Manners Matter

Dear Mary Pat,

I own a store in Door County and every day, if not twice a day, I have someone coming in asking for a donation for auctions, door prizes or awards. Why are stores targeted for these functions? Do people think we do not pay for the merchandise? I do give to everyone that walks in the door for fear that they will say something negative about my shop.

Three-fourths of the people do not even shop with me. I really do not mind donating to a worthy cause, but I really think this has gotten out of hand with every little function people are asking for something. How do I go about saying NO without worrying about what people will say?


Afraid to say NO


Dear Afraid to Say No,


You probably are noticing even more requests due to the fact that non-profits are suffering from a slower economy just as much as everyone else. I know it’s tough to turn down a good cause; however, you have to look out for yourself as well. The best way to address donations is to figure them into your yearly budget. Plan on giving a set amount and think ahead of time about who you would like to help. Make a list of the organizations that you would like to support and figure out what you can realistically give. Then if you can, budget a little more for the requests that will inevitably turn up last minute. When someone makes a request that is over budget, you can tell them that unfortunately, you have already done all that you can for this year. If they would like to be considered for a donation the following year, have them leave their contact information and consider them next time. Another thing you may want to think about is to give a smaller gift certificate. If you give a gift certificate for $20, that will bring someone into your store and they will hopefully purchase something larger than $20. Put an expiration date on it too.

I sincerely hope that no one would say anything negative about your store. Most of the people who are coming in to solicit donations are volunteers. People who give of their time don’t strike me as the type to trash talk. If you graciously explain your yearly budget, no one will be able to argue its logic and they won’t hold it against you. Apart from stores, I know that restaurants and hotels are targeted as well, so you are not alone!

When you do give a gift certificate or an item from your store, be sure to put your best foot forward and think of your donation as another marketing tool. Clearly mark that the item is from your store whether it is with a label or a decorative shopping bag. People will see your branding and most likely remember you.

Good luck,

Mary Pat