Overcome donation request fatigue

This winter: the donations are coming!

One day last week I was driving home in the rain.  I looked out the window and saw a middle-aged guy jogging down the sidewalk wearing a distinctive striped hoody.  I recognized the hoody.  I had just made the donation a day before!

I donated the hoody and other merchandise to local students for a silent auction benefiting their class trip.  So, either someone else happened to have the exact same discontinued Stormtech hoody or the student’s dad had co-opted it.  

Whether you’re a big business or small, you get asked for donations.  Community groups rely on donations to run silent auctions, give door prizing and overall raise money for worthwhile projects.  How can community groups overcome donation request fatigue?  For donors, what is reasonable to expect in the way of recognition?  Is it okay for someone to take your donation and use it for another purpose?

Honestly, we don’t care if the jogging dad took the hoody.  He may have given his daughter a cash donation for it, thereby pre-buying the auction item.  We have a large surplus of brand new showroom samples that we give away.  We don’t really care how it gets used once it leaves our office.  We do expect donations get used “in the spirit of” the request.

We do have some simple preferences for recognition, though.  It is astounding how seldom donation recipients bother with these: 

Wish #1: Formal or semi-formal thanks.  Write us a letter.  Write an email.  Make it personal. Or, make it quick and impersonal.  Either way, just put down in words your appreciation for the donation.  We just want to know you got the goods and they went to good use!

Pro tip: share a little about how the donation was used — how much funds were raised?  A local marine interpretive centre held a fundraiser last year.  We gladly donated a brand-new, tags-on Marine Survival Jacket.  Retail value north of $400.  And what did I hear after?  Bupkis.  Zip, zilch, nothing.  Again, we just wished to know that item was useful and raised some money.

Wish #2: This one is easy.  Recognize us on social media.  Take some pictures! Post them and tag us (for those wondering, our accounts are @pattersonbrands).  This is worth its weight in gold.  Your networks will see us doing good in the community.  And, others in the community can see that we are willing and able to help.  

Pro tip: A great social media post will thank us and recognize us all at once, so you can combine both wishes above! 

Awaiting donations to animal shelter

Hearts melting with this cute dog

Wish #3: Issue a tax receipt.  If you have legal charitable status in your jurisdiction you can issue tax receipts.  In most jurisdictions it should not be onerous to do so, other than the time to prepare. But to a small biz it makes a great difference.  One less dollar we have to pay in taxes every year helps.  If you don’t know the value of the donation, use a web search for similar products to establish a suggested retail price.  

Wish #4: we like to donate to causes close to our heart.  Youth. Animal shelters.  Less fortunate.  Small business growth and support.  We really like how Pennsylvania’s Tired Hands Brewing makes their approved charities crystal clear.  

Less than half of our donations result in any formal or informal recognition or thanks.   Not great results community — you can and should do better!  Good luck overcoming Donation Request Fatigue.  Please do comment below with your opinions on recognition and usage.  What are reasonable expectations?

– rich patterson

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