I’m sure most of us would like to think of ourselves as giving people. And maybe most of us are, whether in our actions, by volunteering our time, or financially—giving money to causes and organizations that mean something to us. But what about in our business lives? What is your company's policy on philanthropy?
If yours is like most companies that directly serve clients, at one time or another some are going to come to you asking for you to “donate”—either money, services or both. And if that client requesting help is a BIG client, you might find it hard to say no, if you are inclined to say no for any reason.
That’s why it is a great idea to build an actual policy and budget around your philanthropic activities for a calendar year. There are a lot of ways to do this. You can give each salesperson an amount of money they are allowed to “spend” and they can decide how to allocate it. He or she could use it all on the number one client’s annual charity golf outing, or parse it out to several good causes (and clients or prospects) over the course of the year.
Why is this a good idea? Because it gives you the right to say no when the requests start to overwhelm you. Because in fairness, you might not be able to say yes to every request. And, it gives you the opportunity to get in front of this issue. Go to your best customers early and let them know that you are willing to help; in fact you WANT to help, but you need to know at the beginning of the year what they might ask for so you can put it into your philanthropic budget.
Giving is good business. It creates all kinds of warm fuzzies between you and your clients, and you often get invited to the events they are asking you to support, which could end up being great networking opportunities for you. And, it’s a great story to tell.
Just try to establish some ground rules early on, so you can keep it under control and not offend anyone. It’s a lot easier to tell your huge new customer that you can’t help this year because you have already exhausted your budget, but that you will be sure to put them at the top of the list for next year, than it is to just say no. I’m gonna leave out the bad Nancy Reagan joke.