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How to Say “No” to Office Fundraising Requests

Ninja, we know you’re a good person. You want a better world for future generations. One that’s fair and just and free of poverty, hunger, and disease.

That’s why it can be so difficult to navigate the seasonal deluge of workplace fundraisers. It happens as spring hits when the Girl Scout cookies are available and every weekend is host to charity 5Ks and bike-a-thons. Then it returns in the early winter months when everyone’s steeped in holiday cheer. Suddenly everyone in your office has a worthy cause, a personal fundraising webpage, and a singular request: please give.

So, what do you do when you really want to give to every cause, but small concerns like your rent, bills, and saving for the future get in the way? Avoid office fundraising fatigue by considering these guidelines.

1. Set a Budget

Like any other expense, we get in trouble when we act impulsively and say “yes” to fundraising requests without considering the bigger financial picture. How much can you realistically afford to donate on an annual basis? Once you have that number, determine when and how often you want to give. Let’s say you can afford to donate $200 a year. You may choose to donate half of that during the holiday season and the other $100 during a month that’s dedicated to a cause that’s important to you. Which brings us to guideline #2…

2. Pick Your Cause

Yes, there are hundreds of worthwhile causes. But if you’re not a zillionaire, you’ll need to make some decisions about how you want to channel your philanthropy in order to have any kind of impact. Perhaps there’s a health or social justice issue that’s near and dear to your heart, or you’ve discovered an organization that does great work but is seriously underfunded. Once you’ve identified one or more charitable organizations, do a bit of research to ensure that most of your gift will be used to address your chosen issue and not the organization’s overhead costs (Charity Navigator is a good resource for this). Having a chosen issue and specific charity will keep your giving focused and prevent you from making spontaneous donations you can’t afford or donating to mismanaged charities.

3. Learn How to Say “No”

I know – it’s hard. Especially when your coworker clearly cares about the issue at hand. Depending on how aggressive the fundraiser is with their request, you can take a few different approaches.

Option 1

“Thanks. I’ll think about it and get in touch if I decide to make a donation.”

This is the equivalent of “Don’t call us. We’ll call you.” If your coworker is polite, non-aggressive, and self-aware, they’ll get the message and leave you alone.

Option 2

“Thanks. It sounds like a great cause, but I’ve already made my charitable contributions for the year. I’ll keep you in mind for next year.”

If you’ve been solicited more than once, or if your colleague is at all aggressive with their fundraising, go this route. It’s a simple way to validate their efforts and keep the door open for future fundraisers while letting them know you won’t be contributing.

Option 3

“No, thanks. I’m not interested.”

You saw the bulletin, got their email, received their note, and now they’ve cornered you in the kitchen. It’s time to be blunt. It may feel a little rude to simply say you’re not interested, but perhaps your coworker needs to be reminded that the company contact list is not their personal fundraising resource.

If all else fails, you may want to consider speaking with your HR department. Most companies include a “no solicitation” clause in their employee handbooks. Your colleague may need a more official warning before they finally get the message. After all, you need an office that allows you to work efficiently without being pestered or made to feel uncomfortable.

What are your tips for avoiding office fundraising fatigue?