How often are you asked, as a small business owner, for a charitable donation?
I have a friend who has labeled this process as being “$20 to death.” Her comment is often accurate as most small-business operators see a steady stream of people asking for money to support charities, sports teams, clubs, civic groups, etc. And many small-business owners, wanting to be a good citizen, dig into the till and contribute.
There is no argument that supporting such efforts is positive for the business owner in terms of goodwill and social responsibility. However, often there is no focus to the donation program leaving part of the return slip away.
To achieve the greatest return, the owner must:
- First and foremost, know how much you can give without hurting the company.
- Second, plan where those donations will be going. In other words, plan their donation strategy in advance. Part of the plan should be developing a focus or area of interest. Don’t give the same $20 to everyone. Get known for supporting a cause. (Check out this link on “Cause marketing.”)
- Take advantage of the marketing opportunity. Don’t just expect word-of-mouth to be your marketing channel. Talk about the donations when the award is made, when the even occurs, and even take a look back at the event and discuss what happened or what changes occurred. Remember though that the story you are telling is not yours, it is the story of the sponsored group. You are just part of the supporting cast.
- For your priority causes, consider doing more. Volunteering is great as is helping them with their marketing.
- If you have to say no, but want to help, think about non-cash support. Again, you can volunteer. Or maybe you just open the door to another source of funding.
I recently had the opportunity to discuss the $20 donation with the rural telcomms, NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association, at one of their meetings. These thoughts are some of the highlights of the conversation we had. And it was a conversation as I took away probably at least as much as I shared.
If you want more information about this topic, you can:
- Listen to the podcast done for the event
- Watch a 6 minute highlight video
- View the PowerPoint slides for the event
Because many donation requests are for relatively small amounts of money, little thought is given to them in terms of marketing or impact on the bottom line. Yet donations represent opportunities. It’s in your best interest to think about what you want from your charitable giving program and use it, just like all of your other tools, to build your reputation and your brand.
What’s your response to the next donation request?
- About the Author
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Glenn Muske is an independent expert on rural small business, working as GM Consulting – Your partner in achieving small business success. He provides consulting, and writes articles for county extension agents and newspapers across North Dakota. Previously, he was the Rural and Agribusiness Enterprise Development Specialist at the North Dakota State University Extension Service – Center for Community Vitality.