Updated: Jun 21, 2020
If you've been in the restaurant business for more than a week, you already know that some people are walking in, sending emails or calling to ask for donations or sponsorship, and we can't blame them for that.
They are nonprofit organizations supporting a league team or educational institutions, etc., and they need money for different kinds of stuff. So they come to local businesses to ask for some financial assistance, and it happens all the time.
The way we handle those is very crucial with how we build our brand, we want people to see us as a business that honors people.
How to graciously say yes or no, and how can we partner with these organizations to serve them better long term is significant for our business.
So here are a few tips on how you can manage donation and sponsorship requests:
1. Set a budget
It is up to you if you want to set a budget, it could be $50 a year or a hundred dollars a year, or even more. But you need to have a budget when people come in and ask for money.
Every time you say yes and you don't have a hand of it because you don't have a budget, you don't document things down, then it's going to get out of hand, and you really don't want that to happen. So first things first, arrange a budget to avoid problems later on.
2. Have a strategy in place
With our company, that budget is zero. As a company policy, we do not just write checks for different non-profits.
However, we do host a lot of "Spirit Nights" and fundraisers at least twice a month where we give back to the non-profits, whether it is a school or whatever it is, we donate 30% of the sales generated by those who mention the name of the organization.
For instance, from our experience, someone offered us to put our logo on their shirts, however, we found out that it was ineffective. Maybe for you, this is working so you may continue doing it, but for us, it's the other way around.
As to our company, what we are pursuing is to build a long-term relationship with people within our community, it is on our brand to not be just handing out checks to these organizations but rather build a lasting partnership with them.
We want to host events in our restaurant, we want those families to visit us and give them a good experience, and consequently hand them a check afterward.
We want to get exposure for our food and we want people to come to our restaurant. And hopefully, some of them would want us to continue to do business with them for the long haul and adopt us as their "go-to" restaurant, that is our goal.
3. Make sure your team is aware
You need to make sure your team is aware of everything, they need to know that you have a policy or a strategy in place.
So when someone comes in and asks for sponsorship or donation, your servers are quick to answer exactly what they need to say, and that everyone is on the same page.
Each of your employees must be equipped with the proper knowledge in answering inquiries about this matter.
We want to say "no" in a manner that it would not sound very negative because again, your establishment is a part of a community, show that you care for the people around you.
Everything needs to be on point in terms of the brand that you are communicating, be mindful of that because these people can be your future customers.
4. Have one point of contact to handle the logistics
If different servers handle different things, it gets complicated and out of hand. If we have one point of contact that manages this, everything will run smoothly.
Make sure that you only have one person in charge of that, and all requests must go to this particular person. Your other employees will simply pass on the information to that one point of contact whenever they receive any query about people wanting donations or sponsorship.
5. Track information
If you make any donation or give away gift cards or anything like that, make sure that you track it.
A lot of times we feel like when we gave money out, for instance, they offered us to have our logo to be printed on their shirts, we never heard back from these organizations to see if it indeed happened or what benefit did it have.
It is important to figure out a way to track these things, and if your people are good at asking questions whenever you have a new customer like, "Hey, how did you hear about us?" and you have a way of passing that information to the management, that's a means of tracking it.
It is not easy to track things, but you need to know if the money that you are investing in, whether it is a donation or sponsorship is coming back.
You need to have ways of tracking it, we don't need to measure it's ROI technically because it is charitable work, but at least it needs to be at the back of your mind.
6. Say"no" graciously
When a request for donations comes your way and you have to say no, always remember to stay on brand, say it graciously, be considerate and respectful to people who are seeking assistance.
For instance, someone contacts you from a high school for a football program asking you for sponsorship and you can't say yes. Answer them by including these 3 elements on your response:
👌Thank them. Always begin with gratitude, you can say, "Thank you for reaching out, I appreciate you considering our company on your event."
👌Leave the door open. Be open for reconsideration, you can state, "We really wish we could support you, but this time, we are unable to do that."
👌Give options. You can never go wrong with offering choices, you can tell, "We would love to host a fundraiser for you where we can give you 30% of the sales that are raised."
You want to be on good terms and do business with people and if you are not able to support them, don't just say no, first you thank them, next is you ensure you leave the communications open and lastly, provide options.