Any business owner who has kept their doors open longer than a few months is likely familiar with the following question: “Would you be willing to donate….” Depending what you sell the end of that sentence will differ, but the beginning is an all too familiar chorus. As business advisors we see our most successful clients receive this question literally hundreds of times each year. So what can you do to avoid seeming like Ebenezer Scrooge while still keeping the doors open and your employees paid? Below are some ideas that have helped our clients deal with this constant issue:
- Create a form for donation requests. Find yourself or your staff dealing with emails, calls and in-person asks far too often? Weed out some of the less serious requesters by having a form (as simple or as complicated as you’d like) to make sure the person asking will at least take the time to fill it out. If they aren’t willing to put in that time, you shouldn’t be taking your valuable time to consider the request.
- Set a standard for some period of time. What do you value and what are the values you are trying to express in your company? Do you find helping kids most important, or animals? Figure out what is most important to you and your staff and set a time period (three months, six months, a year) in which you only support organizations that primarily serve these communities. This makes it very easy to say no to worthy organizations that don’t fit the current period, without making them think you don’t care about their issue. If you create a plan in advance, you can even let them know when their organization’s mission will match up with that term’s giving.
- Assess what you’re getting back. Many business owners find it taboo to ask, when approached for a donation, “what’s in it for me?” But it is perfectly okay to ask how your company will be represented or promoted in return for your donation. It’s also okay to let requesters know that you’d rather give a gift certificate (that will bring recipients in to your store) rather than cash or an item, if that is helpful to the organization. Don’t be afraid to ask what is in it for you or what you can expect in return. If an organization has not thought of this, you may want to reconsider where your donation budget will go.