For exhibit and event professionals  

Dilemma: Help! I’m being harassed by cookie vendors

January 5, 2011 By Editor

I run an event planning firm in the Pacific Northwest, and something has been bugging me. I want our staff to focus on getting new clients, keeping the current ones happy and staying productive. But every time I turn around, someone in the office is selling cookies for Scouts or lining up sponsors for some charitable 10K run. These are worthy causes, but I have a business to run. Should I just put up with the solicitation or draw the line? If I put a stop to it entirely, what will that do to morale?

— Pestered President in Oregon

Doing good can be good for business 

Of course, supporting a good cause is admirable. And undoubtedly, you want to employ people who care about others. But should they do their fundraising on company time? 

Our readers weigh in on this issue and what you might do about it. They suggest you: 

  • Proceed with caution.
  • Weigh the alternatives.
  • Put rules in place. 

Proceed with caution 

Although it’s understandable you’re concerned about productivity, an employee who’s passionate about a charity may not be too happy if you come down against fundraising. 

As Deborah R. Herr, marketing strategist, says: 

“How sure are you these activities impact productivity? Careful now! Remember the law of unintended consequences. If you tamper with these activities before being sure they hurt your business, you may find out the hard way they weren’t.” 

Weigh the alternatives 

Another reader believes you should first take a careful look at the facts rather than make a quick decision you may later regret.

A marketing specialist writes: 

“My question for you is this: Do you feel these ‘cookie vendors’ negatively impact productivity in your business? If so, then by all means implement a new policy. But if you do, morale may drop. 

“If the fundraising really isn’t that big a deal, look the other way. Employees with positive morale and good feelings about their companies perform better.” 

Put rules in place 

If you decide you’re OK with the fundraising, you may want to take steps to keep the efforts under control. 

A director of business development describes how to do this: 

“You need a corporate policy to help employees who feel ‘coerced’ into participating. Encourage employees to submit two to four events/charities they’d like to endorse corporately each year. Better yet, require them to submit a proposal explaining why other employees should support their organizations and what they will require of employees and the firm. Next, take a vote to determine which to support. Then, spread out these charity ‘events’ to one per quarter or semiannually. Make sure any chosen charity has a volunteer willing to take responsibility for it on top of his or her regular duties. 

“Provide a public place (e.g., the company kitchen) to post information for employees to participate/donate if they wish to. And establish a strict policy prohibiting desk-to-desk appeals!” 

Pestered President, it’s your company, and you have the right to determine what activities are acceptable in your office. But remember, your success depends on having happy employees. So, don’t react too quickly to this situation, do consider the repercussions of allowing/banning fundraising and be sure everyone knows the rules. It is to be hoped you’ll find a solution that will suit everyone.


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