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Is It Ever OK to Solicit for Money at Work?

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Here in the UK, we’re gearing up for Red Nose Day, which means that in offices up and down the country, various people will be rattling tins or asking their co-workers to sponsor them for some wacky activity. It is all for a good cause, but given the sheer number of charitable events that take place throughout the year, I’m wondering if perhaps limits should be placed on how employees undertake charitable activity at work.

In some companies, there is no need to make a conscious effort: management will organise a dress-down day and charge a nominal amount for employees. The money is passed on to the chaity and that is the end of the matter. In other companies however, if the management has no such procedure in place, or has simply not thought about it, employees are left to their own devices and it is here that the problems begin.

Some people make use of the company email system to ask everyone for donations to whichever cause they’re supporting. Others will roam the floors and ask absolutely everyone for sponsorship. Still others will hand out sponsorship forms and ask colleagues to ask their friends and families for donations. While their intentions are benign, it is very distracting from core business, and also may not be welcomed by everyone.

Nobody wants to be labelled a Scrooge, but there are various reasons that people may not want to give to charity. They may disagree with the cause in question, or may already donate regularly to a similar charity. Perhaps their family finances are stretched and they’re not in a position to be giving money away. All of these are valid reasons not to donate, but if the entire office is being roped in, those who demur can be made to feel like stingy misanthropes. For this reason, some companies do not allow any soliciting for donations at all during company time.

A complete ban on charitable activity is unnecessary, however, if proper procedures are put in place. For instance, it’s possible to allow employees to CC in the entire company asking for donations to a cause if the email is sent out once. There is no need for reminders, individual thanks, or passive-aggressive updates once the event is over. If people want to give, they will give.

Similarly, rather than have someone waylaying colleagues at their desks and asking for money, there is nothing wrong with placing a message on the noticeboard informing the office of the cause and letting them know how they can make a contribution, if they so desire. Again, this is not a major distraction from work, and does not place anyone under undue pressure.

The trick is to keep fundraising low-key and unobtrusive. As there are any number of charities and causes that could be donated to, it is better to have a clear procedure in place so that one cause is not seen to be given more leeway than another, or that some employees are allowed to carry out their charitable activities with a higher profile than others. This not only avoids accusations of favouritism, but also means that employees are less prone to “charity fatigue” than if they were subjected to an unremitting procession of what is essentially begging.

[Image by Mindful One]

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