Is it okay to say ‘Bah! Humbug!’ to Tiny Tim’s fundraiser?

Imagine if Scrooge had been constantly bombarded with fundraising order forms from Bob Cratchit on behalf of all the little Cratchits.

The old guy had nightmares after Bob merely requested a warmer workplace and one day off to celebrate Christmas. Constant requests to purchase wrapping paper or popcorn to fund music and athletic programs at Tiny Tim’s school may have pushed the old miser even further over the edge.

When done respectfully, with no harassment or intimidation, selling fundraiser items or soliciting charitable donations in the workplace usually causes minimal disruption. If, however, out-of-control fundraising and high-pressure sales tactics are causing your employees to become Scrooge-like, maybe it’s time to create — or enforce — a solicitation policy.

Determine what will be allowed

For a company leader to create an enforceable policy on fundraising in the workplace, the first step is to determine what will and will not be allowed.

One scenario to consider is whether “passing the hat” to collect money for an employee who has suffered a personal tragedy (e.g., seriously ill child, house fire, storm damage, etc.) will be acceptable. If so, what is the proper procedure for such a fundraiser? Does the effort need to be approved by your human resources department? Will soliciting via email or company intranet be allowed?

Another scenario to consider: Will employees be allowed to conduct a fundraising drive in the workplace to support victims of a national disaster (such as a hurricane, flood, or wildfire)? Again, determine the proper procedure and the limits of such an effort. Setting up a table during break periods in the lunch room may be fine, but going workstation to workstation pressuring people to contribute may not.

Finally, the big question: Will employees be allowed to solicit sales from their co-workers for their personal causes and/or their children’s activities? You might allow employees to solicit from their desks, or request that they put the order forms in a central location like a break room or coffee station. You might also declare that soliciting anything, even for children, is against company policy.

Sample policy language

Here is some suggested wording for a fairly restrictive solicitation policy:

Scrooge and Marley, hereby referred to as the Company, prohibit the solicitation, distribution, and posting of materials on company property by any employee or nonemployee, except as may be permitted by this policy. The sole exceptions to this policy are charitable and community activities supported by the Company management and company-sponsored programs related to Company products and services.

Employees may not solicit other employees during work times, except in connection with a Company-approved or sponsored event.

Employees may not distribute literature of any kind during work times, or in any work area at any time, except in connection with a Company-sponsored event.

The posting of materials or electronic announcements are permitted only with approval from Human Resources. Violation of this policy should be reported to Human Resources.

The “permitted only with approval from human resources” clause in this policy means every individual who wants to pin a fundraiser order form to the lunchroom bulletin board must seek permission from HR. This could become burdensome for an already busy HR department.

If you prefer a less rigid policy, perhaps requiring permission from a manager or supervisor would suffice. This option, however, would likely require training supervisors on how to evaluate requests and when to deny them. Another option is to have a policy that allows fundraising for employees’ children’s schools, sports teams, scouts, etc., and have a designated spot where all such materials can be posted for a specified number of days, but also include language saying materials are subject to the discretion of HR or company management.



Make sure the policy is consistently enforced

Make sure your solicitation policy does not violate employees’ right to engage in protected activity under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). Allowing one group of nonemployees to set up a sales table on company property but not allowing nonemployee union representatives to hand out pamphlets in the same location could get you in hot water.   

You may have to allow some limited solicitation, regardless of your policy. Consider the following National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) guidelines when creating a solicitation policy:

  • Employees may be prohibited from distributing any materials during their working time. This includes all times during which an employee is assigned to or engaged in the performance of job duties, but does not include scheduled breaks or meal periods during which time the employee is not expected to perform any job duties. In addition, it does not include the time before and after the employee’s shift.
  • Regardless of whether they are on working time, employees may be prohibited from distributing any materials in working areas. This includes all areas where work is actually performed, but does not include areas such as break rooms, parking lots, locker rooms, and employee cafeterias.
  • Employees may be prohibited from soliciting another employee during their working time or during the other employee’s working time.
  • Employees may be prohibited from soliciting another employee at any time while in certain working areas (such as patient care areas or retail sales floors).
  • Nonemployees do not have to be allowed to solicit employees or distribute written material on company property.

Fundraising etiquette

If you allow fundraising in your workplace, encourage good solicitation etiquette. For example, make sure supervisors and managers aren’t putting undue pressure on subordinates to buy what their kid is selling. How people are treated by their boss shouldn’t depend on how much they spend on fundraiser candy.

Let all employees know it’s okay to say no to a co-worker, supervisor, manager, or subordinate who comes around with order forms. After all, how many rolls of wrapping paper can someone with an attitude like Scrooge or a budget like Bob Cratchit be expected to buy?

Judy Kneiszel is an associate editor with J. J. Keller & Associates. Kneiszel specializes in business topics such as recruiting and hiring, onboarding and training, team building, employee retention, and labor relations. She is the editor of J. J. Keller’s SUPER adVISOR newsletter and Essentials of Employee Relations manual.

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