dealing with a coworker soliciting for charity

A reader writes:

A few weeks ago, one of our newest employees went from desk to desk asking everyone if they’d like to buy a lunch as a fundraiser for her daughter’s church. As she approached each person she began, “I’ve already cleared this with [HR Manager], and he said it was okay…”

Is this normal for an HR Manager to be okay with employees engaging in direct solicitation of other employees during company time, regardless of whether the employee handbook specifically bans employee-employee solicitation during work time? (By the way, ours does ban it with an exception for “various charitable campaigns, which will be planned and executed by the Company,” but I’m still curious as to whether it would be considered normal somewhere for this kind of solicitation to occur.)

I have another issue with this: I don’t give money to organizations unless I know who they are and what they’re going to do with the money. I live in the South, and my politics are definitely out of place here; I don’t want to give money to an organization that may turn around and use it to denigrate minorities (religious, political, racial or otherwise), advocate against marriage equality, or any of the numerous other issues on which I disagree with the local congragations. I didn’t feel comfortable asking her all the questions I’d normally have since I knew everyone else was probably saying yes without a single thought, so I said I needed to think about it because I thought I had a doctor apppointment during my lunch break on X day (the day the lunches would be delivered), and I needed to check on that, and then I just never said anything to her either way.

I thought this would be a one-time occurrence so I pushed it out of my mind, but apparently it’s not. She came around again this week, and simply said, “Lunch is Friday. What can I put you down for?” I panicked and said, “What are the options?” When her replies were all meat, I said, “I’m sorry, but I try to eat vegetarian on Fridays. It’s a holdover from my Catholic days.”

I can’t keep coming up with excuses, but beyond that, I don’t think it’s right for her to ask everyone individually. Whenever anyone has had a fundraiser for school, Girl Scouts, etc. they always put the order form in the break room, and at most they send out an email to everyone letting them know that the form is there if they’re interested. This is the first time I have ever had another employee come up to me and ask me for money.

Am I unreasonable in thinking the HR Manager should never have given this woman permission? Should I let the HR Manager know how uncomfortable this makes me feel, or point out that our employee handbook mentions that employee-employee solicitation during work time is not allowed, or maybe mention that we have a “traditional” way that everyone else handles fundraisers and that this could cause confusion over company policy (the HR Manager is relatively new as well, so I suppose it’s possible that he hasn’t noticed how everyone else handles their fundraisers)? Am I being unreasonable or horribly uptight about this? I don’t want to make the woman feel bad — she’s a very sweet person — but at the same time, she and the company have put me in an awkward position, and I don’t appreciate that.

No, you’re not being unreasonable or uptight, and yes, you should say something.

It’s legitimately annoying to be subjected to pressure to donate to something you may not support when (a) you’re a captive audience, (b) your charitable donations are none of your coworkers’ business, and (c) you need to work with the person doing the soliciting and so worry about how being direct might impact the relationship.

And you’re far from alone — in many offices there’s a constant stream of solicitations for charities, kids’ school drives, etc. However, since your company has a clear policy on this, it certainly sounds like your HR manager was in the wrong for okaying this, if indeed he did. (It’s possible, though, that he thought he was telling her it was okay to put the sign-up form in the break room like everyone else.)

As for how to handle it, you have a few options:

1. At a minimum, stop ducking her requests and just tell her directly that you’re not interested, using any of these statements:

  • “No, thank you.”
  • “I’ve already allocated my charity dollars for the year.”
  • “I don’t donate to organizations I haven’t done my own research on.”

If you say one of these and she continues to push, say “I’m really not interested.” If necessary, add, “Please don’t continue to ask me.”

And bonus point for helping your fellow coworkers if you also try to explain to her that this type of thing makes many people uncomfortable, as they feel pressured to donate to something when they might not want to.

2. Do #1 above, but also add:  “By the way, I’m not sure if you realize that the company prohibits this kind of solicitation. You can put the sign-up form in the break room though; that’s what most people do.”  Of course, be prepared for her to tell  you again that the HR manager okayed it, in which case you can say, “I think he must not have realized there’s a ban on this.”

3. Ask the HR manager to clarify or enforce the policy. You can say something like, “Hey, can you clarify the policy against solicitations during work time? My understanding from the employee handbook is that they’re not allowed, but since it’s been happening lately, I hoped you’d clarify.”  Or if you want to, you can go further and instead say something like, “I’ve always appreciated that the company bans solicitations during work time, since most people don’t like being pressured to donate to something they might not support. But I’ve noticed the policy being broken lately; can you remind people of our rules for handling this?”

But whatever you do, at least do #1. You’re not doing yourself, your coworker, or anyone else any favors by being vague with her — you need to at least give her a clear “no.”

{ 174 comments… read them below }

  1. AdAgencyChick*

    Definitely #1. I think it’s perfectly reasonable to say any of those responses, and the sooner you use one, the better. This lady clearly isn’t going to be put off by excuses.

    I wouldn’t bother with #2, as I think it will probably just lead to her arguing with you. If you go with #3 on top of #1, I’d recommend letting the HR manager know that this has made you uncomfortable, and that you’re probably not the only one (because I bet you aren’t). If HR person really did make an exception to this very sensible rule, he or she needs to know it’s having a negative effect.

    1. Josh S*

      I’m generally all for fundraisers/charitable giving drives at work–when they’re done in a low-pressure manner. This sort of persistent, individual request is crappy. I’m like the OP: I like to know how my charity dollars are being used, and I set a budget for my giving for the year (and it’s usually allocated through monthly support). So giving to random charities at different points means I would have to be taking regular support away from someone/something that is ‘counting’ on my money. Ain’t gonna happen.

      As I frequently tell my wife (who wants to give to every worthwhile charity that asks), “There are infinite needs out there, and we have finite funds. We can’t possibly hope to give to everyone, or even all the worthy charities. We have to prioritize, as hard as it is.”

      That’s something that could likewise be said to the person asking, tailored to the situation.

      But I agree that the OP really needs to be direct, even if it’s uncomfortable. It’s entirely reasonable to say, “I’m sorry, I can’t donate at this time.” and leave it at that. And yeah, if the person keeps asking, get more assertive and add the, “Please don’t ask me any more.”

      1. Anonymous*

        I would not say “I can’t donate at this time.” I think it leaves the door open, letting her think that you WANT to donate, just not now. I think it would be best in a work situation to use a more blunt response that’s not open to misinterpretation.

  2. Lisa*

    Its like with candy drives. Hold the paper up, and announce candy fundraiser for my kids school and place it on a communal table or bulletin wall in a public place. Then feel free to announce “last chance” to get lunch with a XYZ charity donation. Mention it 2x tops, but if it is a regular thing, just send email invites for reminders and people can accept the calendar reminder or not. No more soliciting that way.

    1. Laurie*

      I love people who do low-pressure charity drives. It’s even better when they’ve just sent out an email about it, and you happen to drop by their desk for some work matter, and they don’t even bring it up. LOVE IT. It usually takes me less than a day after that to fork over some money for their cause. I guess reverse psychology works on me. :)

  3. Stells*

    I’d be willing to bet that the HR Manager did not OK her going around during work time. Most companies have a policy against solicitiation during work hours because it is a huge conflict of interest and it has an impact on employee productivity.

    Even if the HR Manager says that is it acceptable, I’d also speak to your manager about it, but more from a “this is an interuption that is affecting my work” and less from the discomfort it creates. A good manager who cares about their employee’s performance will tell the employee to only use their breaks and lunches for solicitation.

    1. Anony Mouse*

      FTR, company policies against solicitation are often there to keep unions out.

      I agree with everything else you’ve said, though. I bet the manner in which she presented it to HR was very different from what she is actually doing.

      1. ThatHRGirl*

        Agreed… it’s mostly a UA thing. BUT, if you have a rule against solicitation during work time and in working areas for UA reasons, you can’t break it to allow someone to solicit for XYZ other reasons.
        I’m wondering if the rule at OP’s workplace was put in place for UA reasons and the HR Manager is coming from an environment or industry where that’s not a top-of-mind concern, and thus okay’ed it (which is NOT okay).

        1. Natalie*

          Yep, probably shouldn’t make it obvious that your no-solicitation policy is an attempt to get around the NLRA. Sigh.

          1. ThatHRGirl*

            Yeah I’ve had a manager say something dumb like that before… luckily just to a fellow manager.
            Manager A: “I thought we weren’t allowed to do stuff like that on company time, in a work area??”
            Manager B: “Oh no, that’s just Union stuff. Other stuff (March Madness brackets, in this case) is totally fine!”

            Sorry for the tangent but March Madness is seriously the bane of my (work) existence.

      2. Jamie*

        I disagree. There are plenty of workplaces which disallow soliciting for the very reasons illustrated in this post: It isn’t productive to allow people to annoy their co-workers.

        It may have to do with unions in some cases, but certainly not across the board.

        1. Stells*

          Exactly – we are unionized, but the no solicitation policy has more to do with the fact that we’re in a production based environment. In fact, we bend over backwards to give the UA time and ability to meet outside of production parameters because we have to be so strict about production times.

  4. Jamie*

    If you want to be a hero to your other co-workers who are just as annoyed by this as you, but are too nice to say anything definitely go with Alison’s advice. It’s the mature and professional thing to do.

    However, if you selfishly just want to make people go away and stop asking I have a fool proof method:

    Annoying co-worker: Would you like to buy some crap you don’t want for a charity you’ve never heard of – which may or may not violate your personal beliefs?

    You: No thanks, I’m good (said with a smile and eyes back on your screen, paper, whatever – you are back to work.)

    Annoying co-worker: Blah blah crap…blah blah charity…yada yada my kids…yammering on and on…

    You: (looking up) huh? What? Oh yeah – I’m good…(reabsorb yourself immediately in your work, if possible get up to get something in another room).

    Do this a couple of times and they will brand you as uncooperative and start skipping you when they make their rounds.

    The above does NOT apply to people selling Girl Scout cookies, though. The response to “Hey would you like to buy some GS cookies is an emphatic YES followed by throwing money at the solicitor. A hug and weeping would also not be untoward in this circumstance.

    There is currently no one in my workplace selling Girl Scout cookies, and this is the third year running that I need to rely on my husbands co-workers to fill the void. I should write in and ask AAM if it’s legal for my workplace to deprive me of thin mints on company time…

      1. Sparky629*

        I generally lead the ‘Girl Scout Cookie time’ conga line to the break room when it’s Thin Mint time. :-)

        But even if you hate GS cookies, you can still purchase a few boxes and donate them to the local USO or an organization that sends care packages to overseas military members.

        Even though, it might not be a big deal to you it’s sometimes big for others away from their family and friends. It’s sort of a little taste of home. :-)

        Not to mention sometimes when you are overseas, it can be soooo hard to get anything food-wise that reminds you of home/state/region.

        /comments hawking GS cookies. :-)

        1. jmkenrick*

          That never would have occured to me, but it’s such a nice idea. I always buy Girl Scout cookies anyways (two boxes a year, from my little sisters, and one from my coworkers daughter) – that’s a much better idea then just let them go stale.

        2. Ariancita*

          I tend to buy the food stuff (in my case, it was an employer’s kid’s school fund drive that sold pies, cakes, and cookies) and then tell them to donate the items to Meals on Wheels. They have a provision for that. I wonder if GS cookies have something similar?

          1. fposte*

            My local Girl Scout was involved in a program to send cookies to military serving overseas, so I bought a few for that.

            1. khilde*

              Just to let you know that at least in one instance, those cookies made it overseas!!! It’s been 7 years ago now (whoa…) that I was in Iraq, but we got a humongous box of Girl Scout cookies sent to us and gobbled down happily. We took a picture with several of us and some of our pilots holding boxes of cookies and sent it back to the girl scout troop. Hope they got a kick out of that.

      2. Ariancita*

        Same. I find them really gross. Over processed, over sugared, just yuck. Sorry! :)

      1. Another Anonymous*

        That’s a great ideat! I’ve never tried it before, but I think I will. They’ll probably start selling them in February.

        Which reminds me – when they sell the cookies, I always want the chocolate chip. They stopped selling chocolate chip years ago. I never want to bother the Girl Scout leaders while they are in the middle of a cookie drive, so I never ask if it’s possible to bring them back. But I will find one and ask now – in the middle of the summer. (I think it’s lunchtime – LOL).

        1. Jamie*

          Keebler’s Grasshopper cookies are a really close approximation to thin mints – I bet those would work, too.

          I think it’s some weird scarcity issue in my head…I can’t just go to the store for GS cookies, so they are that much more of a treat when I run across someone selling them.

          Contrast that to Grasshoppers, which are delicious and I only remember to buy a couple of times a year, if that.

          There is just something decadent about buying a box of cookies at work and hiding in my desk drawer that can’t be replicated by getting them at the grocery store and leaving then in the pantry.

          1. AnotherAdmin*

            Last year after looking high and low for a GS cookie source, I bought Thin Mints and Tagalongs (my favorites) and put them in the freezer so I could ration them out over the long year until they are on sale again. My husband had the nerve to eat them all without telling me!

            This year, after sending out a GS cookie SOS to all my friends, I ran into a troop selling them in front of Walmart. I gave them all my cash and they gave me heaven in a box. I took them home and labeled the boxes HIS and HERS and put them in the freezer. Then my husband and I had a Come to Jesus conversation about how what happened last year WILL NOT HAPPEN AGAIN. EVER.

            1. Anonymous*

              They sell thin mint ice cream year-round in my local grocery stores.

              I felt this was important information to share, if it might avert a potential divorce over off-season cookie pilfering.

            2. Editor*

              There’s no better way to eat Thin Mints than straight from the freezer.

              My late husband liked the two kinds of PB cookies and I liked Thin Mints and the Chalet cookies when they had pictures of a chalet on them. We would buy a case or two and stash them in the freezer every year, but we never ate each other’s cookies. We also took them to the annual family reunions, where they were a big hit. I think there are a lot of people who never see an order form now that the girls don’t go door to door (which I understand — I hated door to door).

    1. Phyllis*

      My reply is usually “Good luck with that.” said with a bright smile.

      Well, except for Girl Scout Cookies; I’m all about the peanut butter ones myself.

      1. Kristinyc*

        Nestle Crunch has some Girl Scout cookie flavored candy bars right now…. Cookies are usually sold in January – April (at least, in regions I’ve lived in).

        1. AnotherAdmin*

          I have seen ads for those candy bars but never the actual candy. Has anyone tried them? Any good?

        2. ThatHRGirl*

          Edy’s has GS Cookie flavored ice cream for much of the year… Thin Mints & Samoas, not sure what other kinds. MMMMMmmm

    2. Anonymous*

      I hate Girl Scout solicitors the most. I hate kids, and I hate parents who solicit for their kids and how they think that it makes it OK because it’s for the kids, and I really hate how incredibly pushy they are and how they think they’re doing you a favor by selling you a yearly ration.

      I do like the cookies, though, which is why I occasionally pick up a packet of the very similar store-brand cookies from either Giant or Safeway (they are unimaginatively named, something like “chocolate mint cookies” or something–but they’re in a row with copycats of all the other GS cookies).

      1. Emily*

        I’ve never encountered a pushy GS cookie seller. Those crackbiscuits sell themselves well enough that leaving a sign-up sheet outside their office and sending a single email is enough to guarantee several crates’ worth of sales! Personally, I have had to hunt down cookie purveyors at previous workplaces to demand information about when it will be cookie time and how soon they can take my order. I begin by making discreet inquiries as to who has daughters of the scouting age and then finding excuses to talk to these people and pump them for cookie-related information.

        1. Jamie*

          This is good. I’m wondering if there is some legal way to require at least one of my co-workers with girls of scouting ages to enroll his/her daughter.

          If only I had some cookies with which to bribe HR so to amend the handbook.

          1. danr*

            Our local GS sell from tables in front of various stores during the season. It lets everyone get in on the selling and takes away the advantage of office sales. Plus, they have a donation option for the change and more. To answer why our favorite cookies (except for thin mints and shortbread) aren’t offered… I asked, and they’ve changed bakeries, so the favorites aren’t done now.

            1. Laura L*

              This is a good point.
              Jamie-You’re in Chicago, right? I know a lot of grocery stores in the NW suburbs have girl scouts selling cookies on the weekends. Don’t know if it happens in the city or other parts of the burbs.

              1. Jamie*

                I work in Chicago – live in the burbs. I’ve seen them from time to time – not as often as I used to, though.

                Thanks to this thread I know to look for them in the spring.

                If there are GS friendlier suburbs I’m all for taking a trip up north. Stop by the Hello Kitty store in Woodfield, swing by SuperDawg on the way home…this plan is beginning to come together :).

                1. Jess*

                  Girl Scouts have a booth sale locator available in Ap form as well. Doesn’t catch ALL the local sales, but catches a lot of them! Also, you can always call your local counsel and ask for information on booth sales or the local neighborhood.

                  Most troops also offer the option of donating either through the USO or to a local charity. Also, if you buy directly from a Girl, it is GREAT if you can make them give you their cookie pitch, answer questions about the cookies, or make change. Selling cookies isn’t just about raising money, it’s about teaching business skills as well!

                  -Girl Scout and Troop Leader

        2. AnotherAdmin*

          They definitely sell themselves. My daughter is 3-1/2, and if she has even a marginal interest in being a GS we will become distributors of the crackbiscuits (love this term).

    3. Laura L*

      I should write in and ask AAM if it’s legal for my workplace to deprive me of thin mints on company time…

      How could it NOT be illegal? Better hire a lawyer ASAP so you can get this settled before next Girl Scout cookie season.

  5. fposte*

    “Lunch is Friday. What can I put you down for?” Really? She may be sweet, but she’s awfully pushy.

    Please remember, OP, that you’re almost certainly not the only one wishing this wasn’t happening, and that you’re probably speaking for many people if you query it with the administration.

    1. jmkenrick*

      Agreed. That phrasing would seriously annoy me. Tell her no and don’t let her make you feel bad.

        1. KellyK*

          Yeah, me too. (Please, share yours. Sarcasm makes the day go faster.) But it really wouldn’t be appropriate to say, “You can put me down for nothing, with a side order of bug off,” when you haven’t given a clear no in the first place.

          1. Ariancita*

            I think it would be funny to be honest and say, “Yeah, that whole checking my schedule thing was just a lie because I felt put on the spot by your completely inappropriate and obnoxious blind siding me with requests for money that I’m positive made others besides me feel awkward and on the spot. I was hoping you’d take the hint and go away, but clearly, pushiness knows no bounds with you. So yeah, you can put me down for nothing with a side of bug off. Thanks.”

            1. OP*

              I’m tempted to do this if it continues AND I’m lucky enough to already have put in my two weeks’ notice by that time.

    2. Your Mileage May Vary*

      The thing is, OP may very well be the only one this annoys. Being a non-church-goer living in the Bible Belt, I’ve had to deal with this stuff many times. Everyone in the office is thrilled to be donating to a mission program or whatever and if you try to point out that it doesn’t belong in the workplace, you can get tarred with the “going to Hell” brush. It’s not the way things *should* be, but it is frequently the way things are.

      So, OP needs to come up with an answer that keeps peace in the office. It’s surprisingly hard to make some people get that “no, thank you” means no.

      1. Anonymous*

        Curious about what you do to get ’em off your back- do they finally get the “no thank you”?

        1. Your Mileage May Vary*

          Well, I embrace my heathenism :) so I have no problem saying, “Thanks for asking but I don’t support churches (or company-sponsored praying at work, invites to attend churches, or whatever the thing is).” I value my beliefs more than I value the feelings of the person trying to get me to participate in theirs. I don’t go out of my way to be rude but people are not going to poach my soul at work as long as my vocal cords function!

          But I got the impression that OP was looking for a gentler way to deal with this. And I will say to you, OP, don’t pussy-foot around. They already know you are not “one of them”. Just own it and say no. No need to add excuses that aren’t true. Good luck!

    3. Jen M.*

      My response would be, “Do they have spinach-tofu lasagne or tempeh burgers? That’d be greeeeeaaaat…” ;)

    4. OP*

      Actually, I think I am the only person made uncomfortable by this. I’m something of a social pariah here. All the other ladies in my office share the same political and religious beliefs, as well as work ethic (or non-work ethic, as it were). They’d much rather spend the entire morning discussing what to do for lunch, and these fundraiser meals give them plenty of fodder for all manner of discussion (much of which I find inappropriate in a work setting).
      I already stand out for my non-participation in these discussions, and I know that whatever I do/say regarding this will be unpopular. God forbid if some kind of limit were put on this woman’s solicitation and a rumor started that I was campaigning to squash her rights to freedom of religion and speech (neither of which are my motive, but again, these ladies are ridiculous).

      1. Anon2*

        It doesn’t help with your social status, but freedom of speech and religion does not necessarily apply at work, in the performance of your work duties. For instance, your employer can dictate the scripting of your voicemail message, thereby “violating” your freedom of speech. So, asking this lady to abide by the company handbook by NOT soliciting for her charity/church does not necessarily trigger her freedom of religion rights. ;)

        Sorry to hear you don’t fit in in that way. I love to chitchat, but if it was all about church or lunch, I would not fit in too well either. Even though I think you should have been clearer with your “no thanks”, I can understand negotiating the minefield in surroundings where you already feel iffy.

  6. EngineerGirl*

    I’m getting angry at the OP just reading this. HR was probably wrong for allowing solicitation. But MOST of the problem lies with the OP lying to get out of a slightly uncomfortable discussion. And by doing that you’re going to guarantee an explosion in the future.

    If you tell her that you are going to think about it, she’s going to take you at your word. So don’t get upset and angry when she comes back later! This is a problem of your own making because you weren’t willing to tell her no. Now it will be that much harder.

    Just tell her “thanks for asking, but I already have things I donate to”

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’d argue that anyone soliciting for charity in the workplace needs to be sensitive to the fact that it will make some people feel uncomfortable/pressured, and so if you must ask, you ask once only. The coworker not only returned a second time, but she phrased it in an obnoxious way (“What can I put you down for?”).

      I agree that the OP should have said no the first time, but I can’t blame her for not being prepared to be solicited in the workplace.

    2. Heather*

      I don’t think it’s particularly fair to blame the OP for not wanting to be rude in response to this woman. It’s not always easy to think of a response on the spot when you’re caught off guard like that.

      Saying that it’s her own fault for not immediately telling the woman no is awfully harsh.

      1. Jamie*

        Yes, it’s really easy to err on the side of being too soft when caught off guard like that. She shouldn’t have been put in that position in the first place – much less twice.

      2. Anonymous*

        I don’t know, I don’t think “No, thank you” is rude at all. I say it to things all the time.

        But if you do say I’ll think about it, you should expect someone to ask again after an acceptable amount of time.

        1. Ariancita*

          Still, “I’ll think about it” doesn’t mean “yes.” The co-workers follow up begged the question and assumed “yes.” If she was going to follow up because she genuinely believed the OP was thinking about it, then she should have just asked if the OP had a chance to think about it. Instead, she was obnoxious.

          1. Anon2*

            It doesn’t mean “yes” but it also doesn’t mean “no”. Assuming the “yes” is an old fashioned sales technique – it’s a little obnoxious but it was the Op who implied she’d do it if she didn’t have this pesky appointment.

            Then she compounded it the 2nd time she was asked by using vegetarianism as an excuse not to participate.

            I agree this lady shouldn’t have been so direct with her charitable requests, but the Op should have just turned this lady down the first time – or gotten back to her after saying she’ll check her schedule and given her a definite “no”.

            1. Ariancita*

              I disagree that “I’ll think about it” implies she’d do it if it weren’t for the appointment. And using old fashioned (and over bearing) sales techniques in the office is absolutely not appropriate. Hence the complaint.

              1. Anon2*

                Sure, I find the lady with the charitable agenda annoying … but the Op didn’t help matters by being vague and avoiding direct communication. And while there are many who use “I’ll think about it” as a de facto “no”, it isn’t. It’s a “i’ll think about it, so maybe yes or maybe no” … this is especially true for those of us who are more literal minded.

            2. OP*

              I’d like to clarify that the 2nd approach was for a 2nd lunch. The first lunch had already taken place, so my coworker knew I didn’t participate in the previous lunch. Had she approached me again about the 1st lunch I would have said that I couldn’t make it, and by the time the 2nd lunch came around I would’ve been more comfortable turning her down.

              She’s becoming bolder and pushier, and while I accept some blame for not being firm with a no on the first lunch, I’m thinking she would have been just as bold on the second lunch, regardless of my previous actions.

    3. fposte*

      Thirding. If you’re not the person initiating the inappropriate conversation, it’s not most of your problem.

      1. Jamie*

        “it’s not most of your problem”

        I’m totally stealing this. I just got an email for which the perfect response would be “it’s not most of my problem.”

        That is excellent.

    4. KellyK*

      Eh, I don’t think the OP did anything that justifies being angry at them, or that guarantees an explosion.

      I do agree with you that telling her you’ll think about it or any other indirect answer is only delaying the inevitable. But it’s difficult and awkward to say no to a direct request that you’re caught off-guard by. It shouldn’t be. People in general should learn to handle “no” better, especially when they’re asking for a favor. But it is.

      I also think that if putting the coworker off with “maybes” and “we’ll see’s” causes her to “explode,” then that’s not the OP’s fault or problem.

      1. fposte*

        Agreed. The donation-seeker is asking randomly and unexpectedly for a favor. It’s great that most people are nice about that, but there’s no right to explode if people don’t handle that request the way you want them to. Don’t ask if you can’t take obfuscation for an answer. (Really, just don’t ask at all, though.)

    5. Two-cents*

      The OP said she’s in the south, where it’s commonplace to prevaricate and give soothing noncommital responses to questions when you don’t want to appear rude. But then the church-charity-lunch-pusher, if she’s also from the south, should be able to interpret and recognize that social convention and NOT ask again. And the OP could learn to do what some others have suggested, just come up with a phrase and repeat it every time she’s approached. “How nice! I’ll think about it and let you know.” or “Thanks for asking, but no.” And then repeat as needed.

      1. Two-cents*

        P.S. Girl Scout Cookies – always welcome and I will always buy from any Girl Scout who comes to my door, no matter how many boxes I may have already purchased! And I’ve counseled my husband, too. Any G.S. who is brave enough and willing to go door-to-door deserves be rewarded by a big purchase!

    6. Anon2*

      I’m not angry, but I find the Op’s behaviour frustrating. Op said she’d check her schedule – implying that she’d do it if she’s free – then doesn’t proactively get back with the lady to say “no, sorry, I have an appointment”. If you’re the type of person who doesn’t like to give a bald-faced “no” then you set yourself up with a good excuse but don’t follow through on it – you don’t even followup through on it when she comes back to you a 2nd time. You could have said “oh sorry Mary, I forgot to get back to you that I do have an appointment at that time”; instead, you bring up yet another excuse that implies you’d do it if only there were a vegetarian option. Wanna bet that next year there might be a vegetarian option?

      The lady doesn’t have the right to be pushy with her charitable thing, but you NEVER SAID NO. You strung her along with passive agressive excuses and then were angry that she didn’t get the hint. People can’t read your mind and someone who is going to be pushy enough to go person to person is not going to WANT to take a hint, even if she knows that’s what you’re doing.

      Just say no. Such a versatile slogan it’s not just for anti-drug campaigns.

      1. Anonymous*

        Wanna bet that next year there might be a vegetarian option?

        Indeed – when wishing to avoid an event with a dietary excuse, I have always found “long pig” to be the most effective option.

  7. B*

    My go to response is “I am so sorry but I do not do any charitable donations/purchases/etc. at the office as I would hate to say yes to one and not yes to all.”

  8. anonymous*

    Just wanted to let you know I really enjoy reading this blog. I think it would be really great if you would do another open thread. Thanks.

      1. Anonymous*

        I was just thinking about the open thread! Excited for this one coming up :) thanks, AAM!

  9. Jenn*

    Do you think it’s similar to being asked out – repeatedly – by someone you’re not interested in? A lot of people hate the idea of hurting someone’s feelings, so they give answers like “I’m busy right now” or “I’m not ready for a relationship right now.” They aren’t definitive no’s, which can result in the other person continually asking them out.

    It sounded similar to me, anyway. :-)

    1. A Bug!*

      It is similar, I agree. In social environments, many people (especially women, but I’m not excluding anyone here) are conditioned to be agreeable, and clearly saying “no” is often difficult in the simplest situations. Add in the complicating factor of another party who is likely to react poorly to a refusal and it can become quite a minefield.

    2. Ariancita*

      No way. Everyone knows that any variation of “I’m busy” without an offer to reschedule means “no.” It’s a universal dating fact. :) Some just choose to ignore it. Those who don’t recognized that are either new to dating or are going to be persistent (annoying) anyway.

      1. Sophie*

        I thought it was a universal dating fact too…. until one guy kept on asking and asking and asking. I thought it was so odd that he didn’t pick up on the signals!

        1. Ariancita*

          Yep, there are some that ignore the universal dating fact. Amateur or entitled (and usually by mid-20s, entitled), both clear signs to stay away (unless you’re 15 or something like where amateur is A-OK).

      2. Anon1973*

        Not everyone knows that. I’ve found that I can’t assume anyone will have knowledge of a code or secret phrase or whatever. If I mean no, I say no. “I’m busy” or “I would if it was vegetarian” or whatever doesn’t spare anyone’s feelings, rather, it gives them false hope. And IMO, that is worse.

  10. Lilybell*

    Ugh, this kind of thing is my pet peeve, but luckily I no longer feel bad saying no like I did when I was in my 20s. It’s not too bad where I work; once in a while someone in my dept. will do a triathlon for charity but she’s very low-key about it. My real pet peeve is office bdays – I don’t get why grown-ups celebrate bdays at work and I’m tired of donating 5 bucks for cake I don’t eat, signing cards and pretending I care – I stopped caring about my own bday when I was 12 and it’s impossible for me to muster up fake enthusiasm every other week. I finally put my foot down and stopped signing cards and attending the parties and it was liberating. At first a few people looked at me like I was a downer, but interestingly, I started a trend – I was the first one to stop and now more people don’t feel obligated to join in. If people want to celebrate the day they were born, fine, but I didn’t like the expectation that everyone else should be excited with them. Just go to lunch with a few work friends and leave me out of it! (I know I sound grumpy but I’m not – I actually like my coworkers)

    1. Jamie*

      You don’t sound grumpy to me – you sound rational.

      I have to like anyone who starts a trend of keeping the forced faux social events out of the workplace. I applaud your efforts.

      1. Lilybell*

        Aw, thanks. I’m normally in a good mood and get along well with everyone, so I think that helped me from getting negative reactions when I finally stopped attending.

    2. jmkenrick*

      My personal rule is that for birthdays between the ages of 13 & 70, there is no need to fake enthusasim if you don’t feel it.

      You are, however, required to be over the moon about people turning 10 and people turning 80.

      1. twentymilehike*

        haha, jmkenrick, I love this comment!

        I also feel strange about being forced to celebrate my birthday at work, when I’m not even doing anything for it at home. My husband and I happen to have birthdays a day apart … we got married on the day in between to distract from our birtdays. We go on a trip for our anniversary every year, therefore totally skirting the birthday issue!

        1. Jen M.*

          I love that!

          My BF and I are six days apart, but he still insists that we have separate celebrations.

          I can’t argue with having cake and a fabulous meal twice in one week, can I…?

    3. Anonymous*

      I HATE when people I barely know do things for my birthday, and I absolutely hate when people sing happy birthday to me.

      It’s awkward, uncomfortable, and makes me suddenly aware of where I’m looking and what I’m doing with my hands.

      If you want your birthday celebrated, great, but don’t force a celebration for me on my birthday when I’d be much happier with a quick “happy birthday” (or no acknowledgement at all!)

      It’s also none of your business where I’m going for my birthday with friends or how much I plan to drink at said birthday location.

      1. Anonymous*

        Usually you can tell the person who coordinates these events that you’d like your name taken off the list. I’ve never had the coordinator throw a fit at me for asking nicely that my birthday not be observed.

        Also, to guard against this, if some random person asks for your birthday – don’t give out the date. Also don’t post it on every daft social media site that asks. An answer of “Oh, it’s not any time soon,” deters most people. For persistent buggers, follow with “Why do you ask?” and then “I’m not a big birthday person, actually.”

        1. Anonymous*

          I work in a very small office (10 people) where a “birthday sheet” is given to every new employee. Birthdays are a VERY big deal to some people here (mostly because they enjoy getting away from their desks for an hour for a slice of cake).

          Unfortunately, being left off the “birthday sheet” is not an option – one employee who was asked to be removed and not have her birthday celebrated later caused a large stir when the yearly birthday sheet came out and her name wasn’t on it. People ended up making a huge fuss over her so that she “didn’t feel bad about being forgotten”. It was a nightmare.

    4. Emily*

      Have you encountered this weird phenomenon of people who think their birthday is meant to be a holiday? I know people who regularly take a vacation day on their birthday each year, and I’ve even encountered coworkers who acted as if their boss has sinned against the Birthday Lord himself if they won’t approve the vacation request–even when something critical to the employee’s job is happening that day! I don’t think I’ve taken my birthday off work since I was in college working part-time at a pizza place.

      1. Rana*

        Oh, I don’t know that it’s all that weird. Getting angry at the boss for not approving the vacation, sure. But taking a day to treat yourself – for whatever reason – doesn’t seem strange to me.

        1. KellyK*

          Yeah, I think taking your birthday off if you can swing it vacation-wise is nice. (Mine falls right around Memorial Day, so I just use the long weekend for any birthday stuff.) But like any other vacation, it’s not always going to be possible.

          I know there are actually some companies who give “your birthday” as a floating holiday–that is, you don’t have to take it on your actual birthday, but it’s an extra day off somewhere.

          1. Editor*

            One of my former workplaces gave the birthday as a floating holiday, but it had to be taken within a week before or after the birthday.

            Bad idea, because several people in the office had birthdays at a couple of annual crunch times, and were able to gleefully take time off when everyone else was working flat out with no respite. Management eventually changed the birthday day off to a general personal day.

      2. Jen M.*

        I try and take my birthday off each year, simply as a way of nurturing myself. If I can’t one year, for whatever reason, it’s no big deal.

        1. AdAgencyChick*

          My birthday is also my wedding anniversary. Yes, I always take it off. (Sometimes I try to arrange a vacation for hubby and me with my birthday/our anniversary in the middle.) I suppose if something business critical were to need doing, I’d come in. But I quite enjoy taking a break and being mememe for a day!

      3. Anonymous*

        Oy, yes, and it annoys me. I try hard to be a good sport about it – if someone makes it clear to me that they regard their own birthday as a big deal, then I make a point to wish them a happy birthday and try to accommodate reasonable (not-too-disruptive) requests. I listen politely to how big a deal it is and what his or her plans are.

        However, I haven’t celebrated a birthday past my 11th. I am a grumpy old curmudgeon. Any time a grown woman starts squealing at me about her 29th birthday plans, it makes me want to get a rocking chair and a hefty cane and yell, “You kids get off my lawn!” I know I’m an outlier on this, so I keep my grumpy mouth shut and try to hide my annoyance.

    5. Anonymous*

      Yes, yes, yes! My team doesn’t do birthdays, and that makes me happy. My husband’s team buys a cake and maybe a gift for everyone’s birthday, so I feel like he is always telling me he needs cash for this birthday or that one. The team decided that’s what they want to do (and he’s the manager so he feels obligated to participate) and that’s fine. Except I’m cheap and would rather not be forking out the cash for it.

      At least they tend to get cakes from the awesome bakery down the street from the office and always offer me a piece.

    6. Cassie*

      So what do you say if someone hands you a birthday card to sign?

      I don’t like having to sign cards and will try to avoid it as much as possible. If someone hands one to me, I’ll just pass it on to the next person. There was one time when a card kept getting handed back to me because people would look at who had signed and noticed that I hadn’t. I ended up having to say (to a manager, much less) “I don’t sign cards…”. That stopped people from trying to get me to sign that card, but now someone prints out a list of everyone’s names and you’re supposed to cross off your name after you’ve signed – so now everyone can see who has and who hasn’t! It’s too much.

      I don’t have something against cards (it’s not like against my beliefs or something) but I don’t like how people make a big deal about the birthdays of the staff who are friends with the manager, and people who aren’t close to her are pretty much ignored. I’d rather no birthdays be celebrated company-wide. If you and your friends go out for a birthday lunch, that’s great – doesn’t bother me. But don’t make us all gather like it’s Lenin’s birthday and we’re in Soviet Russia.

      If we did have to celebrate birthdays (for morale or whatever), I’d push for the system my sis’s office used. If it’s your birthday and you want to celebrate it, you bring food to share. Kind of like how they used to do it in elementary school.

    7. Anonymous*

      Right there with you. Some I sign, some I don’t. I have coworkers I actually LIKE, but certainly not ALL of them. I also don’t expect coworkers to do things for ME.

      Also, showers? I have no use for them. AT. ALL.

  11. Anon in the Frozen North*

    OT, but something that bugs me a lot: I now live in the enlightened north after years in the south. I have to say that I encountered more racism here than I ever did living in the south. In the south, you see black and white people at the same restaurants. You see black people at work and at the grocery store.

    Here, it is very segregated. We have one of the highest black unemployment rates in the country and our inner-city (mostly black) students have almost the worst test scores in the US. I hear people use language about black people here that I never heard in the south.

    Not to say that it doesn’t happen in the south, but the south is not the only place where racism exists.

    1. jmkenrick*

      I think you might be reading a bit too much into the OP’s letter. She doesn’t say in it that everyone in the South is racist, nor do I think she was trying to imply that.

      1. Jamie*

        I didn’t read it that way, either and of course a whole region isn’t racist. A whole region can’t be anything.

        From my experience there seems to a fainter line of demarcation between church and routine social interaction in the south. I would say 99.9% of the charity solicitations I’ve gotten at work have been for schools or other secular charities. I would find it odd if someone were collecting for a church group, because it so rarely happens.

        The closest we get to a religious awakening is a couple of us knowing which local restaurants serve up the best grilled cheese for Fridays during Lent.

        1. jmkenrick*

          That’s a good point. Personally, I would be a little taken aback if someone solicited for their church at my office – people just don’t generally do that here.

          I’m just surprised to see so many people jumping to defend the south as not-universally racist, since I didn’t get that tone from the OP’s letter at all.

          I feel like there’s some old-school East Coast rivalry here that I’m missing. North v. South. :)

          1. Jamie*

            Pretty sure there are lovely people and total jerks in every region…so that rivalry might shake out pretty even.

            I wouldn’t make book on it.

            1. jmkenrick*

              LOL. If you find a region that’s all lovely people, will you let me know? I’d like to move there. I suspect the traffic is better.

              1. SB*

                I live in Central Oregon, and people are pretty lovely in general, though there are outliers. Traffic is awesome. In part because I live in the largest town in a two+ hour radius, at a whopping 80,000 people, and partly because people are TOO polite. In fact, you pretty much need to throw what you know about right-of-way out the window, because chances are good, the person with the ROW will let everyone else through an intersection first. (Which isn’t all that awesome, actually, because it causes much confusion.)

    2. Job Seeker*

      Thank you. I am from the South and you are right not everyone there are racist. I am a white middle age mom and I do not like anyone being mistreated. I grew up in the South and there are a lot of people there that do not judge anyone. I miss the South so much. I agree with everyone here, just tell the lady no. You don’t have to give to everything. She should not be pushing this on people.

    3. A Nony Cat*

      My mother was from the south and when she moved north (where I was raised) she noticed the exact same thing.

      1. Emily*

        Thirding. After living in Virginia for my first 22 years, my experience moving north was that it was extremely segregated and the only time in my life I’ve heard openly racist comments casually sprinkled in conversation like it was NBD was when living there. Of course not everyone I met there was racist, not even close. It was just definitely more noticeable there.

    4. OP*

      Trust me, I agree with you on this. I’ve lived in many parts of the country (mostly in the south), and the one thing I’ve learned is that stereotypes can’t be applied to such large regions.

      I only mentioned that I was in the South because there is a brand of religious/social conservatism here that I think is uniquely southern. That doesn’t mean all southerners adhere to it; I just don’t think it’s found in many other areas of the country.

    5. Huh?*

      Well, I’m black and I’ve seen more racism in the South. Also, statistics bear this out. My guess is that people in the South don’t bother to say openly racist things because they don’t need to (entire institutional infrastructure is completely racist).

      1. Job Seeker*

        I am sorry this has happen to you. Please don’t judge all southerners by some bad behavior by some. There are many people in the South that accept and care about everyone.

  12. Camellia*

    Alison’s advice is spot on for this. I would only suggest one change, since you live in the South – add “Bless your heart” to whatever you say.

    “Bless your heart, no, thank you.”
    “Bless your heart, I’ve already allocated my charity dollars for the year.”
    “Bless your heart, I don’t donate to organizations I haven’t done my own research on.”

    And don’t forget that big smile as you say it.

    1. Anonymous*

      this only works with insults. “Bless her heart, she’s got the ugliest little baby I’ve ever seen.”

      1. Job Seeker*

        I am a Southern. Bless your heart does not mean an insult to most southerns. It means I feel bad for you. I care about you and this is a shame. I know some people think it means something bad, but I never heard it said in a bad context.

        1. Camellia*

          Job Seeker, your family must be nicer than mine!

          Anonymous , I did intend for it to lend an ‘insulting’ feel to the response – that was the point of adding it.

        2. Stells*

          EXACTLY! Thank you!

          I always try to explain to implants this subtle difference but they never understand! You only say “Bless Your Heart” to people you actually care about – if you don’t like someone, you just nod and smile that sweet Southern smile until they walk away. Once they are out of earshot, though, they are fair game for gossip!

        3. Kelly O*

          Your family must be way different than mine then too. Among my family and close friends, it’s the running joke. Now, granted I would not use it in this instance, but in my circles, it’s fairly well known.

          Now, I know others who do not seem to get it, or who ignore it, either way.

          (For the record, in this instance, I think “no, thank you” with no further exposition ought to suffice.)

          1. Job Seeker*

            Kelly O, I never heard this taken this way before. My mother and my grandmother and me too all say,”Bless your heart.” I asked my girlfriend from Georgia, she agrees with me. In most circles, women say this to be kind. This is a expression of caring. It is a lady-like expression. I know Miranda Lambert has made this seem different in one of her songs. But, a large majority of Southerners would not think you were trying to insult them. Why in the world would you just not say what you are really wanting to say to them in the first place? I have heard this expression in church in the South. I don’t believe the pastor was trying to say anything bad about anyone.

            1. jmkenrick*

              Well, the south is a pretty large place. Maybe it’s used differently among difference circles.

              1. Jamie*

                I put the “bless your heart” phrase into the same category of “well isn’t that precious?!”

                My southern gramma could use both expressions to mean either genuine delight or as a nice of saying something was ridiculous…the sugar coated insult.

                The thing is you could tell how she meant it by her tone of voice and facial expression. The insult was much higher and more syrupy and accompanied by a gleam in her eye just shy of a wink…as opposed to the sincerity which was far less entertaining.

              2. AnotherAdmin*

                Exactly. It’s where you’re from – the same way some think that vinegar based BBQ is best, and some say sweet sauce BBQ is best. (For the record, vinegar based is best.)

          2. Laura L*

            Can you explain the phrase to me? In what situations would you say bless your heart?

            An ignorant northerner

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Some southerners will tell you that it’s code for “F you.” Other southerners seem to use it with no hidden meaning. Seems to depend on who you ask.

              1. KellyK*

                It seems to me (born and raised in the North, currently living in Maryland) like it can be used either sincerely or sarcastically. The last time I heard someone use it, it was sincere, but I *thought* she was being sarcastic, and I had to clarify.

                The same way “Good luck with that,” can mean either “I sincerely wish you success,” or “I think you have a snowball’s chance, and I’m going to laugh when it blows up in your face.”

                I usually only use the sarcastic version of “good luck with that” when I’m talking *about* a situation, not directly *to* someone, and I think “Bless your/his heart” may work the same way. “Oh, you’re running a marathon next weekend? Hey, good luck with that,” is different from “Bob thinks he can get 40,000 chocolate teapots produced this week, never mind that the molds just came in yesterday and he keeps approving extra projects for half his team. Yeah, good luck with that.”

            2. Job Seeker*

              Laura, from this post, Alison seems to be right. I have never heard it said in a bad or mean way in my life though. Usually, in the South you would say this to someone you felt bad for. If someone was going through a hard time, a death, or couldn’t seem to get a break. “He has had such a hard time getting his life back together. Bless his heart”. Something like this. I could not imagine using this to mean something hateful to someone. It is a expression of caring to me. I have heard so many people say this all my life. I know they are not being mean when they say this.

      2. Phyllis*

        Actually the correct way to say it is “That’s your baby? Bless your heart.” ;-).

      3. Kelly O*

        Okay, this is my experience, and I realize not all Southerners are the same, so understand it can vary wildly depending on who you ask. (And I’m from Alabama, so depending on how you view my home state, that may answer or raise other questions. We are also not well-to-do at all, and I may have lived somewhere with driving instructions involving a small race track, a topless bar and a beer joint. )

        It’s been my experience that you can say something horrible about someone, but saying “bless your heart” makes it okay. “Joe is just the worst drunk ever, bless his heart.” “Jane could not pick a decent husband to save her life, bless her heart.” “Oh look, Leonard and Judy are at it again. They can’t say a nice word to each other, can they? Bless their hearts.”

        The extension of that comes with the realization that you normally only say “bless your heart” when someone has done something catastrophically stupid or ill-advised. You know the joke about the last thing a redneck says is “hey y’all, watch this?” I could guarantee you someone said “well bless your heart” as they watched him climb to the top of whatever he’s inevitably going to jump off.

        “I’m going to start an Anti-Chocolate Teapot Committee to wipe out all those awful people who believe teapots can and should be made of chocolate.”

        “Well bless your heart.”

        1. Jen M.*

          This is the best explanation of this I have ever read. LOL!

          I, too, have heard it used both ways. I think using it as a jab is a newer thing, though.

          Then again, I’m from Maryland, so I don’t necessarily know what I’m talking about. ;)

          1. Another anon*

            This is exactly how it was explained to me by a native Georgian. You can say whatever you want, provided you preface it with “Bless her heart.”

        2. Liz in a Library*

          Oooh yes. My mother (SC born and bred, TN resident) is a master of the middle finger “bless your heart.” It definitely does have a use as a way to couch whatever horrible things you want to say about someone, but can’t because you’re a southern lady.

        3. Laura L*

          Interesting. Thanks for the explanation. I definitely take that phrase more literally than it’s intended, but I also don’t hear people say it very often.

        4. Job Seeker*

          Kelly, It is interesting that so many people see this in a different way. My dad was from Alabama, but I was born in a different Southern state when he met and married my mother. I love Alabama, I dated a guy that went to Auburn there. I always use this expression to mean I am sorry for you and care. But today, one of my children told me that if you are not from the south he thought it meant something else. I had never heard this, so I guess it depends on how you mean it. He said it meant you were stupid. I always thought it meant a good thing.

  13. KVM*

    We have someone like this who has done this for DECADES.

    So, I finally responded to one of her all-department emails (which is also against the rules) thusly:

    “I wish you the best in your efforts, but in the future, could you please not include me on these types of emails?”

    Steered clear of me ever since – for everything.

  14. Elizabeth*

    How about the school fundraisers that the parents bring in for their kids and have NO CLUE what they’re fundraising for? My rule of thumb: if they don’t know what they’re raising money for – I don’t buy. If it’s really junky stuff – I don’t buy.

    1. Shane*

      I would like to add an exception to this: even in they don’t know what the fundraiser is for if the end result is that I get cookies then I reserve the right to waive the “will not buy” clause. This does not come into effect if the process of getting cookies involves being stabbed with a small rod and having my blood drain into a plastic bag.

  15. AnotherAlison*

    Agree w/ (almost) everyone about the OP’s situation.

    Another charity-related practice that chaps my hide is that the schools bring in the pitchman from the promotions company to wind up the kids about selling whatever junk they are selling. (Sell 18 rolls of wrapping paper and you can be entered in a drawing to win a free limo ride to lunch! Don’t go door to door, have your mom take this to work! And once the wrapping paper order is submitted, they’ll start asking for parent volunteers to come in and put the orders together. Yeah.)

    I never sell anything for my kids, and 99% of the time, we personally do not buy what they’re selling. If I wanted a second job selling cr*p, I’d join some multilevel marketing scam. No thank you. I have money. If my tax dollars aren’t enough for you, just ask. I’d rather give you $50 out of my pocket and have my son in class instead of being brainwashed by a Billy Mays wannabe.

    It’s not that I’m not charitable, but the schools have worn out their welcome with me. (“This year, we’ll only have one fundraiser,” is what they say, and two weeks after the first one, my kid is bringing home more stuff to sell. “It’s an optional one,” is the story. Yeah, once you’ve wound up a 7 year old with the promise of a popsicle party, I get to tell him we’re not doing it.)

    1. Jamie*

      “I never sell anything for my kids, and 99% of the time, we personally do not buy what they’re selling. If I wanted a second job selling cr*p, I’d join some multilevel marketing scam. No thank you. I have money. If my tax dollars aren’t enough for you, just ask. I’d rather give you $50 out of my pocket and have my son in class instead of being brainwashed by a Billy Mays wannabe.”

      Thank you! I’ve got three kids and I’ve never sold anything – you’re welcome co-workers past and present!

      Fundraiser stuff comes home I write a check for a reasonable amount and give it to my child to turn in with the fund raising stuff. No muss, no fuss.

      When they were little I would sometimes cave and get them something equivalent to what the prize was for selling an average amount of crappy wrapping paper or whatever…just because of what you said. They wind them up and I get to feel mean that I’m depriving them of a chance to win a kite or stuffed animal …or gift certificates to Pizza Hut.

      Your comment cracked me up because I cannot tell you how many times I’ve complained over the years to my husband that if I wanted to hard sell I’d give Amway a call.

    2. Sparky629*

      Our house rule is that we only sell certain items. We do GS cookies because they really sell themselves. You just need to show up with an order form.

      For my son (who plays football), we only participate in the $1 chocolate/caramel/crunch bar fund raisers. Again, those sell themselves because most people will shell out a buck. That’s the equivalent of loose change in the bottom of my purse or in the car ashtray.

      But $14 dollars for wrapping paper-that’s a little much.

    3. A Teacher*

      See my comment below…but as a teacher AMEN! I can’t stand when the PTO/Principal or whomever comes in with the Fannie May, $15 popcorn tins, etc…they ask the teachers and school staff first. Sometimes I cave and I buy from the first person that asks…but seriously, parents get mad because I didn’t buy from Sally or Johnny or whomever…sorry, I have bills to pay too!

    4. Natalie*

      My grandmother was always like that – she wouldn’t buy anything when we did school fundraisers, but she’s write our school a check. She figured they got 100% of the money that way, and she didn’t need to deal with some tschotske she didn’t want.

      1. NicoleW*

        I’m with you all on the school fundraisers. My daughter is just entering Kindergarten, but I’m already dreading it. I’m glad to hear of other parents who don’t sell anything and just donate.

        I guess I am fortunate that no one in my office solicits money for charity. Thanks, OP, I found something good about my crazy workplace! :)

    5. SB*

      Oh, man, I so agree. My mom gave us the spiel about what a waste it all was as kids, but still had us go door-to-door and sell to our grandparents. With my son, I explained that with fundraisers, the school only keeps a tiny portion of the money, between having to pay for the crappy products, the company that makes the shiny brochures and its employees, and then the crappy trinkets the kids get as rewards.

      I told him I will donate directly to the school (and he watches me make out the check and I have him deliver it to the office), which helps them much more than me buying the equivalent amount of wrapping paper or cookie dough. I then buy him an equivalent to the trinket he most had his eye on (not the super-expensive ones, of course, but one year he REALLY wanted the dog tags, so I bought him some myself). I let my parents know that it’s fundraising time and they’re welcome to do the same as I do, and leave it at that, no more reminders or nagging, and no requests for them to buy crappy junk.

      Win-win-win, as Michael Scott would say.

  16. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Maybe enough Girl Scout cookie fan talk, since each of these comments is being sent in a separate email to anyone who’s subscribed to this thread :)

    1. khilde*

      You know, I didn’t really realize this. Sorry I jumped in that string before I read your comment. I heartily enjoy the sometimes irreverant conversations that spin off of the regular topic and don’t want them to stop! Sometimes I like to add a very marginal thought to the whole deal, but I’ll maybe think about it a little longer next time knowing that some people get an email for each two-word post I leave that really doesn’t add much.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        No, no, I don’t want to stifle conversation! But I did think that the pro-cookie discussion might be getting a little much for email subscribers :)

        1. khilde*

          If anything it was becoming a bit much for those appetites that were whetted and couldn’t be satisfied because we’re out of cookie season! :)

  17. Elizabeth West*

    “I don’t have any money” works really well too. Unless you have a nosy coworker who then asks you questions about your finances. But it works great on phone solicitations.

  18. A Teacher*

    I teach high school, so various clubs, events, groups, etc…are always hitting up for money–sometimes even the school is (supplies and copy paper aren’t in the budget). Not to mention when co-workers will ask us to sponsor their kids baseball team/girl scout cookies/trip to camp. I had to learn quickly to say “yes” when I wanted to and be okay with saying “no” sometimes. I even sponsor a group that has to fundraise and run a few service learning projects for the classes I teach–we stay low key and don’t solicit anyone directly. Just be direct and firm and she’ll get over it (or she won’t and whatever).

  19. Kimberly Herbert*

    I think the advice here is great. Also DO NOT BUY from these fundraisers. The health department shut down several near me for not following basic sanitary procedures.

  20. Casey*

    I do fundraiser for my kids once a year. I simply send an email to the people I know and likely to participate. Let me know if it interests anyone. Just leave it at that. I had people telling me that he or she needed to ask the spouse and will let me know the next day. I never follow up with that individual(s). If he or she wants to participate then he or she will come to me; otherwise, he or she is not interested. I know some people may say, “What if people forget?” I’d rather than let them forget than make them feel pressured. I’d rather double or triple up my donation than ask people for the second time.

  21. anon*

    This really gets my goat. Where I work, people seem to fall over themselves to set up new fundraisers every other day – it’s a like a competition to see who is the most generous, for crying out loud.

    Personally, this makes me feel my personal space is invaded. Most around the office are too afraid of looking uncharitable / grumpy and just say ‘yes’ ad infinitum, perpetuating the issue. However, I stand my ground that I don’t wish to be involved. Why don’t I wish to be involved? Because I give semi-regular, small donations to various causes privately, as and when I can. In accordance with my beliefs, I don’t shout from the rooftops about what a ‘giving person’ I am or make theatrical displays of kindness. Charity should originate from the heart, not peer pressure. I also object that my breakfast / lunch break / whatever is taken away against my will, which is personal time during which I like to reflect, relax, or do something personal – it is my time, and a much needed sojourn away from the chaos of business.

    A lot of companies have policies in place prohibiting solicitation in person, at the desk – or even in email (which can get too much these days). However, due to not wishing to look uncharitable, most will not complain despite the fact that they too find it annoying. I get so many various emails like this now, I have a tactic of deleting them immediately without reading so the guilt tactics can’t work. Even if you do this, though, the originators will then send wave after wave of self-congratulatory emails about how much they raised and what wonderful human beings they are – same policy. Delete without reading.

    You’ll never change human behaviour – the trick is being strong about your own convictions and not caring what others think of you socially. You are at work to work, and that’s it and all about it. They don’t know you give privately because you want to – that’s your business, and absolutely none of theirs.

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