Cubicle Contributions – Charity at Work

Someone asked me for money today. No, there are not homeless people in Alpharetta now. And no I wasn’t at Underground Atlanta, I was in my cubicle. And no he wasn’t a homeless guy that managed to slip past security. This was a co-worker, albeit one that rides a Harley and wears a leather jacket. Did I avoid eye contact and move along? Nope, I wrote him a check.

Let’s call him Ted, my Harley-riding software developer co-worker. Every year Ted participates in the Ride for Kids which is a rather large fundraiser for the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation. This coming Sunday is their Atlanta event. If you wake up early on Sunday morning you might catch them cruising up GA-400. It is a cool sight to see, and I’m not a motorcycle guy by any means.

Is it cool for Ted to hit up his fellow cubicle dwellers for cash contributions? Or is he crossing the line, bordering on pestering? Is it appropriate to ask co-workers to support your charitable endeavor? I say absolutely, so long as you follow a few rules. But before I get into my rules, here is why I give to stuff like this:

People want to give but don’t. They need to be asked. I truly believe that most people are giving people. We just get busy in our daily grind and giving becomes something we don’t do. Sometimes it just takes a kind yet firm invitation to give that gets us off our butts. Charity events like this create that little push. I’m all for being pushed, a little.

Do some research before you give. Even though you’ve only giving a few bucks to a co-worker, don’t give if you’re not comfortable with the charity. In the case of the PBTF… I did my research and learned they are favorably ranked on Charity Navigator. Do some homework on any organization you donate money to, office fundraiser or not.

Giving creates some office goodwill. I’m not trying to buy my way into the good graces of my co-workers. But helping Ted builds a bit of cubicle goodwill. I don’t suggest keeping a tally of this, requesting a return favor a few weeks later. That’s not cool. But Ted is likely to remember my support of his cause. That’ll come in handy when I ask him to fix that shoddy code he wrote!

I’d rather help an individual’s fundraiser than the corporate campaign. This one might not make a lot of sense. But I’d rather help Ted or maybe someone doing a walk-a-thon over the big corporate United Way campaign. Ted’s a good guy and deserves the credit.

If you’re going to raise money at work, try following the these tips. First, don’t lean on people too hard and don’t pester them. An e-mail is an okay way to start. I’m not opposed to an in-person request so long as it is sincere. And don’t be offended if someone says no or gives almost nothing. Second, don’t let it interfere too much with work. Don’t waste a lot of your time and others. And along those lines, don’t go plastering stuff on every bulletin board in the office either. Keep it personal. Finally, thank your donors. Handwritten notes go a long way. Or better yet, include something with your note, perhaps a small piece of fancy chocolate or something.

I didn’t give Ted a lot of money so I’m certainly not trying to boast. As a matter of fact, I only gave the minimum to qualify for my company’s matching gift program. But nonetheless it is something. It’s for the kids, right? Maybe Ted will win a nice set of steak knives for raising the most cash.

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