New Trend in Local Fundraising?

KL Smith

CGF II, Certified Grumble Framer Level 2
Jun 18, 2005
Jordan Village, ON, Canada
Here I go again... grumble, grumble grumble...

This seems to be donation season around here. For the last couple of weeks we are getting hit every couple of days to sponsor this, that and the other.

What's new this year is a tactic that really bugs me.

It goes like this:

They come in and give me the speech. We have placed and ad, donated, or otherwise shelled out to their organization in the past and they are here to pick up this year's donation. It is assumed that you will continue to give no matter that every business in town is hurting lately. Some even have the invoice printed out before they come in!

The kicker is, when I ask them when they have to know your decision by, it is always within 4 to 24 hours from now. In other words, they are putting you on the spot and I don't like being put on the spot like that.

Are you folks seeing the same thing?

Another real contentious issue with a lot of the business people here is the fact that the only time you ever see these people in your store is when they are looking for something from you. One guy even came in collecting for some cause and began by saying, "Well it must be April again, because I'm back collecting again." In other words, the only time he'll grace my doorstep is when he's collecting. Yeah, sign me up right away...

I've now taken to greeting them with, "Oh it's nice to see you again. I haven't seen you since you were in here collecting last year." That seems to fly right over their heads. Oh well.

Grumble, grumble, grumble...
I tell them that I established a budget in December. Since you did not make a request then, my budget is spoken for by other organizations.
It happens here too. Seems artists and art galleries are asked for donations of art for auctions, etc. The one difference for me is that it seems to be all year, not just spring. We have surplus prints we use for donations like this. But I'm also not afraid to tell people that I appreciate what they're doing, but I'm not able to assist them. It is DEFINITELY low class to show up needing a donation NOW.
I established a policy early on ... no merchandise, no cash.

I give gift certificates for custom framing only with a one year expiration on them for auctions and raffles.

That's it.

Attendees see my donation so some advertising, and if it gets redeemed, I basically get a discounted order and have gotten a "new" (usually) customer in the door.

And, yes, I have a few I only see once a year! sigh
More than 20 years ago we faced this situation. Can't afford them all - neither cost or the time involved. Can't afford to look bad in some instances either. So we chose a charity and a civic group to sponsor. We chose who to sponsor by looking across our sales counter. We sponsored at a level where we showed up clearly to our community. We have received awards for these sponsorships which we show off widely. We have stayed with these 2 groups for all these years. We are well known as sponsors for these 2 groups - well enough known that most others don't even ask us and those that ask are told our story and where our budget goes. It's easy to say NO when you can show you are doing your civic duty.
Bandsaw is right.

We donate regularly to a few, specific charities or causes (local police, fire dept, Breast Cancer Alliance, to name a few) and we stick with those.
I finally took Cliff's advice and do the gift certificate donation. Works real well, although sometimes you get a weird look from those wanting something for their "silent auction".

What really gets my goat are the ones that say "You supported us last year so we figure you would like to paricipate again!". And then check with my partner (just a two person shop) and come to find out we never did anything for them in the past! Just a way to make you think you might as well donate again. I've caught several, usually outside entities, doing this. :mad:

The pre-printed % off gift certificate is a no brainer...

Thanks Cliff!
I took my accountant's advise and started with the gift certificates a couple of years ago. It works really well for us because the person coming back in to redeem the certificate spends more than it's value. Show this new customer what you can do and you generally have a repeat customer.

We started something this last year....

We make a donation "our choice whether its a GC or a frame or framed piece thats been on and off our walls for the last 8 years..";

BUT, we make the donation after we have done work for the person asking for the donation. So if it's a mom asking for her daughters school... we want to frame the school pictures of her daughter, and more.

One woman balked, and so I simply asked "how do you personally know that we do good work, unless we have done work for you?"... She has since become a good customer.

But it stopped about half of the requests.

We had the Senior girls come in for us to run an ad in their school annual. [a real cash outlay].

"Do you girls have your senior pictures back yet?"

"Well, yeah."

"Great, when 6 of you girls come in here and buy a nice photo frame and have us put that 8x10 in it for your moms, then we will be glad to buy a 1/8 page ad."

Two girls have come back in with their photos.
We have all sorts asking us for donations for raffles etc etc. But I'm all for helping out - selectively.

We restrict ourselves to 2 primary schools one local children's hospice and a golf club that does a LOT for charity. Oh, and an allotment society!

We recently, no-expense-spared, framed a print signed by Tiger Woods and the tube it came in, which had a picture of the same print on it, signed by A.N.Other famous golfer don't ask me his name - I hate golf - rather watch paint dry!

They got auctioned for the same childrens' hospice we support and they went for £2,500 and £1,500 respectively. (About £4350 and $2610)

So we don't like the snotty looks we get when we politely decline others whilst pointing to the framed 'thank you' letters from these people and explaining that we have to draw a line, and that our line is quite generous.
Then there's the phone scams -

"Blah blah blah drug abuse blah blah blah, sexual abuse blah blah blah magazine ditributed in schools blah blah blah, display advert in said magazine, blah blah ..... you've heard of 'KIDS IN NEED of course, blah blah blah..

(Of course I've heard of 'Kids in Need')

Blah blah blah ..... Blah blah freakin' even hear the pages turning - blah blah blah freakin --- BLAH...."

(Hang on - that should be CHILDREN in need)

"OY - STOOOOOP - hang on, NO - I have not heard of KIDS in need, can I have your address please"

Missing Children Campaign - Radio spot...says this is not an advertisement, but a supportive campaign...$350 for a one-time spot. NOT!

What I get is "The previous owner donated to our campaign....."
"The previous owner always donated 26 different-colored mats for these posters for the auction...and we need them by Friday..."
"The previous owner always gave us a discount..."
"The previous owner..." ARGH!...

We're just coming to the end of donation season. There are 2, one in the spring and one in early fall. The fall one is worse because it's also all the school stuff.

I've just recently decided that during both times it pays to take a little well earned break and have employees who can say "I'll let the owner know." Then I can selectively mail out gift certificates. When you're standing there surrounded by pretty pictures and gift items they just don't like the idea of a gift certificate as much.

I've also found that I've never given anything to a ton of folks who ask me to reproduce last years offering. No prob!
Many of you know we have a 14-yr old with multiple disabilities. Because of him, we are very active in, and serve on the board of, a few non-profits dealing with cerebral palsy, a summer camp run by the local university for children with disabilities, and a non profit that provides employment and "day care" for adults with disabilities--where he will go in a few years.

So these are the three-and there are two more--we support HEAVILY> this does several things:

1) we simply say 'no" to all the others
2) This means we can provide a better and higher quality auction or contribution to those charities we are passionate about
3) because we give a higher quality item for the auctions and dinner events--and spend more money on advertising in their programs--we have better exposure.

We do NOT give the junk that's been hanging around for years. We donate prints or canvases framed in high grade LJ or Roma, with fillets, etc etc etc.

A byproduct of these donations is an increase in sales. But, more importatnly for us, we're also helping to raise money for causes that are of intimate interest to us.

Bottom line: if you feel the nonprofit benefits a portion of society for whom you feel deeply, then give to them and exclude the rest.

And what REALLY peeves me are the local public schools who want donations. My "donation" to them is my tax dollars.
OK, here is what you do.

Make a "Donation Request Form". This is not a smoke screen. This is legit. When you give to a cause you need to know who, what, when, where, and why. It doesn't need to be more than a page or more than 10 questions. Also explain your donation policy on there, assuming your money isn’t already all allotted.

Now charity comes in and says anything. You say, "We [now] require that this form be filled out. Take this with you and review it and fill it out when you get a chance. Then mail it or bring it back."

You would be SHOCKED how desperate these people are yet won't even fill out a 10 question paper and mail it back to you. I have done this for about a year and a half after I got burned on a donation. Since that day I have received exactly ONE form back and handed out at least 30. I believe that I will make it just a bit easier for them and put the form on my website soon too. You can check there soon to see what information I request.

I agree with Michael too in that you might want to allot your money in advance. I have chosen the local museum and MS society.
Everyone has to "donate" or contribute to society as they see fit and feel comfortable doing so. We use to give away merchandise and cash, then I had "stupid" erased from my forehead and started with gift certificates. Now I have narrowed it down to specific organizations for gift certificates and a "reduced rate of framing" for certain organizations. It has really helped narrow the field of respectable persons asking for donations.

I also have a sign in the store, at the front counter, of the organizations that we support.

Jsy, I would like to use your 10 question paper with your permission, would you please publish it here on the G, thanks!
Jay: yeah, couldya? Another thing I forgot to mention: many people attending these events are themselves involved in their own charities. Hence, you donate to one, chances are you'll be "networked" into others as well.

Love Jay's idea. Please share.
A donation request form is an easy way to keep control of the situation - it shifts the burden back to the requesters by asking them to conform to your policies and time frame rather than the other way around. Here is the one we use.

Over the years we have handed out a lot of goods & services. Some of them have ended up helping a worthy cause or building goodwill for our company. A lot have not.

Rather than giving little handouts to a lot of organizations we have, for the last couple of years, concentrated our efforts on a couple of organizations and have been able to have more of an effect. We just finished our second annual benefit for our local food bank and not only raised over $15,000 for an organization we believe in but also got some great press and community good will.

Peter Bowe
Saline Picture Frame Co.
I share Lynn and Mike’s interest in seeing it, too, Jay.

It seems like a very good idea requiring one, but I wouldn’t begin to know what questions to ask on it.
One thing one MUST always ask charities:

What percentage of my donation will go to the charity and how much goes for overhead, salaries, expenses and so forth??? And I want the reply in writing,.

You will be surprised that many charity-fundraisers keep about %90 (if not more), for themselves!
I'll post mine online as soon as I get to the store.

Paul, that sounds a little aggressive. If you're that skeptical or unfamiliar with them, why not just say "no" and save them the trouble and let them get back to their cause?

Also asking for 501c3 information is a good indicator if they are legit charity or not (I learned recently how big of a deal this all is with a recent attmept I made to collect money). Because losing that status would kill just about any charity, they make sure they follow those guidelines.

On a different note, the worst experience I had with donations was when the charity had received a print and wanted me to frame it. Instead I offered a gift certificate so that it would at least get a new person in the door. The certificate was large enough to cover modest framing of the print. A lady came in and when I asked her what she had in mind for the piece she said, "I have in mind anything that this certificate would pay for." I knew right then that this was a waste of my time. After we finished the designing I asked her if she doesn't mind me asking what she bought it for. She said "One dollar". They haven't came back for another donation but I think I will just give them $5 and tell them I've upped my donation by 5.
Great feedback - thanks!

I like the gift certificate idea though. Can you explain, is this a fixed dollar value (eg $25.00) off of ANY purchase, or off any purchace OVER X dollars? Or, is it a % off? Are there any conditions attached to the coupon?

This Spring I gave a local silent auction a framed piece of my work that I retail in my gallery for $500.00. I was really P'd to find it went for $220.00. Heck I'd would have been better to sell it retail and give them the profits. I wasn't very happy to find a client that had bought this same piece a month earlier for $500.00 watched some other cheap SOB buy it for less than 1/2 of what he paid. Don't think he was either. Won't make that mistake again.

I noticed most items in the auction went for 10 to 50% of retail, so it simply looks like a great place for people to get a real deal on something. Not the right spirit however. This is not good for the donors, or recipients.

I enjoy giving, but I don't see how this type of thing benefits those that really need it.
real simple----JUST SAY N O ! ! ! ! !

I dont donate to anyone who's too &^%*$ lazy to come in person(the ones using phone banks really steam me!!!) & I tell the ones that do come in that ...I chose who/which & I will not put the unasked for solicitations on my list of who gets what!
That's tough Ken.

If you give to a charity, I think ALL the concern should be on the charity benifiting. Things like loaded gift certificates and giving junk isn't helpful to anybody and maybe counter productive.

So I think that you did the charity a great deal by supplying them something they were able to turn into $220. That was a great donation! Its "real" value is insignificant.

If you're hessitant to give a significant offering to really help the organization then why not just turn them down?
We had a woman come in one time asking for a donation for an abused women's shelter in Chicago.........not that this is unusual........except that we are in a tourist town 3 hours from Chicago in Michigan.

We used the donation request form and had it dated that requests must be made by Jan. 31 of the next year.
From the charity events we've supported/attended over the years, we've always seen some things go for far less than "reatail" - but you've got to remember that the money is going for a good cause - $200 for a $500 retail item is still $200 raised for the cause.

We've also seen simple things with not much retail value go for HUGE $$$ - cause it's unique, or special, or just different. Example - a simple Mark Martin (NASCAR driver for those who don't know) poster by artist Sam Bass (NASCAR artist and designer) go for over $3K - in a frame design worth probably $300 - but it was something you couldn't buy anywhere.

We donate framed GC's for just about any worthy cause, and get a few back each year. We also support 2 charities with personal connections - they get the lions share.
Hi Ken.

Oftentimes, it's just as hard and awkward for the folks who canvass for charity, as it is for those of us with conscious to turn them away empty-handed.

We donate a fair bit of artwork each year. We never turn down a cause which touches our hearts and, like most, we have "our regulars" who know they can depend on us for something nice, year after year.

The key seems to be to realize that you cannot help everyone. For example, donating to a pet rescue operation in New Orleans might not be your cup of tea; this is not to say that the cause is not worthwhile, but simply that there are others which are more important, in your mind and heart.

We all must make choices in business, and in life, and this is simply one more on a never-ending list. We've found that when you're honest with yourself, there is no guilt involved. If a particular person comes in or phones once a year for his/her expected "gift", and you feel you're being taken advantage of, simply say "no".

Having said that, next time we're in NOTL, we'll be popping in. I'll be needing something for the "Feed the Starving Artists Fund of Southern Ontario annual silent auction and hog calling contest". Get something nice ready for us, Ken.

p.s. Having been at quite a few charity events, "gift certificates" from, for example frame shops, are often not well received or well perceived. Others will disagree; it's just an observation.
Originally posted by printmaker:

Having said that, next time we're in NOTL, we'll be popping in. I'll be needing something for the "Feed the Starving Artists Fund of Southern Ontario annual silent auction and hog calling contest". Get something nice ready for us, Ken.


No problem. We'll discuss it over a pint of red at the Angel next time you're down this way:)
Peter and Jay, THANK YOU for sharing your donation request forms. They are both excellent and a new set of eyes has helped me think of things I had forgotten about. With a little "tweeking" I would like to use it for my shop. This should weed out the rif raff!

We donated a framed original to the YMCA annual dinner and silent auction. They promised us a mention in their program and an acknowledgment from the MC at the awards portion of the banquet.

A friend of ours invited us to the big whoop de doo, what a joke. Absolutely no mention in their program, our donation brought five hundred dollars.

The MC went through each donation and enthusiastically praised private donors. All the commercial donors such as us where acknowledged like we were lepers or something you would scrape off your shoes after a walk in the park. This SOB obviously hated any business that contributed.

The feeling he presented was we where nothing but money grubbing jerks. We sat at one of the front tables by the podium, it was embarrassing, to say the least. After that experience, we no longer donate, period.

Originally posted by JRB:
it was embarrassing, to say the least. After that experience, we no longer donate, period.
Hmm using that analogy I wouldn't have ever batted again, driven again, built another frame, nor had another kid.

Thankfully because I was able to correct and shake it off I finally hit a homerun, took that ocean vacation, built a business, and have a large happy family.

I laugh to think what the world would look like if us guys gave up on girls the first time a girl embarrassed us.

Giving is mostly for self-gratification. It's a shame that you deny yourself the pleasure of seeing your work improve somebody else’s life because of this one experience.

The one thing I have noticed is that the “giving transaction” usually turns out poorly when I have done it as recognition as a primary motive.

Maybe you were just talking about a business donation and already know what I’m talking about. If so never mind.
Peter and Jay, the form samples are excellent. Thanks for sharing them. In accordance with our company's policy on donations, I will be designing our own form this week.

As some others have said, we donate only framed items (usually aging gallery models), framing, or gift certificates -- not cash. We respond often and generously, as I consider charitable donations to be a promotional opportunity, as well as a nice thing to do.

But when we donate, we rarely have an opportunity to find out who ends up with our donation -- who won the door prize, or the raffle, or the bidding at the silent auction, etc.

Probably fewer than 1/3 of donated gift certificates are redeemed, and occasionally the one who solicited the donation will bring it back in a few months to redeem it. That seems fishy to me.

So, our form will include a "Donation Report", which we will require to be returned after the event. It will require the charity to follow up and tell us what actually happened to or donation. If the report doesn't come back, then next year's request will meet an unfavorable reply.
I have handled the charity auctions a little differently. For a large high school in our area, I was asked to frame some of the prints that local artists and other frame shops had donated. They knew they would get a better priced if the prints were framed. They even offered to pay me for my services.
Now I offer to frame prints for charities, just making a little over wholesale. Most agree, knowing they will make more money. Those that don't, go elsewhere.

Southern Moon Frame Shop
Jay, I am humbled by all your worldly experiences, thank you for setting me straight.

How about this.. I cant afford to be giving all my stuff away. So you buy it outright and then you can donate it...Don't even have to say where you got it from..make as much off it as you can.
I have never yet had anyone take me up on the offer.
They ofetn give the same excuse as I " can't afford it ".
works for me.
Gee Trap, I hope you are never in need of anything.
coming from another side of this discussion: we, or particularly our son, use three of the charities to whom we donate: United Cerebral Palsy, Camp Koinonia--a summer camp for childrren with disabilities--and a therapeutic riding academy (horses) for children and adults with disabilities. We've given and attended auctions, golf outings, fundraisers ad nauseum.

But if the prticipants in the nonprofits don't donate I feel it's "shame on us"

And while I can empathize with John Baker's experience, I can only say to him and those with a similar experience talk with some of the people who USE those charities and nonprofits. Maybe you'll reconsider.

then again, to be treated as John was treated is inexcusable, charity or not
Originally posted by trapper:
How about this.. I cant afford to be giving all my stuff away. So you buy it outright and then you can donate it...Don't even have to say where you got it from..make as much off it as you can.
I have never yet had anyone take me up on the offer.
They ofetn give the same excuse as I " can't afford it ".
works for me.
What might also work is speculating to accumulate - not that that should be an ulterior motive for making donations, they should, first and foremost, be genuine, expecting nothing in return.

You can do yourself a lot of favours by being generous, or as generous as you can be.

But that attitude, if it gets about, will do you a disservice.