untied Way campaign. Inspired, they prevailed upon her to retell the story in front of Jared Minary’s camera. He is our audio visual technician, and a creative guy, as you can see from some of his videos on our Crimestoppers blog. But in this case, the beauty of his work is in its simplicity. Less is more. Trudy’s story is captured in its full depth and texture in her own voice.

Joy, Don, Michele, Jared, thank you. And Trudy, may God bless you for turning tragedy into hope. Thank you for helping everyone understand what it all means. I hope that as a result of your courage, more people are moved to take the simple step of signing up as a United Way donor.

This is an eloquent story that speaks for itself.



Anonymous said...

Google "united way scam"

Anonymous said...

NFC is not the building shown. They are one building to the west.

Tim said...

I don't support the United Way because the United Way supports organizations that claim institutionalized bigotry is their constitutional right.

Kim Marxhausen said...

Trudy is a good friend of mine. I had the privilege of teaching her boys the year Brad was diagnosed. I remember working with the boys to create a memory book of stories they wrote about their dad.

Trudy and the videographers did a fantastic job. Thank you for posting this for more to see.

-js- said...

Very nice job, Jared, Michele, Joy and Don.

And if Trudy is out there reading, the LPD family appreciates your willingness to give back to the United Way and is sorry for your loss.

Tom Casady said...


In any combined campaign, there may be organizations that you strongly support, and those that you do not. You can designate your contributions directly to the former, if you wish.

Jason said...

While I think it incredibly important for every organization in our community to teach and encourage philanthropy to their employees, I have to admit that I struggle with the idea of an ongoing campaign in any workplace where upper management encourages (or even suggests) that the rank and file employee donate money to a single charity not chosen by that employee. Many will feel pressured to give not out of a sense of philanthropy but rather a feeling of expectation.

I think that there are ways to encourage employees to serve without making them feel like they are expected to give to the charity of your choosing. For instance, I recently read about one local company that gives each of their full time employees one day a month of paid time off to serve a nonprofit of their choice. I know that something like that isn't possible with public sector employees but I'm using it as an example of finding unique ways to teach philanthropy as opposed to just raising money for a certain charity.

Also, while payroll deductions may be "painless" in the short term it is a lot of money in the long term. Money management isn't a simple topic and I rarely agree with using the term "painless" in conjunction with helping to teach younger employees how to handle their finances. Learning to properly handle money is actually incredibly difficult. Payroll deductions can be very powerful. I hope that you spend as much time and effort trying to teach them the importance of making similar deductions for their retirement needs.

I usually think you're spot on in your posts and I truly appreciate the spirit in which this one was intended. I hope you can take my feedback as it is intended.

Anonymous said...

I was told some years ago that, yes, you can designate your money to go to a favorite cause.Then the figures are juggled so that ause gets less money elsewhere, and it comes out just as if you hadn't designated. Another time I told them that I would contribute only if I didn't attend their "pep rally". I had to, and didn't. I'll give to individual charities, thank you;

Tim said...

I know you can designate contributions, but as was said elsewhere, due to the manner that contributions are allocated it doesn't have any effect on the financial support of other organizations. Only if designated contributions are not considered when totaling all contributions before allocation to the receivers does designating contributions have any effect.

I'm also heavily offended by the forced attendance at United Way meetings and the way some companies require donations. So the United Way gets nothing from me.

The United Way may, or may not, support the forced propagandizing of donor companies employees, but if they don't support it, they don't complain about it either. So they can share the blame.

Anonymous said...

What a moving video. Thanks to your staff for producing it. The cynicism expressed here regarding philanthropy and the United Way is disheartening. Anonymous 10:33: Rather than repeat rumors, have you actually checked whether the designation of specific gifts works against the recipients? I have donated through my worksite (and there is NO pressure for us to do so) for more than 20 years. If you don't wish to donate, then don't.

Anonymous said...


Well said.

Grundle King said...

There's really no point in going through the United Way, other than the payroll deduction. If you want to support a particular cause, then give your money directly to them, so that way ALL of your money goes to that particular cause, instead of just 90% of it.

BTW Chief, any leads on the dillweeds who busted out all the car windows in northeast Lincoln last wife's car was hit, and I'd sure like to have a word with the responsible party.

ARRRRG!!!! said...

My favorite charity.

Anonymous said...

Here's the thing about annual combined campaigns in many workplaces: Their goal of 100% participation. They don't give two flips if you already donate one-fourth your income to charities, they still lean on you to sign of for the annual CC. Tell them that it's more efficient to write a check directly to Charity A than to send it through the United Way, and they'll admit that sure, that's true, but that nevertheless, their boss wants them to get 100% participation from you and your fellow employees. Even the Chief probably has a boss who has a goal of getting 100% participation from all of the Chief's employees.

Opt out, donate directly, and eliminate the middleman skim. If they want 100% participation, they should give everyone a tiny pay cut, donate that to whatever combined campaign, and stop acting like it's "voluntary".

Steve said...

I think the Chief deserves a lot of credit here for using his position and influence to try and help people through the raising of funds for various charitable organizations. At the same time, he is willing to allow people to express their dissatisfaction with the object/mehtods of his promotional efforts. I've heard/read some things about United Way that, true or not, would cause people to choose other options for giving. Personally, I prefer to give my time and/or money to people I know who need help rather than some agency that, despite their best intentions, ends up spending a lot of the money administratively rather than directly to those in need. To each his own. It appears that most of the posters here agree with giving to help others, but have their own preferences as to how to go about it.

Tom Casady said...

Grundle King-

I understand your point. Unfortunately many otherwise well-intentioned people do not write out a check to their favorite charity, whereas they might agree to a few bucks of automatic payroll withdrawal. It's a convenient way to give for many people.

We arrested two guys shooting out car windows in our neighborhood this morning--near the police garage, and we are investigating whether they are responsible for the whole overnight shooting match.

Anonymous said...

Donating directly to a charity or organization does not mean ALL the money goes where you want or think it should. Find out how much goes to the administration to keep the organization running, then donate and/or volunteer where your money and time is needed. Thank you Trudy for your touching story.

Anonymous said...

My goodness. If people opt not to give, that is certainly their choice, by why the production? I'm not sure if the "pressure" that's felt by management's suggestion to contribute is guilt? As the video suggests, there is a host of amazing resources in our community and this facilitates an easy way to contribute. I appreciate this great opportunity but I also know that others choose to give in other ways (or not) so if they don't contribute to United Way, there isn't an issue! It is a bit disheartening to read these entries after watching such a powerful video created with grace, courage and humbling graciousness. Thanks to the individuals and organizations who do so much everyday, including faciliting this campaign.

Anonymous said...

I've always been under the impression that whether or not we donate is kept confidental, but now I'm beginning to question that. Do people in management (i.e. captains, sergeants, supervisors, department heads, etc.) know which employees of theirs donate and which ones don't?

Tom Casady said...


Absolutely, positively not. This is entirely voluntary and confidential. As some of the comments here indicate, there are some workplaces in the private sector where "voluntary" is somewhat "mandatory." Long, long ago (like pre-1977) it was that way here. But for over 30 years, there has been no such thing: no "suggested" amounts, no "personal appeal" by your immediate supervisor, no auditing of pledge cards to make sure yours was really returned. Ancient History at LPD.

Give if you are moved to do so. No one will know but you. Do this for me, though: if you say to yourself "I won't give to the United Way, rather, I'll just donate directly to the charity I support," do just that. I have a feeling that some people who say that really don't follow through. Helping others is, IMHO, an obligation we all have at some level--especially when we, ourselves, have benefitted from the same spirit ourselves.

Anonymous said...

Many of the agencies supported through United Way are great organizations that provide many needed services, but since I don't agree with all of them I DO make my contributions directly.

I hope this isn't going to be like the Omaha Firefighters who have been in the news recently for soliciting funds for a charity while on-duty.

So the question becomes...was this fantastic video done on-duty with city equipment?

Anonymous said...

Tom-Thank God for ARRRGH as he appears to be the only respondent that has a sense of humor. Personally, I've always supported the United Way efforts through a fairly painless payroll deduction. I've also supported my favorite charitable organizations both with $$ and my time. Most importantly, people need to get involved, be thankful for the gifts that have been bestowed upon them, and give of themselves to better someone elses situation. So,pick a charity that works for you, give your time or cash, and don't criticize others for choosing what works for them.


Tom Casady said...


Yes it was, and I am more than happy to devote a small amount of staff time to organizing a United Way campaign. I agree that this needs to kept within reason. The City of Lincoln strongly supports the United Way.

Anonymous said...

Some people cannot afford to give MONEY to charity. However there are plenty of charitable organizations that need volunteer workers to help in various tasks. Our parks and recreation areas need volunteers. The Nebraska Library Commission has a need for volunteers. Many other groups also need volunteers. Some of these jobs are really a lot of fun and can be great learning experiences. Even for a lot of us who can no longer work at a salaried job.

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