Party Perfect: Dealing with donation requests
09/27/2013

How to handle organizations with aplomb

 

Donation requests are an interesting beast within the rental industry. The general public views the equipment that we have as something that is sitting around and it would be easy for us to just let them use it. The donation requests seem to come in waves
and they are both large and small. In the past, we struggled to decide what we would donate and how we would limit the donations. Fielding the phone calls and going through the requests became a real task. We knew that we needed to set some parameters for ourselves and our staff members.

The first decision that we made was that we needed to put a total dollar amount limit on our donations per year. Because our company is a family business, we decided that each family member involved would have a donation budget of their own to work from without
any questions from anyone else. We also decided that our staff members needed a donation budget to work from. We set our
total dollar amount for the year at $2,000 and our staff members’ total dollar amount at $1,500. Once each of these amounts is exceeded, there is no more for the year. A verbal donation request can simply be told, “I’m sorry, I don’t have anything left in my donation budget for this year.”

From there, we put together a donation request form that we would make available on our website and in print, so that our showroom staff members could give it to people. There are thousands of examples on the Internet and we simply cut and pasted from a few. On the form, we made sure that all of the vital information was asked, including contact name, organization, date, location and items requested. We ask all that request a donation to complete our form.

This time of the year, with back to school, it seems as if organizations and schools are coming out of the woodwork to ask for donations. During one week in August, we received seven requests — that’s more than one per business day.

We had to set a few internal rules on these requests, so we enlisted our staff members to help with those rules. As a group, we decided to not donate labor — setup and teardown of items — or delivery and pickup of items, and that we would request recognition for our donation. To eliminate last-minute requests, we also put a timeframe that the request must be made at least 28 days prior to the event to receive consideration.

Once we have reviewed a donation request and decide that we are going to grant it, we contact the organization directly to review their needs with them. We also have a donation decline letter. We feel that it is very important to follow up with not only those that we can help out, but those that we cannot. You never know if that person who is doing the requesting is going to be getting married soon or will leave that job and move on to a company to plan corporate events.

We make sure that those organizations that we cannot help this year know that their request was carefully considered, but that the requests we receive each year for assistance far exceed our funding capabilities. We have found that sharing with organizations the fact that we have an actual budget to work from is something that they can understand and appreciate.

We also have evolved over the last couple of years with our granting of donations. We no longer donate 100 percent of what is requested by an organization. We have found that generally speaking, most of those that are doing the asking are very happy with a percentage off instead of all items being donated. We approach this in the manner that we can cover more organizations and causes with the same amount of donation budget.

It’s very important to us as a family business to give back to our community. It’s also very important to us as a family business to make sure that our business side is not overshadowed by the desire to help our community. It would do no one any good to donate yourself right out of business.

Debbie Stumph, CERP, is partner/general manager of Herriott’s Rents Tents Events, Champaign, Ill. She can be reached at 217-356-9713 or deb@herriotts.com.