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10 Rules for Asking a Small Business to Support Your Cause

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Nobody wants to talk about this. I don’t want to talk about this, but as Glennon Doyle says, “We can do hard things.”

Before we discuss the do’s and don’ts of asking a small business to support your cause, let’s establish givens:

A. I love my community.

B. I am a giver by nature, so it’s tough to say no.

I think it’s pretty safe to say many small business owners are similar to me in those traits.

I run a small local business and we have seen some success. As with many businesses, there is bit of disconnect with regard to how great the public thinks we are doing versus how great my book keeper thinks we are doing;)

We participate in many events that support our community and important causes. Many of these we began supporting the year we started business. They are “grand-fathered in” so to speak.  If all we did was continue with these causes, I believe we’d be doing our fair share.

That said, events keep coming, people are always raising money for their team or their cause, and that is a beautiful thing. Because of this, we are asked multiple times each week to support various meaningful causes. It is difficult for me, who is inherently a giver, to say no. It’s also silly to say yes, as my book keeper and I see the bottom line and need to accept that this is a business, not a non-profit.

With that conundrum in mind, I think some rules for asking a small business to support a cause are in order, so if I were the rule-maker, here’s what I’d propose:

  • Don’t get offended by a no.

It’s not personal and it’s certainly not that we don’t think you have a worthy cause. We simply cannot support every cause or person.

  • If there is a form to fill out to request something, please use it.

Sometimes there are decisions to be made between selecting one thing over the other to support, it’s easier on the ones making the choices to have the same information from each organization, and a provided form makes that possible.

  • Ask nicely, without expectation.

A note attached to the form or a text message or email that says, “I’ve submitted a request online for some help for something, just want to give you the heads up. We love your business and thanks for considering.”

  • Be a client or customer.

If you have never bought our goods or used our services, please do not ask us to donate to your cause.

  • Tell us what’s in it for us.

I know that seems shallow, but we are a business, hopefully there is some way our support will translate into a bit of marketing for our company, and if there’s nothing in it for us, be real about it.

  • Don’t be offended by a lack of response to a request.

Our business is small, yet I could hire someone with the sole job of charitable giving coordinator and they could work 20 hours a week. Small business owners typically are juggling many roles in their companies, if they don’t respond please realize it’s a time thing, not a lack of care or concern for you or your cause.

  • Make it easy for us to give.

Offer to pick up, accept something via email, etc. Don’t make us have to do additional work to support your cause.

  • Share about your event socially, and tag us or take a photo with our product or donation.

Social media is everyone’s go-to. It keeps our business top of mind. We benefit from every positive post about our business.

  • Let us know how it went.

Keep us involved. Let us know afterwards how your event went, how much money you raised, the reaction of the person who got our prize, etc. Otherwise it feels like we’ve thrown something into an abyss.

  • Say Thank you.

Last, but maybe most important, please say thanks. Send an email, write out a card, mail a photo of the event with a note scribbled on the back. I have some plaques on my wall, and as nice as they are, they are NOT necessary, an email is perfect. A hand-written card is gold.  Nothing makes me less inspired to support a person’s event than zero recollection of our support being appreciated.

Okay, that’s my list, but I bet my fellow business owners have other things that are important to them when it comes to charitable giving. I invite them to chime in. Meanwhile, next time you ask a small business for help with a cause you are supporting, please consider the things I’ve mentioned, and assume the best: we want to help everyone, we simply can’t.