To donate or not to donate?

Sponsorship tips4 April 2014

Go on – give it: how many times a week do you receive requests for sponsorships and donations?

How often do you feel bad about saying no?

How often do you just ignore them in the hope they’ll just go away? How often do you say yes…but regret it? I hear you.

You’d like to support them all, but you can’t. How do you choose? If you want to change how you respond to such requests, see success in the ones you agree to, and feel less of a meanie when you say no, then read on…

Here are five pointers to help you see how you can feel better about your responses to the tsunami of requests for financial support that flood your in-box.

1. Understand the difference between donations, sponsorships and community fundraising ‘tickets’.

Donations are voluntary and unconditional – you’re not supposed to expect anything in return except a warm and fuzzy feeling and a receipt to claim it on your tax. Big donations can attract lovely PR attention, but that should be a bonus, not the reason for your generosity. You pay an organisation to do good work on your behalf, but you don’t get to tell them how to do it.

Sponsorships are commercial arrangements: you provide financial and other types of support in return for benefits for your business. Such kickbacks can include visual brand exposure (your logo here, here, here and here); direct access to your key target audiences at networking events; opportunities to give your target market a taste of your product or service; or free advertising on websites.

Fundraising events involving entry or meal tickets are great for team building and staff morale (as well as for the cause receiving the proceeds). An experience is gained in return, so the fees are not tax deductible. Tickets in raffles and art unions are also non-tax deductible because you’re purchasing a chance.

2. Align your donations and sponsorships only with causes and activities that connect clearly with your line of business, your customers’ interests, and your company values.

Sponsoring the local under-8s soccer team might make you feel like a champion and keep a staff member happy, but there’s no clear ROI if your target customers in the biotechnology sector never watch the games and see the jerseys with your logo on them.

Give the club money if you like, but don’t expect a change to your bottom line. If you manufacture men’s underwear, donating to causes that combat men’s cancers is a better fit than an animal shelter – from a PR and brand positioning perspective at least.

3. Include funds for sponsorships, donations and community fundraising in your budget.

When you’re asked for support, you can look in the kitty and see what you can afford to give. You might match staff donations to the cause, dollar-for-dollar. You could choose one charity each year to support or a different one each month, based on a percentage of your profit. You might find that the returns on sponsorship outshine the cost of other marketing activities, like press ads and web banners.

4. Be clear about what your business can, will and won’t support – write it down and adopt it as policy.

When you have decided on the types of activities and causes your company will support, and all your staff know what they are, saying yes is easier and saying no is less embarrassing.

You can point to your official community engagement guidelines and the selection criteria to either a) justify your decision in favour or b) explain why the sponsorship proposal or donation request could not be fulfilled.

Include how sponsorship, donation and community engagement requests are to be handled in your business processes – knowing what has to be done and by whom takes away a lot of the stress, too.

5. Be proactive.

Identify which charities and industry or community activities are going to make your business look good and your people feel great, then approach them with your ideas about how you can help them for mutual benefit. When you’re on the front foot you feel like you are moving forward and in control, not defending yourself or feeling backed into a corner.

So, the answer to “Do I or don’t I donate?” is… “Sometimes I do and sometimes I sponsor instead. But I always give something back to my community and my customers.”

Want better outcomes from your sponsorships? Presence can help with effective strategies for managing meaningful community engagement. Contact Leanne on 0439 534355 to talk about the possibilities.