Q&A: Are workplace solicitations aboveboard?

Find out what your employer’s policy is on workplace solicitations before emptying your wallet into collection envelopes.

Q: There’s always someone fundraising in my office. Are workplace solicitations aboveboard?

A: Class is back in session and if you work with parents of school-agers, you probably know what to expect in the coming weeks and months: requests from moms and dads to open up your wallet and contribute to little Jane or little Johnny’s school fundraising venture. While there’s no doubt that literacy programs, school trips and sports teams are great causes and deserving of funds, it can get overwhelming (and expensive) for colleagues when forms for those $5 chocolate bars, magazine subscriptions and raffle tickets (to name a few of the classics) make their way into the office.

So is it ever politically acceptable to decline participating in each and every ask? Your best bet, according to The Everything Etiquette Book: A Modern-Day Guide to Good Manners, is to beeline to HR to find out what your employer’s policy is on solicitations at work. “While company-sponsored fundraising may be acceptable, solicitations for personal charities or good causes not related to your employer may set off etiquette alarms as far as proper behaviour goes.”

If the number of visits to your desk from folks carrying big collection envelopes is getting out of hand — and you don’t want any more rolls of wrapping paper, but you also don’t want to hurt colleagues’ feelings — talk to your boss about an in-office solicitation policy. The truth is, sometimes companies don’t want employees conducting charity asks on company time and on the premises. (A note to fundraisers: find out what the rules are in your office before bringing those cases of candy bars into work.)