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Fundraising At The Office

Fundraising At The Office

Last month, my son came home in a tizzy of excitement about campfires and BB guns and rockets, which, admittedly, all sound awesome and at least mildly dangerous, considering he is 6. Where on Earth can you get all those awesome things? Cub Scouts. For $170 a year plus uniforms and badges and other random fees, you can have camping and dirt and building things and shooting stuff and boys and debauchery and fun.

I was partly hesitant to let him join but I was a Girl Scout in elementary school and those years brought me many good memories. The Girl Scouts have a great message, they stand for and teach amazing things, and they sell cookies that I like to eat. In fact, one year, I sold so many cookies that I got a special extraordinary mega-seller cookie badge.

With Cub Scouts it’s different – it’s Popcorn season. Popcorn?! Not only popcorn, but also popcorn priced at 4x the amount you can get it at any grocery store. How is it fair that Cub Scouts have to sell a $20 box of popcorn verses a $4 box of Girl Scout cookies? Is the life lesson for these young scouts to learn how to be told no?

I get it, it’s a fundraiser, and you hope that the buying public remembers that. So off we go on the first phase of selling – pulling our wagon of corn behind us. It takes an incredible amount of courage for a 6-year-old little boy to go through the neighborhood schlepping his overpriced goods. Particularly in today’s world filled with anti-soliciting folks too lazy to even come to the door to tell him no to his face. At the end of the day, we were still left with a wagonload of tiny packaged kernels.

Next we enter the second phase of selling – the phase at which I sell the rest of the goods to my work colleagues. I don’t feel guilty asking them, not one bit. Since long before I had a child of my own, I have been buying Girl Scout cookies, wrapping paper, cookie dough and peanut brittle from co-workers who felt compelled to bring the catalogs into the office.

The biggest problem is that I know I’m not the only one selling items – daily we get emails from colleagues hocking tasty treats on behalf of their children. The break room is littered with order forms from a multitude of fundraisers.

Is this fundraising in the modern world? Most people who complain point out that it shouldn’t be the parents selling the goods, that it should be the kids themselves out pounding the pavement (or the office cubicle) to sell their wares, instead of relying on their parents to pitch their coworkers. These are the same people that refused to open the door to us in the first place.

Shouldn’t fundraising at the office be a way that we support each other’s kids’ endeavors? From Girl Scout cookie drives to workplace birthday clubs, non-work fundraisers have become a part of many company cultures.

Most employers want to encourage a family-friendly company culture, but employee (and supervisor) solicitations often have a way of spinning out of control.  Left unchecked, onsite “selling” can go from a harmless activity to an unwelcomed one that causes tension and can actually hurt morale.

As with most other things, the right approach – at least to me – lies in moderation. A simple email letting people know that you (and your child) have something that you are selling as a fundraiser, noting the organization that you are raising funds for and where they can find you if they are interested should be the limit of the workplace solicitation. A note on your cube or office door can serve as a non-verbal reminder as well, but the Golden Rule applies here; just as you wouldn’t want someone waving an order form in your face while you are trying to knock out those end of month reports, so too do your coworkers not appreciate being pestered.

Will this approach guarantee my son the #1 spot on his packs’s fundraising wall? Maybe not, but I’m also not one to yell, “coffee is for closers” when I see his order form. Instead, keep it low-pressure in the office and set reasonable expectations at home. You, your coworkers and your family will all end up happier as a result. Now, why hasn’t anyone come up with Thin Mint-flavored popcorn?

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