I actually had a different Shop Talk lined up for today, but then something very odd happened over the weekend. Something that has never happened to us in nearly 10 years of Merci Beaucoup. We had a charity auction turn down our donation. *insert head scratching here*
Since I know you want to know, the story begins with Reva being approached to donate to a charity auction (to remain nameless you nosey cakers!). Nothing new, happens all the time, and in this instance we really wanted to donate a very personal experience over just a gift certificate. So, we offered a private, in-home decorating class for four (4) people where we'd supply everything needed and Reva would teach them to decorate their own cake. By the end, each person would walk away with their own "cakesterpiece" to take home, plus you know, tote bags and buttons and stuff. A very private class with a TV chef. If someone approached us to do this, the price tag would be close to $2000.
The charity rep loved it, and for a week or so, I began prepping the presentation items they would need on the night of the auction to entice bidders. The person in charge of the auction however, hated it. With a subtle form of "snootyness," she informed us it was basically too low rent for the rich women who'd be at this auction. "They don't want a class." What was the auction managers mistake here? Well, first, don't backhand insult Reva, you'll lose. She devalued Reva's time and experience by implying it wasn't good enough for her auction and, going all the way back to our original Shop Talk on Pricing, you know you need to value your time! But her major mistake was she couldn't wrap her mind around a great experience that, given to them for free, would've generated money for their cause. Regardless of how "low rent" her opinion of it was, I can guarantee it would've brought in bids. Nope, she wanted a cake, cause it was easier for her to understand and so she approached our offer in a negative way in order to essentially bully us into giving her what she wanted. It was a poor negotiating tactic and well, it failed.
The thing is, we've done cakes for auctions and frankly, they don't bring in a lot of money. Any potential bidders have to need a cake for something, so you immediately exclude a good chunk of the people in the room. An in-home class with a TV personality? That is a mini party for you and your friends (you know there'd be wine!) or maybe for your daughter who wants to go to culinary school and can be had at anytime of the year for any reason you'd like. It's its own reason really! It's an experience and you know what rich people love? Experiences.
But why you ask didn't we just cave and give her a cake? We are trying to position ourselves as educators. It's becoming a big part of our future business plans which will include books, videos, and of course, classes. It would be good for us to market our classes to this group and therefore, would make our donation valuable to everyone. The "just a cake" request didn't fit the "donation equation."
The "donation equation" derives from the three basic reasons to donate your talents to a charity.
- Emotional Connection
Now, of course there are reasons that fall under just being a human being, but as a business, these are the factors you need to look at when evaluating your participation in an event. It's not unlike viewing a consultation with a bride as a two way street; the fit for you and the charity should be good for both sides. Let's work backwards.
This is so obvious, do I really need to elaborate? As your business grows, it is a smart idea to bulk up your tax deductions with charitable contributions. Different gifts reap different results come tax form time, so consult with your accountant for the best results. Large companies, the Apples etc., set up foundations and give big financial gifts, but as a small bakery, events like a charity function or auction will be your primary opportunity for donations. Usually, these groups are on the ball and will send you a receipt or some type of statement showing your contribution. This will be your paperwork to back up your deduction. If time passes and they haven't sent you anything, do not feel bad about making that call to get the paperwork you're entitled to. After all, they need to do that paperwork to get their own ducks in a row, so even thought they're a charity, they're also a business and you two have done business together. Be benevolent, but also be professional.
We all have our causes, issues that have touched our lives in one way or another. Find those charities that align with your own values and you will definitely feel a lot more fulfillment from your involvement. Whether they reach out to you or you send an inquiry letter to them, helping out a cause you support is a great way to build your donation equation. But you also need to make sure it's the proverbial good fit. Donating 500 cupcakes for a dinner gala to benefit diabetes research might not have the desired effect. Desserts are celebratory in nature, so somber events can also be a tricky mix. The emotional connection is good, but it can also blind you to what's best for your business and your professional reputation. Choose wisely even when being led by your heart.
Advertising is all about reaching your target audience. It's why Budweiser spends so much money putting ads up in football stadiums. They get to blast a concentrated section of their target audience all at once. The classic, more bang for your buck scenario! Your donation will be a calling card to a specific group of people that you would like to impress. It can be a tasting for hundreds of people, all in the course of a few hours. If they have a program with your name, even better! Hang a banner or two at the event? Of course!! Charity donations are an opportunity to earn new clients, one not to be squandered. You're spending some money, but getting a tax deduction, getting some good karma points AND you get to advertise! Win, win, win! That is a lot of bang for your buck and, as have some of the charities we've worked with, sometimes you get cool plaques or thank you letters you can hang in your store which turns that good work into more positive marketing for everyone who enters you business. That's like four wins now! Win, win, win, win!!
Our donation denial this week fit all three of these reasons, but the counter offer did not. I mean, I can't tell you how to value each set of reasons, but I would guess two out of three would be a good start! At this time, in this situation, a cake just isn't the right donation for us. Stepping back and evaluating each opportunity will be key to a successful course of charity work in your business.
I'm sure I didn't need to convince you that giving to charity is a good thing. I did want to emphasize how it can affect your business. As far as what you decide to donate, we could go on for days. Use your imagination though and think of new ways to maximize your gift. It could be as simple as individually wrapping cookies and placing a business card in each one (or a coupon?) or offering to stay at the event to cut the cake so you can shake hands with the guests and get some face time with all those happy, potential clients. Obviously, we have a certain vision at this point in our lives, so we developed a specific gift to meet those goals for the unnamed charity above. Gift certificates, desserts for an event, a wedding cake, whatever you think you can provide that will be of benefit to the cause should be appreciated. "Should be appreciated," he mumbles in a mildly bitter tone. And if you need to turn it down, you need to turn it down. There's always a next time and there's always a nice way to remind the charity that they should remind you about the next time;)
Basically, donations are awesome, but don't get taken advantage of just because the person asking/telling you has a colorful ribbon on their lapel. You're the professional, you know what you can offer that's of value to both sides and you shouldn't be afraid to assert your position. A simple, "I'd really love to help out, but I'm not sure I can make that happen" will diffuse most situations.... "most" he mumbles bitterly. Be flexible when you can, but donate on your terms to best serve your business. Now, get out there and give till it hurts... or rather, till you can feel a non threatening tinge in your bones that is in line with your business plan!! I really need to work on my slogans.
Next week on Shop Talk, we're gonna get all "hippie" on ya!