You’re a volunteer and you’ve been tasked with drumming up donations for a raffle. Whether it’s a school event being run by a PTA or for a charity you work in, it takes a LOT of effort. You’ve just spent several hours, looking up businesses and dropping out emails and Facebook messages to ask for donations. You sit back and the offers of prizes and support come flooding in. Ok I was lying, what actually happens is that like 99.9% of others doing exactly the same thing, you find your efforts fall on deaf ears.
Frustrated – errr yep! No-one likes doing a lot of work for nothing. Especially when you are working for such a worthwhile cause. Why can’t anyone else see that? Are they stupid!!?!?!?! Don’t they know the impact they can have through their donations?
The honest answer is probably No. Those you are asking to donate can’t see the impact that will be made by their donation. But there’s a more fundamental issue relating to how fundraisers make those requests.
My approach to donation requests
In our first two years of trading, I donated each years income for the full month of September to MacMillan Cancer Support. Then in September 2016, just before I gave up work full time to focus on the business, I jointly purchased Oor Pirate as part of the Archie Foundations Oor Wullie Bucket Trail. This was my biggest donation ever on both a personal and professional level at £6.5k. But I understand the importance of supporting both charities and local community initiatives. I’ve worked in NHS Finance for 5 years. I have close family members who benefited from the work that charities do. I get it and the timing felt right.
But I also know that small charities can also be overlooked. So over our three years of trading, I’ve always set aside 3 gift vouchers each year. These are given out over the course of a year on an ad hoc basis but I do limit it to three.
While I hope I can do more as we grow, there’s the small matter of being able to put food on the table and Millie does look those yummy Guru Trip Bones too!
I’d love to say yes to everyone and I’d love to do a LOT more.
How do I choose who to say yes to?
Over the last two weeks, I’ve personally received 8 requests to donate a beach hut hire day to various raffles and events. Yep, 8 in two weeks! That’s typical for us at this time of year.
So how do I choose? Well, let me introduce you to Jo!
I picked up the phone today with my normal
“Hey there, Millie’s Beach Huts”;
and I was immediately greeted with a
“Hi, is that Vicky?”
Hmmm, interesting! This person knows who I am within the business and we’ve made a connection.
“I’m Jo and I hired one of your lovely beach huts last year”.
Now I love talking to my guests. I know that Jo understands what the business does and already I feel like she understands the value of what we do, just by using the world ‘lovely’. Yet another connection.
Jo went onto explain that she was calling for another reason and that she worked for the charitable arm of Colchester Hospital. They are holding an annual event for their volunteers and were looking for raffle prizes. All of volunteers would be given raffle tickets at the event and they’d love to have some great gifts to recognise all the hard work that they do for patients.
While I started my normal response of explaining that we put a certain amount aside each year and that unfortunately they have been allocated for 2017, I found myself thinking. WAIT!!!!!
I can’t let this one go. It’s Jo.
- She’s picked up the phone during business hours.
- She hasn’t sent a standard Facebook message which looks like a ‘cut and paste’ job for everyone they’ve approached!
- She clearly knows about me and my business.
- She’s explained clearly where the prize will go to and why it’s important to them to do something for the beneficiaries.
I know that I always have a natural leaning towards supporting NHS and Healthcare related charities. But it was all such a stark comparison to my standard non personal out of hours message through Facebook.
Yep those 8 other requests were all Facebook messages, who say who they are, what they are raising for and asking whether I’d donate. They were all clearly a ‘cut and paste’ standard message and in one case, they sent it several times within 48 hours.
And yes, I do have some other criteria. While I don’t ever ask about publicity (for me it’s not the point of making a charitable donation), I do look for evidence of how money is spent, does the charity or committee show that they have good governance in plac and are they a registered charity? But the reality is, you have to get through that first stage for me to start to even think about doing a little more research on you and asking those questions.
So yep in this case, its’ Jo who’s asking. I feel like I have a connection.
I think you get the message.
Not only did I offer Jo a gift voucher for a peak day beach hut hire (despite having allocated them all for this year), I’m also donating a basket full of beach hut themed home decor goodies. Well you do that for those you connect with don’t you?
So how do you get donations from a small business?
While Jo may or may not be working as hard as all of the other 8 people who have approached me over the last two weeks, she really did it with style, grace, empathy and understanding of my business.
Its quite simple isn’t it?
You just need to be human. Try to treat the businesses you are approaching as a friend.
If you haven’t used their products or service personally, do you know someone who has? Can you get a personal introduction to the owner? Do you know who the owner is!??
Why are you asking them? Is it just another name or a list or do you understand why the value they’d be bringing to your own event?
If you aren’t successful with your request, maybe ask them if they have a strategy to donations. Maybe you’ve just missed their years allocation or they only donate in a particular way. Glean this information now and hand it over to next years committee and charity volunteers.
But in short – ask yourself what would Jo do?
Can you make that same connection?
Can you help Jo out?
You can’t watch or read the new without supporting headline about the NHS and funding. Between the forthcoming election and recent cyber attacks, those working and volunteering in the NHS take a beating and often.
The reality is they improve and save lives every single moment of the day.
So whether you are a small business or individual who can offer a prize to recognise those volunteers working at Colchester hospital then I’m sure they’d love to hear from you. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we made it the best volunteers event EVER and show them how valued they are!?!?!?
(oh and Jo – thank you. You have no idea how much of an impact you made to my own day!)