Small Business Center
By Angel Cicerone, Tenant Mentorship
You’ve probably been approached hundreds of times to participate with local charities and asked to do everything from donate merchandise for silent auctions to spring for sponsorship dollars, organize walking teams and buy tables at banquets. Before you spend another dollar, take a minute to think about how you give your money, merchandise and time.
There are two ways to approach charitable giving. The first is altruistic. If you have a cause or passion in which you want to participate because it’s meaningful to you, by all means, do so. This is not a business decision, it’s one that comes from the heart. The second is using charitable involvement as a business builder. For the purposes of this discussion, we’ll talk about the latter.
Let’s start with merchandise and gift card donations. I highly recommend creating an annual budget and formal process for giving donations. This allows you to handle your giving gracefully and without creating bad feelings. You certainly don’t want to offend representatives of local organizations by having them think you are snubbing them or don’t take your community participation seriously. After all, they may be potential customers.
To avoid an uncomfortable situation, create a charitable donation request form for the organization to complete, including its charity name; contact person; reason for the donation (i.e., silent auction or raffle); purpose of the charity; how long it’s been in business; its 501(c)(3) number, which a legitimate nonprofit must have; and finally, what type of recognition you will receive for your donation (i.e., your logo on all event marketing or signage at event).
Explain to the charity:
Be sure to review these forms on a regular, predetermined timetable and notify all applicants of your decision. The formal process will mitigate bad feelings from the rejected parties and help you make the most of your charitable contributions.
There’s no law that says you need to give money or merchandise to support your local nonprofits. Think about volunteering — your staff can help at an event or fundraiser — or creating an experience, such as a free wardrobe styling or haircut or a cupcake baking or pizza making lesson? These experiences have great perceived value and help build one-on-one relationships with potential customers.
Keep the momentum going by continuing to promote yourself and your selected charities. Post signage in your store about upcoming events that you’re involved in. Promote them on your website and social media, as well. At the end of the year, compile a list of your selected charities and encourage customers to include them in their charitable giving.
Take a few minutes to create a process and throw in a couple of creative ideas. It will save time, make your store or restaurant stand out from the fray of ordinary gift card givers and establish your business as a valuable member of your community.