Sponsorships, donations

“Has anyone ever donated something to a charity event or local show as your business? I’ve been approached asking if I can provide anything for a raffle prize at a local fundraiser, but I can’t really afford to keep giving out a free photoshoot (as I’ve done in the past).”

I believe in supporting the industry that supports you, and so giving back to your particular community in the forms of donations, sponsorships, in kind donations is a great way to do that.

The only problem is, as a small business owner who is active in your community, you can be inundated with requests from committees and supporters looking for help. So where do you draw the line?  Here are my tips for balancing giving back and looking after your business.

In a super practical sense, I recommend you put structure around what your business can and can’t do to give back to your community. The simplest way to do this is to set a budget.

Read pretty much any business book and the concept of giving away or tithing 5-10% of your income is fairly common. When you are just starting out though, that 5-10% figure might be more than you are pocketing yourself!

So where do we start?

Someone once said that the “best way to help the poor is to not be poor yourself.” So let’s get your business out of survival mode and heading into prosperity as quickly as possible. Then, when you have a more consistent income and more reliable forecast, you are able to be more generous with your cash (which in reality is what a lot of these organisations really need) and also with your time.

Sure, you can hand out vouchers and discount off vouchers, but the value to the recipient of these is often low. (hence why so few vouchers handed out as prizes are actually ever redeemed)

My main recommendation if you are starting out in your business or more established is to plan as part of your annual budget, a chunk of that budget to be allocated to giving back. Be it in time, cash or products- set a target of what you know you can give without putting your business (or the meals on your family’s table) under strain.

It’s the old analogy of “putting on your oxygen mask first”.

You can’t help anyone else if you can’t help yourself. So many people get caught trying to jump ahead in their business life cycle and sacrifice too much for the causes they believe in.

It’s a fine line- but you only need to look at entrepreneurs like Branson and Gates and superstars like George Clooney. They have built their own successful empires and are now able to freely and willingly throw themselves behind organisations and causes that they are passionate about, and help bring real change.

We’re all a bit smaller than those guys, but it doesn’t mean we can’t also help on our own smaller scale.

Just because you have the privilege of working in your own business, it does not bring the obligation to say yes to every request that comes through your door.

Know what you can give, know how you can give it, and look for causes and events that align with your values. Don’t simply choose them on PR and Marketing value alone, choose them because it makes you happy. And when you find yourself in a situation where you need to say no, say it with grace, with strength and invite them to ask again next year.

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Written by Anita Marchesani
I've come to small business the long way round- but enjoyed and learned from every single step. I learned about the power of Media during a BA and while working in Film&TV. I learned about the hard graft while groom for an international eventer in the UK. I learned organisation and staff management from running hundreds of weddings both here and in the UK. I learned from the mistakes of my first business that failed, to create an e-commerce success story, and now I'm here to help you have even greater success in your business. Oh, and I dance to really loud music like a crazy bastard.