Charity at Work

Two co-workers of mine are doing the Pan-Mass Challenge this summer and recently asked for donations for their cause. The PMC is an annual bike race that consists of between 153 and 190 miles of riding over two days to raise money for cancer research. It is one of the biggest fundraisers in the state with the average participant raising over $6,000 and the total event taking in more than $37 million last year alone.

Participants in these sorts of events solicit donations from family and friends but they also often look to their co-workers to support their causes. While solicitations can sometimes cross a line and cause bad feelings, these things can also create opportunities for good relationships within the office.

The charity somebody chooses to support or the event he chooses to participate in can reveal a lot about a person. I read an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on 15 July 2013 that suggested that the reason events like the PMC have become popular is that, by putting oneself through an arduous physical challenge, people are signaling how passionate they are about a particular cause. They are saying that this cause is important to them and that by supporting that cause financially, you are saying that ultimately you care about what they care about. This alignment of values, even when unspoken can create a deeper bond between co-workers.

In order to reap the benefits of soliciting charitable donations at work without becoming obnoxious or creating bad feelings, see below.

Guidelines for soliciting donations for charity at work:

    1. Limit yourself to one solicitation per year. While you may certainly participate in both that bike ride for cancer research in June AND that marathon for homeless shelters in September, you should think twice before hitting up your co-workers twice in such a short time period. Prioritize, pick one, and try other methods for fundraising for your other charitable endeavors.

    2. Pick something you truly care about. Yes, running for a charity may be the only way you are going to get a bib for the Boston Marathon, but don’t expect co-workers to pitch in when you obviously care more about your race entry than the cause you are supporting.

    3. Don’t be aggressive. Emailing a link to your fundraising website once or twice or inviting people to a fundraising event is fine but barricading yourself in your co-worker’s office until he pulls out his wallet is crossing the line.

    4. Choose the people you solicit selectively. Sending an all-staff email to all 250 people at your location is impersonal and obnoxious. Try to limit yourself to the people you interact with on a daily basis. Also, depending on your relationship with your boss you may or may not want to include her.

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