It seems really simple. You’re a non-profit organization with a really great cause. You’re well run, committed, with a clearly defined mission based in a really generous community. Getting local businesses to help you promote your organization should be really easy. So, why is it so hard?
Because there are lots of you out there. Businesses like restaurants, caterers and event planners are inundated with requests for donations. And I mean inundated. On average, The Party Goddess receives about ten requests a week for money, product or assistance. For a relatively small business, it can be completely overwhelming. Maybe it sounds like it shouldn’t be overwhelming, after all, all you want is a small monetary donation or just some product to be displayed and then auctioned off at your benefit. Your next response is that the donating business will get great exposure. Indeed, the business will get great exposure. However, exposure is only great when it turns into profitable jobs or sales.
Notice the important word here: profitable. Merely getting the opportunity to participate in another charity fundraiser, as a result of the one that you just participated in, is not beneficial. Small businesses like ours need the vast majority of their focus to be on parties that make money. Only when a catering or event planning company is profitable, does it make sense to give back to the community. Giving back before a company is profitable does not good business sense. Unless of course, the giving back is part of the company’s philosophy or business plan.
Over the last four years that The Party Goddess has been in business, I could name on one hand the number of real, profitable jobs that have come out of my donations to charitable organizations. And I am not complaining. Some of the organizations to whom we have donated during 2004 are: El Hogar, Hospital de las Infantiles de las Californias, The Los Angeles Zoo, Holy Family School and Parish, Mayfield Senior School, Loyola High School, Child Educational Center, Social Service Auxiliary, Christ Child Society, St. Andrew’s Church and the Facing Forward Foundation. The decision to donate to these organizations was because we believe in giving back to the community and furthering these particular causes, whether or not we get anything out of it. If The Party Goddess benefits, great, but that is not the reason for donating.
The bottom line? Ask businesses that have some kind of connection to your organization to donate to your cause. The exchange must be win/win for both organizations to really benefit. Without focusing on win/win, businesses get burned out receiving request after request for free-bees. Also remember that just landing the donation is not always the most important part.
People like to be recognized, appreciated and thanked. Your charitable organization should follow up after the event with a letter thanking the donor for his/her gift. When possible, make a personal call to thank the individual. It will only take a moment. Lastly and perhaps most importantly, stress to your organization’s members the importance of supporting the businesses who contribute money, time, effort and product to your cause. When your members support the business who donated, the new customer should be sure to mention that they are supporting this business in particular, because of that company’s donation to xyz charity. I can pretty much guarantee you that if the business knows they actually got a real, paying customer from their donation, they would be HAPPY to support the cause in years to come.