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News > How the cookie crumbles: Rules for federal workplace fundraising
How the cookie crumbles: Rules for federal workplace fundraising

Posted 3/14/2011   Updated 3/14/2011 Email story   Print story


Tinker Public Affairs

3/14/2011 - TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla.  -- Soliciting for groups or charities in the workplace, in person or via government e-mail, has generated plenty of controversy since being in the national spotlight several years ago. Asking co-workers and colleagues in the workplace to participate in fundraising activities doesn't seem to be a serious violation of regulations, but it might be.

"Federal regulations set a higher standard for conduct by D"D employees than our counterparts in the private sector," said Capt. Micah McMillan, chief of Administrative Law, at the legal office at Tinker. "This means that government time and resources should be dedicated to completing the mission -- and not to raising money for non-federal organizations."

"We start with the idea that our employees come to work each day to make a living and do good things for the U.S. government. They should not be subjected to pressure to buy any item. The workplace should not generally be utilized to fundraise," advised Col. David Penczar, the OC-ALC Staff Judge Advocate. "Fundraising by personnel in an official duty status while on the installation is prohibited by DOD Directive 1344.7, unless otherwise authorized. Commercial solicitation in the workplace is simply not appropriate."

"Solicitation in the workplace is an ongoing issue," Captain McMillan said. "Federal employees should be aware that there are numerous restraints on fundraising on-base."

The Joint Ethics Regulation states that superiors may not solicit personnel junior in rank or grade to purchase items in connection with an unofficial fundraising event or effort. In addition, both the Joint Ethics Regulation and the Code of Federal Regulations make it clear that superiors may not ask or allow subordinates to use their official time in support of an unofficial fundraising event or effort. These regulations apply to all government employees, military or contractor.

However, regulations do allow base commanders some leeway for certain events or activities. Department of Defense regulations and Air Force Instructions allow commanders to use official channels to publicize or inform about events without necessarily endorsing those events.

"Such informative memos," states a Defense Department memorandum on the subject, "must be neutral and detached and should avoid use of words such as 'endorse,' 'support,' 'encourage,' 'recommend' and 'urge.'"

In addition, the Joint Ethics Regulation states that Air Force employees may conduct on-base fundraising efforts in their personal capacity (i.e., on personal time), if the event has been approved by base officials and the event will take place away from the workplace. Home businesses -- such as direct sales, tutoring, limited repair and manufacturing -- are permitted to operate from base housing. However, prior approval must be obtained and the home-based business activity must comply with Air Force Instructions. For those living in base housing, the good news is that door-to-door sales are prohibited.

Regulations also allow individual Air Force bases to set policies on events. At Tinker, Air Force Instructions are used to determine compliance. Both unofficial activities and private organizations are allowed to operate on base, but they must be registered and have prior approval each and every time the organization wishes to solicit. There are no "blanket approvals" for organizations or individuals seeking ongoing fundraising activities.

The only official fundraising activities permitted are the Air Force Assistance Fund and the Combined Federal Campaign.

For those wishing to solicit on base, prior approval is required from the director of the 72nd Force Support Squadron. Debra Kirby of the 72nd Force Support Squadron said information packets and application forms are available from their office or online. Forms must be completed at least two weeks prior to the event and no solicitation is allowed without written approval from the squadron director.

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