Different Viewpoint – Small Businesses: What Is It Like to Be Asked for Donations

One common way of fundraising is asking local small businesses for donations of gifts and services, often in the form of vouchers. Small businesses are a great source of support and it is easy to think that businesses can afford to help their schools and sports clubs and that it is all ‘free advertising’ for them. But keep in mind, that your school and club probably is not the only group asking for donations and handouts.

A local business kindly offered this advice and preferred not to be named, as they are already approached for donations hundreds of times every year.

  • We own a small supermarket and we are normally asked to donate something almost every day!
  • We are approached in person, on the telephone, and in writing via either letter or email.
  • Our business is approached by every organisation you can imagine. Local schools, sporting clubs, charities, personal fundraising to go on trips for sport and charity events, non-profit organisations, University clubs and sporting teams, Rotary etc. What they ask for will vary – some want a cash donation to sponsor an event, others ask for store vouchers. We are asked to supply items at cost* for events such as sausage sizzles as well as donations of items to sell at events and raffle prizes such as hampers and coffee machines.
  • Every day we provide day-old bread, out-of-code items and items with damaged packaging to St. Patrick’s and OzHarvest which they come and pick up.
  • We try to limit our donations to local schools and organisations, but we also support our regular customers if they are involved with a certain charity.
  • In summer our small business provides all the supplies for a sausage sizzle (sausages, rolls, onions, sauce, drinks, napkins, ice) to at least two to four organisations per weekend, and we always provide this at cost. We will often also donate one of the items completely free of charge such as the sausages.
  • Sausage sizzles slow down in winter but we still provide for a couple every month. We also give donations for other school events and canteens at cost. This is still a donation as we do not make any profit on the items, and we aren’t charging for our freight/delivery costs and for the staff time it takes preparing the orders.
  • As a small business we don’t often give cash donations but we do provide $100 in-store vouchers for events such as school quiz nights and raffles as well as donating at least one or two hampers per month which are usually valued at around $100 – $150.
  • We also have our community chest fund through IGA which we use to provide larger donations. This is usually for a major school function or building project. This involves a complex process through IGA where we accumulate money into our community chest fund by selling certain products. There are strict guidelines governing how we can distribute this money, but we try to mix it up so we are donating to different schools and clubs each year.
  • We don’t have a set policy regarding donations as we are a family run business – we just decide at the time what we can and can’t do!! We make sure though, that we always provide items to local schools for their functions at cost.
  • We do not ask or expect anything in return for donations. We have a banner which the schools often display at their events and we often receive a thank you letter or certificate.
  • My advice for anyone approaching companies for donations is to stick to your local small businesses and approach them in person with some written information about the event and what you are asking for. This makes it easier for small businesses to take away and look at, so they can remember who is who, and who wants what. It is also important to remember if they are a small business your donation may be their profit for the day so don’t get offended if the answer is no.”

*at cost means the business sells you the product at the same price they paid the wholesaler or manufacturer. This means they make zero profit.

Author: Shannon Meyerkort

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