We have a tight sales budget, but there are times when a client requests we donate our products for a cause they are supporting. How do I approach management for approval of these donation requests? – Patty in Bethesda, MD
Every business has a responsibility to be a good partner in the community. This responsibility is demonstrated by actions, which can include sustainable business practices, creating an ethical employment environment, and donating money, products, or services to social causes and nonprofits. These donations should be included in the company budget.
Best practices for allocating budget to charitable donations comprise alignment of your business and giving objectives, providing opportunities for the company and employees to volunteer, and celebrating the attainment of the company’s giving goals. If your organization does not already have a process for nominating or requesting charitable opportunities, now is the time to propose a framework. It is a leadership moment for you to help create and implement a citizenship and social responsibility strategy.
Think of this charitable solicitation from your customer as an RFP (Request for Proposal). Then handle it accordingly. Your request should include information about the client, cause, and donation requested.
For the client, include answers to the following:
- Are they a prospect, emerging, or long-term customer?
- What type of volume do they have with your firm?
- Which way is their business trending with your organization?
- What type of relationship do you have with the client?
- What does the competitive landscape look like in regards to this specific customer?
Finally, include a brief statement of the donation value for the client relational capital.
Next, provide information about the cause or purpose. Start with facts and figures for any other charitable donations you have made on behalf of the client or organization, of which you are aware, in the past year. This is important information for your business executives to evaluate when allocating funds. Then provide exact information about the specific beneficiary of the donation. For example, your organization is a lumber mill, and the request is for stringers for a Habitat for Humanity project in your community.
The final part of the charitable RFP structure is information about the product or donation requested. Assuming it is a product, what is the value of product? What is the quantity requested? Are there any outside costs you will incur to support the donation, such as materials or contractors? Depending upon the product value, you may need to clarify with your client if your company will receive the appropriate documentation required to claim a charitable donation.
Once you have assembled your data, prepare a bullet point overview of the request, and set a time to speak with your manager. It’s exactly the same as asking your customer to close a sale. How you present the opportunity directly impacts the success of your request. Follow the four Bs: be prepared, be inspired, be brief, and be gone. Make it as easy as possible for your manager to say “yes.”
By following this three-step method and conducting the process as an RFP, you will be doing your part to act with integrity and social responsibility. This is an opportunity for your organization to give back, and to demonstrate your commitment to being a good citizen to your customers and community.
- Working Paper from Harvard Business School: “Why Every Company Needs a CSR Strategy and How to Build It”
Lynn Whitbeck is the co-founder and President of Petite2Queen. She is focused on identifying and evaluating opportunities for women at work, helping them define their personal roadmap. She dedicates herself to delivering tools and insights, embracing visualization of the big picture, and identifying and implementing the minutiae of detail. Lynn aims to share lessons learned along her journey and enable positive uplift for women.