Endorsement, Fundraising, and Solicitation

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Ethics-related Issue

USDA Employee Responsibilities and Conduct, Departmental Regulation 4070-735-001

Conduct and Responsibilities of Employees - Canvassing for sales, or selling, any article (including, but not limited to, candy or other items for schools or charities; kitchenware or other home furnishings; paper products; cosmetics; cleaning products; or any other items whatsoever) in person, or by distributing or posting literature, advertising matter, or any other graphic matter, in or on Government-owned or leased property, or property occupied by the Department, is prohibited.

5 CFR § 2635.702(c)

Endorsements - Employees may not use or permit the use of their Government position or title or any authority associated with their public office to endorse any product, service or enterprise.

Exceptions - Employee endorsements may be permitted when they are: (1) authorized by law; or (2) as a result of documentation of compliance with agency requirements or standards or as a result of recognition for achievement given under an agency program of recognition for accomplishment in support of the Agency’s mission.

5 CFR § 2635.808

5 CFR Part 950

Fundraising Activities - Unless permitted by law, Federal employees may not engage in any form of fundraising activities in facilities or property administered or leased by the Government. This includes, but is not limited to, conducting raffles, lotteries, bake sales, carnivals, athletic events, etc. Employees may engage in fundraising activities as a private citizen off the worksite, provided they do not use their official title or position while participating in the activities.

Absent statute, Executive Order, regulation, or Office of Personnel Management (OPM) approval, you may not engage in official fundraising outside the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC). No other fundraising drive may be conducted without the authority of the Director, Office of Personnel Management (OPM) through your personnel office.

Exclusions - Fundraising may be conducted outside the CFC in the following instances: (1) Emergencies & Disasters (with OPM approval); (2) Solicitation of Employees for the Benefit of Employees (through agency approved employee organizations); or (3) Child Care Centers located at Federal installations (without prior authorization from OPM).

REE P&P 240.3, Physical Protection, Security, and Conduct while on REE Facilities

Conduct on Federal Property - Soliciting money for charity, commercial or political soliciting, vending of all kinds, displaying or distributing commercial advertising, or collecting private debts on REE controlled property is prohibited. Exceptions are listed in the P&P.

If you have any questions, please contact your Agency Ethics Advisor.

 

GENERAL INFORMATION ON FUNDRAISING

Unless permitted by law, regulation or special authority, USDA employees may not engage in any form of fundraising activities.  This includes but is not limited to conducting raffles, lotteries, bake sales, carnivals, athletic events, etc., for charitable organizations.   USDA employees may engage in charitable organizations sanctioned by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM).  This includes the Combined Federal Campaign, Federal agency day care centers, and relief organizations assisting the victims of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks as well as the Japan Disaster Relief Effort. 


During the Combined Federal Campaign,  it is acceptable for employees to conduct games and contests (e.g. door decorating contests, quizzes such as trivial pursuit, guessing games - how many jelly beans in a jar), provided there is no requirement that a donation be made as a condition of participating & the contest prizes are legitimately obtained. A container for donations may be prominently displayed in proximity to where the contest is taking place as long as it is clearly communicated that donations are voluntary.

Raffles, lotteries, and any other games of chance where employees pay money in exchange for the opportunity to win a prize may not be conducted in association with any OPM permitted fundraising activity.  Accordingly, an employee may not be offered a chance to buy anything of value if the offer is based on a monetary contribution in the form of a donation.  This applies whether or not there is a predetermined donation amount.


According to 5 CFR 950.102(d), solicitation of employees conducted by organizations composed of civilian employees for the benefit of employees among their own members for organizational support or for the benefit of welfare funds for their members is permitted -- with agency approval.  (This includes Federal agency daycare centers and agency-approved employee associations.)


Additional guidance on acceptable activities for USDA employees is provided below:


Federal employees may not solicit donations from entities outside the Federal government.

USDA employees may not solicit merchandise from local businesses as an incentive to increase contributions to the CFC. Such gifts to Federal employees are prohibited.

This rule does not extend to representatives of Principal Combined Fund Organizations PCFO), which are local organizations that run the local CFCs on behalf of the designated charities. These representatives are not Federal employees and thus are not bound by statutory and regulatory restrictions. PCFO representatives may not offer gifts to CFC key workers to be used as prizes in kickoff ceremonies and other events.  OPM has advised the PCFOs of this prohibition.


It is permissible to hold bake sales, silent auctions, or similar events where items are purchased by employees and proceeds donated to the CFC.  It is also allowable for items donated by Federal employees to be given as door prizes.


The bake sale or silent auction items to be sold must be voluntarily donated by the employees. Management must take no action to pressure employees to donate goods, set official or unofficial levels of organizational participation or accountability, or use the incentive awards program as a quid pro quo (something for something) to reward employees who are enthusiastic donors and/or purchasers.

Appropriated funds may not be used to purchase prizes for CFC events.

The Department of Justice provided a written opinion to an inquiry from its own Human Resources Director on this matter. The Director had asked if appropriated funds could be used to purchase "trinkets" of nominal value (pens, mugs, caps, t-shirts, etc.). The general conclusion was that there is not a legal prohibition allowing the agency to use funds to purchase items of such negligible value given that the items would be used as incentives or awards for CFC key workers and coordinators. However, DOJ went on to say it considered such expenditures imprudent and subject to scrutiny that could put the agency in an embarrassing position for using appropriated money for non-mission oriented purposes.