A real challenge for businesses in small towns and other communities is the seemingly endless number of requests for donations and sponsorship from school support groups, sporting clubs, charities and community groups. Especially when your business is doing it tough and further donations mean more financial stress for you and your family.
It is particularly galling when these requests come from people who often take their business out of town; and decidedly difficult when it’s from people who make their request with an implied threat that there will be negative consequences for your business if you don’t provide financial support.
Deal with these requests in a professional business-like way. Set an annual budget and within this perhaps a quarterly budget.
Instead of making the decision yourself, let it be known that you have a committee of three who review requests for donations or sponsorship. You don’t have to say who but in addition to yourself it could include another family member or staff member and your accountant.
Have criteria for providing support. Here are some suggestions:
- Please note that we receive so many donation requests that unfortunately we cannot accommodate every deserving cause or group.
- Donations and sponsorship will be considered for not-for-profit local community groups and causes providing for programs, activities, events and projects that enrich the lives of local residents.
- Priority will be given to local causes and to groups that can demonstrate that they or their members support our business with their custom.
- Our annual budget is prepared on 30 June each year. Requests for consideration must be received by 1 June. Additional small donations and sponsorship may be possible during the year and will be considered on 1 October and 1 April.
- Please submit a written request on your not-for-profit group’s letterhead, explaining the nature of the organisation, why the donation or sponsorship is required and what specifically is being requested.
Setting specific time frames for requests to be received means that you can say, “Unfortunately we have already allocated our budget for this year. Please make a note of our close off date(s) so that you can submit a request for next year.”
Asking for a request in writing so that it can be considered by your committee can be enough to discourage some people from applying.
You may choose to adapt the method of your donation or sponsorship in a way that you feel works best for your business. For example:
For a local cause or disaster, such as due to fire or flooding, you might match donations on a dollar for dollar basis up to a maximum of $500. This gives individual customers the opportunity to be involved and to see that you are backing their concerns.
Besides a donation or sponsorship, there may be another way for you to help them out. For example, custom coupons for their members ‘For every $10 spent at XYZ Store before 30 November 2017 we will donate $1 to…’
Becky McCray featured the difficulties of dealing with requests for donations in her excellent Small Biz Survival e-newsletter a couple of years ago. You will see below I’ve picked out a couple of extracts from the advice shared. Click on how to say no to donations to read more.
“Business owners need to have a visible presence in supporting the community. Yet they also must plan how much and in what areas they want to support. They need to think in terms of strategic donations.”
“It’s important to say no to some requests so you can say yes to the ones where you make the biggest difference or feel the most rewards.”