Managing Donations as a Business – a Strategy

We get a lot of donation requests.  Anybody with a business does.  And if they tell you it’s “great advertising”, they have missed the point.  Marketing is a different line-item in your budget, and in your head.

Here’s our strategy for making donations:

  1. Have a Budget — Figure out how much you’ll donate each year as either a % of profits or as a fixed dollar amount.  Figure it into your budget, write it down, have it already sorted at the beginning of the year.  You know, before you get “the calls”.
  2. Have specific charities (or charity – singular) in mind — Allocate your budgeted donations between those charities.  Know what you plan to donate to each.
  3. If you don’t have specific charities in mind, have some guidelines — have a list of the types of charities that interest you.  For us we choose charities in certain cities, that are having an auction, and that usually have a component of children/family services or education.  Write your guidelines down and include them on your website (where you’ll have to point people — don’t think they’ll know to look for it) and include in your emails below…
  4. Create two emails — Create a rejection email and an acceptance email.  Being a bit of a wannabe people-pleaser, when things are busy and I get a donate request via phone or email, I’m apt to say “yes” unless I have a canned response in mind.  Creating the emails in advance and saving them as templates helps me to diplomatically and comfortably say no, or quickly say yes.  The rejection email should say something along the lines of “thanks for the opportunity, unfortunately this year’s budget for donations has been met.  We have placed your charity on our list of potential donation recipients for next year” or whatever.   You can include a link to your website where you have a complete list of your donation guidelines from point 3.
    The acceptance email is for those donations you will make with whatever remains from your budget and includes the donation description, value, expiration date — everything they typically need for the item.
  5. Donation request forms on your website don’t work.  Forget it.
  6. Make the donation an experience, not a product — We don’t donate our wine.  We DO donate auction items that include wine-tasting with us (usually a private event, or added on to a trail ride).  So many folks get an item at a charity and just regift it or consume it.  Not entirely bad, but not the most strategic use of your donation.  So, yeah, we kind of DO get into “marketing” mode here.
  7. Have your donations set up in advance — reach out to the charities you plan to support.  Fill out the paperwork.  Do whatever to get the donation locked in.  Get it off your plate in the slow season so you aren’t having to react to an emotional plea during your busy season.  They’ll love you for it.


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