Being generous is noble and right. So don’t be afraid to donate your products, services, and subscriptions when people ask. But do it with intent!
Sadly, there are a few bad apples out there who purposely invent sob stories to manipulate homeschool publishers into donating materials—which they turn around and sell for a profit. (I know. Tacky, right? It’s hard to believe there are such lowlifes out there.) Although you could play sleuth and verify the situations of every person who asks, you have better things to do! Decide how to handle these requests, and then stick to your script each time.
Sometimes Donate Without Strings Attached
Resolve right now to use your business to benefit others! That may mean you support a particular charity with your profits, contribute products to a specific entity on a regular basis, or simply have a budget line item for a certain amount of donated products each year.
- For example, I know one homeschool publisher that supports several Compassion children as a company.
- Other companies regularly donate cash to The Home School Foundation. Then when freebie seekers come knocking, they refer them to that particular organization which vets the recipients of the donations. (You are running a business. You have better things to do that researching the backgrounds of the people who are asking for handouts.)
Sometimes you just know. You read the email or answer the call, and something inside you knows it’s the right thing to do. Do it! Being generous is always right. However you choose to be generous, you can trust that the intangible rewards will come back to you! When you donate like this, it’s without expectation of receiving anything beyond that awesome feeling of satisfaction.
But if you have nagging doubts and feel unsure about how to handle these requests, it’s good to have a plan so that when someone approaches you—seeking a no-strings-attached donation—you know exactly how to handle it. It’s your policy, and it’s easy to simply apply the policy instead of having to decide each time.
Usually Donate With Strings Attached
There’s nothing wrong with donating and getting something in return, though!
A Personal Donation
If the person asking for a donation is a homeschool parent who is simply seeking curriculum to use with her own kids, here are a few ideas. If the person balks at these small requests, there’s probably something fishy about their request.
- Offer a steep discount or offer to send the product free if they will pay for shipping. If someone is willing to pay even a small portion, they tend to value it more.
- Ask for a testimonial or review. This can be submitted in your online store, on Amazon or other retailer, or simply emailed back to you. (Remind them the focus should be on the product not that they got it for free. You don’t want their review to multiply your requests for more freebies.)
- Ask them to share about the program on social media, so their family and friends may see it. Simply snapping a photo and sharing to Facebook or Instagram is worth something to your business! (Again, the emphasis is on the product itself and not a thank you for getting it free.)
- Ask them to share it in a Facebook group, a local homeschool co-op meeting, or on a local homeschool forum or email chain. While you may not have a way to verify this, it still puts the idea in their head that they can give back by promoting you within their sphere of influence.
A Blog or Online Event Donation
A blogger who is asking for a donation is going to be far more savvy in terms of social media. She should approach you with a clear idea of what you will get out of offering a donation. If she doesn’t offer any details, then ask! And even when she answers, realize that you can negotiate. Each event is different, but here are some things you can request or ask about:
- Will I get a link on a permanent landing page?
- May I give you a tracking link to measure the traffic you send?
- Can I submit a piece of evergreen content?
- Can I get a CSV of the entrants (to add to my own mailing list)?
- Can I submit follow up content to be sent to entrants via email?
- What kind of traffic does your site get?
- How many people typically enter your giveaways?
- Where will the giveaway be featured: email, social media, etc.?
- How many other companies are featured and will I get solo promotion or will I always be listed among a group of others?
- Are any of my main competitors included in the project? If I sign on, will you agree not to include them?
Obviously, the larger (higher traffic/subscriber/follower numbers) and more long-lasting (evergreen content on websites) the reach of the event, the more willing you will be to participate. If an event is really amazing, you may be expected to pay to participate. That is valid if you are getting a lot in return, so remember to ask probing questions and negotiate!
An In-person Entity or Event Donation
For a real-life event or organization, it can be harder to track your return on investment, but again, a seasoned event organizer will have some kind of perk to offer you. Ask for anything concrete that helps you see your donation in action—photographs, web archives of emails sent to group members, online event descriptions, etc. Many times the event organizers are volunteers who are brand new to anything of the sort, and while they are willing to make the donation worth your while, they aren’t savvy about what they should offer. So you may need to coach them a bit. If you don’t have the time to spend back and forth on these kinds of emails (or a marketing manager to delegate the task), then you can politely decline. It’s okay to say no. Do not feel any guilt.
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