Late autumn is a popular time for charity fundraisers as the holiday season approaches. Event organizers are contacting businesses, seeking monetary donations, prizes, gift certificates and sponsorships to help ensure a successful fundraising effort. Fortunately there are many reputable companies that generously support worthy causes.
Sadly, the Better Business Bureau receives reports, from time to time, of businesses that do not follow through on their promised contribution, thereby spoiling the special event and dishonoring the spirit of giving. Sometimes a silent auction item is not honored when the recipient attempts to claim the prize from the business. Or, a financial sponsorship does not get paid, even though advertising and donor recognition was provided by the charity. In another case, the company failed to provide its contributed services on the day of the event.
Such experiences, whether they involve miscommunication between the two parties or the rare instance in which a company has gone out of business, create ill will. They can also result in negative "publicity" for both the charity and the business.
The BBB offers tips for charity fundraisers to lessen the chance of an unfortunate outcome. Before approaching businesses for sponsorships or other support:
- Develop a “guide to giving” statement that outlines what is expected of the relationship. The statement should state both parties' responsibilities, include timelines and specific expectations. Include the name, telephone number and e-mail address of the company contact person, as well as contact information for your organization.
- Ask the company about expiration dates, where applicable, and have them posted on the prize or gift certificate. This will avoid conflict later when the recipient attempts to use the certificate.
- Ask the donor for a convenient time to pick up the prize and whom to talk to. Inform the business who from your organization will pick up the prize, and have them bring identification.
- Outline specifically what type of advertising or in-kind donation will be awarded to the company for its contribution. Send a copy of the advertisement or recognition to the contact person and the president or owner of the company.
- Send a thank you letter after the event. Recognizing the positive relationship you had with the company is good business, for both parties.
Finally, remember to check the company's reputation with the BBB before establishing a relationship or accepting a contribution. While a BBB report does not offer guarantees, it will give you a general idea of the company's overall reputation, customer experience and membership status.