Advice on Donations

As you know, I work in a restaurant, which I call The Place That Shall Not Be Named.  One of the things I deal with on an almost daily basis is donation requests.  These are great because they help out the community and they help us get our name out there.  It is a win-win for everyone.  This is something I enjoy doing and I am sure that other managers/owners of various businesses agree with me.  However, with that said, you should know that there are some things to remember when approaching a business about a donation:

1.  Be Polite–too many times people will come in and demand to speak to the manager, then say something along the lines of “can you give us something to help our cause?”  When you speak with the person in charge, state what organization you are from, then tell them what about the event and what you need to make it a success.  Let them know how many people will be attending and what benefit they are getting out of it (i.e. will the company’s name or logo be mentioned anywhere?)

2.  The Right Time–find the right time to visit the business.  If you are going to a restaurant, do not go during lunch or dinner.  These are the busy times and the manager is probably busy.  Later in the evening or early in the day would work best.  That is not always the case though, I am sure other businesses have different times where they have a lull in the action.

3.  Honesty–I suppose this should go under the first one and it should be tied with the second one.  If you go into a business, say for example a restaurant, ask the hostess if you could speak to the manager about a donation.  If he/she comes back and says the manager is busy, leave a card or ask when would be a good time to return.  I realize you have a bunch of places to try and hit up, but you have to realize that we are busy too.

4.  Be Prepared–okay, you finally get the manager, now what?  I would imagine that most large corporations have no problems doing donations.  They probably have a set of rules they follow, whether it be from a location level all the way up to a full corporation level.  Do your homework before you stop in.  In two minutes I was able to go to the Olive Garden website and find what I need for a donation request.  Make sure you bring a letter detailing the event on some kind of official letterhead from the organization.  Most places can take care of you right away.

5.  Know What You Want–if you discover on their website that the place only gives gift cards, then say that when you get there.  “I was hoping you could donate a gift card for our Basket Bingo to help raise money for the YMCA.”  Some places will give away product, if you want something in particular, you should ask.

6.  Be Early–if your event is tomorrow, then you did a bad job of getting donations.  You are an idiot.  Most places will give you a gift card.  However, if you give them a few months, sometimes they can do amazing things.  I recently had some high school kids come in and they wanted a certain product that we make.  They needed 50 dozen of them.  Our policy is 15 dozen at half price.  The event was not for another two months, so I directed them to our website and said “they have a corporate donation section, you may be able to get all of these product for free.”  A few weeks later I received notification from my company saying that we were making the product for that event.  Those kids got them for free.  If they had come in with only two weeks to go, I would have taken their money (at first they were just going to do the 15 dozen for half price).

7.  In Person–I would always recommend going to the place you are looking for a donation in person.  Sometimes though, a phone call is acceptable.  The same rules apply for phone calls.  Do not be upset if you are put on hold for a few minutes.  Also, most likely the manager will have you come in anyway to fill out the paperwork.  Accounting departments love paperwork, you are not getting out of it.

8.  No Mail–do not send the business a letter.  I especially hate letters that say something like this “last year you donated…and we would be happy if you could do so again. Enclosed is our organization’s letterhead for the event.”  Umm, what?  Yes, it was tough stuffing those envelopes and licking the stamps.  Get real.  Go out and network with people.  Also if you insist on doing this, include a return envelope with the postage paid.

9.  Thank You–once you have your donation, thank the person.  Take their business card and once the event is over, send them a thank you card.  Try to be specific in the card, “thank you for your donation of the 32″ flat-screen television.  We were able to raffle that off, which helped raise $1231 for our cheerleading squad to go to Manitoba for the North American Cheer Competition in 2018!”  A generic note saying “thanks for the donation” makes us feel like it was not even noticed or appreciated.

So those are just a few helpful tips when you are seeking out a donation.  I hope you stop by my restaurant and allow us to help you with your event.