A few weeks back my wife wanted a steak. I suggested [restaurant X]. We had gone there 10 years ago and it was great. She said no.
Since that visit she had called them, soliciting a donation for a charity event. They indicated they would love to help and kept telling her to “check back next week,” again and again. After being put off several times, she concluded there would be no donation.
In St. Louis, trivia night season is heating up. Charity golf tournaments and walks/runs are being organized. Gala committees are being chosen. And bars and restaurants are being hit on mercilessly for donations. What to do?
Based on my experience as both a donation solicitor for various organizations and as a PR rep for restaurants, here are some suggestions regarding charity donations.
For restaurant and bar owners:
- Give if you can. Giving back to the community that supports you is a good thing to do.
- Be selective. You can’t give a gift certificate to everyone who asks. You may have to turn down friends, family, neighbors, vendors etc. If you cannot make a donation, say clearly, “No, we’re sorry.”
- Be aware that your donation may end up on a silent auction sheet in a far corner or maybe paired with a competitor’s donation in a gift basket.
- Consider making a donation that requires the user to spend at least a little bit of money at your place. If dinner + drinks for 2 runs 80 bucks, you might give a 40 dollar gift card.
- If you donate to a church/school/charity, it’s likely that this group will expect you to make the same donation next year.
- Your donation to a charity event is not a good form of advertising, even if you get a half page ad in the auction booklet.
- If your donation is particularly generous, you may want to specify that it may not be redeemed on Fridays or Saturdays.
- If you are unfamiliar with the organization, ask the person asking for a donation to send all the details in an email.
- Don’t be shy. Call and ask. Be nice.
- If you receive a 25 dollar gift card, don’t say, “Is that all you can give?” Restaurants may not be as prosperous as you think. Many have a much smaller annual budget than your charity/school/church and the restaurant owner may be taking home much less money each week than your executive director/headmaster/senior pastor/etc.
- If your organization is given 200 dollars worth of certificates and you misplace them, don’t call the restaurant and ask them to replace them. (A certain local organization actually did that.)
- If a restaurant says, “Yes, we can help,” make an effort to pick up the donation in person as soon as possible. Unless they offer, don’t say, “Can you just mail it to me?”
- Realize that just because a restaurant owner gave your group a chef’s dinner for 4 last year, this does not mean that he or she can or will do it again this year.
- Don’t solicit a generous gift card contribution for your golf tournament from an independent liquor retailer and then go buy all your beer from a grocery chain. (A certain local organization actually did that.)
- Be patient. Soliciting donations can take a while. Don’t call during busy service times. Ask for the best time to speak to the decision maker and follow up at that time.
- Don’t take it personally if the restaurant does not make a donation. They don’t owe anything to you or your organization. Be gracious. They may be able to help next time.
- Most importantly, remember to thank your donors for their gifts, large or small. Without their help, your event would be less successful.