Etiquette of Fundraising at the Office

Cupcakes for a bake sale
Use good judgment when taking fundraisers to the office. CatLane/Getty Images

Question:

Should people solicit sales from their coworkers at the office for their children's fundraisers? It seems like every time I turn around, someone is shoving a catalog and order form toward me, asking me to buy something to support their children's organization. Is this considered good etiquette?

Answer:

It all depends on how it's done. If the coworker gets permission from management and handles the solicitation properly, it can be a positive experience.

After all, who doesn't like Girl Scout cookies?

Children's fundraisers have become a controversial topic, most likely because there are so many of them. No one wants to be badgered or made to feel guilty for not purchasing something they don't want or need to begin with.

Company Policy

Before heading to the office with a catalog and order forms, look in the company's employee handbook. If it's not clear what the rules are, consult your human resources and your immediate supervisor.

Even if you're allowed to solicit at work, there might be some stipulations. Some companies might allow you to solicit from your desk, others might request that you put the order forms in a central location like a break room or coffee station. Or you might be told that soliciting anything, even for your children, is against company policy.

Abide by the rules without hard feelings. The rules are there for a reason, and they might change before the next promotion your child brings home, so check with the company each time.

Management

Even if your company policy clearly allows you to solicit for fundraisers at the office, discuss it with your supervisor. Tell her the day you want to start and when you want it to end. She's much more likely to be supportive if she is in the loop.

Method of Solicitation

The way you solicit can make the difference between having your coworkers eagerly looking forward to whatever it is you're selling or running away when they see you coming.

First of all, never take time away from your job to sell things for your kids. Instead, tell your friends about the promotion during lunch, break time, or after hours. Next, if your company has a bulletin board, post an announcement with the dates of the sale and the types of products you'll be selling.

Remember that there will be some people who won't buy from you. Never badger them, argue with someone who chooses not to place an order, use guilt to try to get them to buy, or ask why they won't buy. If they want you to know, they'll tell you. Accept their answer and move on. Don't let your child's fundraiser create a bad relationship with your coworkers.

Duration

Don't drag out your solicitation for too long. If you let people know that you'll be taking orders during the lunch break for two days only, people who want to purchase from you will feel a sense of urgency to get their orders in quickly. Once it's over, it's over.

Attitude

Keep a positive attitude toward your coworkers, regardless of whether or not they buy what you're selling. When people agree to support the organization by purchasing something, remember to thank them. Never hold a grudge if they don't buy something. And don't ever gossip about the people who don't place an order.

Being Solicited

If you are the person being solicited, you should never feel the pressure to purchase whatever is being sold. Go ahead and buy the item if you want it or if the organization is something you want to support. However, if you choose not to purchase whatever it is, say, "No thank you," and let that be the end of it.

The person doing the selling should follow the above rules and accept your answer, but if she doesn't, firmly repeat your decision and change the subject. She should get the message.

There may be more than one person selling for the same organization. If you want to purchase more than one of the items you may choose to divide the orders and place them with two or more people. However, if you only want one, purchase from the first person who asks.

Here are some ways to say no to fundraisers:

  • "I'm sorry, but my annual fundraiser/charity budget is already spent."
  • "I already have plenty of those (whatever the item is)."
  • "I've already purchased one from Stephanie in accounting, but thanks for asking."