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Management: Dealing With Personal Fundraising In The Office
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Management: Dealing With Personal Fundraising In The Office - Executive Leadership Articles

Management: Dealing With Personal Fundraising In The Office

Executive Leadership Articles

Management: Dealing With Personal Fundraising In The Office

Soccer teams need to travel. Classrooms need carpets. People in distant lands need relief from natural disasters. Social causes need to raise awareness. Candidates need to produce television commercials. Everyone inside the world of business seems to belong to some group in need of revenue outside the world of business, something we can all verify just by looking at the number of benefit chocolate bars we've purchased from Fred in Accounting, or the coupon books we buy every year from Sheryl in HR. While everyone means well, and while every cause is surely worthy of the entire company's attention, if pleas for fundraising are left unchecked, they can be a major distraction or even a divisive point of contention.

Government agencies, including public schools, already have strict guidelines about what kinds of fundraising are allowed, not to mention which workplace resources may be used in fundraising-related communication. These rules exist primarily to protect employees from managers, but they're also in place to protect the common interest, an underlying motivation private organizations would do well to consider.

The best thing about setting guidelines for fundraising behavior if you're managing a private organization is that you don't have to be fair. As long as you're unfair for good reasons that are clear to all, unfair guidelines can keep the peace while also helping some of the causes that need assistance. While political and social issues are of extreme importance, they are also almost inherently divisive. Allow one person to speak up in office-wide emails about the evils of polystyrene, and you open up the possibility of email arguments between anti- and pro-styrene factions. The same is obviously also true about specific political candidates, initiatives, and parties. For this reason, it's a good idea to keep the email streams free of such content. No, it isn't fair that one person gets to announce that she's got scenic calendars for sale so her kid's school orchestra can go to New York, while another person isn't allowed to ask for donations related to a social cause, but that's an unfairness the organization as a whole can get behind. Be bold in setting your unfair boundaries, but be clear about why they exist. There is a silent majority who will be grateful.

This doesn't mean, however, that you must ban fundraising solicitation for political, social, or religious causes. Designate a Free Solicitation Zone, perhaps in a break room, where such things may freely be discussed or announced. This gives others an opt-out, letting them voice support or opposition simply by leaving the room. You know your office better than anyone else, so take care with this one; you don’t want Free Solicitation Zone to become the War Room.

Be bold also in setting a reasonable limit on emails soliciting funds. Let people announce whatever it is they have to sell and whatever cause it serves, but limiting everyone to one email per event forces them to make sure they get all the important information right in that one email, and it spares everyone else the unpleasant barrage of pleas. And preach the virtues of the soft sell. Your employees who have no children and no social issues to support have had to endure a lot of fundraising solicitation with no reciprocity (much as they have been on the giving end of dozens of baby showers and bridal showers without ever being the ones showered upon), so encourage everyone to apply the no-pressure approach to car wash ticket sales announcements. People should feel free to send out the relevant information for those who are interested, but they should not feel free to make anyone feel guilty for not contributing.

Please also consider the issue of power when allowing employees to solicit funds. It’s true that everyone loves a box of Girl Scout Cookies, but nobody wants to feel pressured to buy them as a show of support for a supervisor’s daughter. A clear-thinking manager should strongly consider, for him- or herself, never bringing fundraising to the office where subordinates might feel such pressure, but whether or not that should be an office guideline in general depends a lot on office climate. Relationships are tricky things, and it can be tough to walk the line between friend and boss. Cookie sales test that line in ways not every employee can be comfortable with.

As long as things cost money, there will be needy and deserving agencies selling chocolate-covered almonds, and there will be loving parents who need to dump them off on supportive friends. The big picture is one of caring coworkers taking care of each other, taking care of strangers, and taking care of the community and planet, which in its purest incarnation is a good thing. In less pure manifestations, they can be a source of stress and bitterness among colleagues. However, clear guidelines for such caretaking can nurture a healthy workplace environment and even make office relationships stronger.


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Management: Dealing With Personal Fundraising In The Office - Executive Leadership Articles

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